Analysts: Hizbullah on Edge in Face of Syria Revolt


The unprecedented revolt threatening the regime in Syria has placed key ally Hizbullah in a tight spot and prompted the Lebanese group to adopt a more measured attitude, analysts say.

"Hizbullah's margin of maneuver is currently very limited because the strategic Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis is threatened by the revolt and this forces the group to act prudently," said Paris-based Middle East expert Agnes Levallois.

The Shiite party, also backed by Iran, is the most powerful military and political group in Lebanon and is a key player in the new government formed last month.

But the upheaval in neighboring Syria caught Hizbullah off guard and threatens its position, analysts say.

When the revolt erupted in mid-March, "Hizbullah initially thought the Syrian regime would be able to quickly put down the revolt and that it would not be affected," Levallois told Agence France Presse.

"But with the revolt showing no signs of dying down, Hizbullah is realizing that it needs to protect itself by commenting little on the situation in Syria so as not to be at odds with what is happening on the ground and not to alienate itself," she added.

The party, blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Washington, has adopted the Syrian regime's official line in blaming the unrest on armed extremist gangs and outside agitators.

This has prompted anger among protesters in Syria who, in what would have been unthinkable a few months ago, have torn down and burned pictures of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, according to images posted on YouTube.

Nasrallah has also been criticized for acting like a "Syrian television presenter," prompting his party to adopt a more low-key approach.

"The Syrian regime became aware that Nasrallah's popularity was not serving its interest in this case, but quite the contrary," said Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center.

The deep crisis threatening the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could also impact Hizbullah's weapons supply through Iran and Syria, analysts believe.

Intelligence officials estimate that Hizbullah has amassed an arsenal of more than 40,000 short- and medium-range missiles which the party has said could reach deep into Israel.

"There is no question that they are worried, because if the regime (in Syria) collapses, that would affect them strategically speaking, especially if the new regime that takes over is keen on exacting revenge on Iran and Hizbullah," Salem said.

"If there is chaos, a new regime or a continuation of the current regime, which has been weakened, all of these scenarios don't bode well for Hizbullah," he added.

The party's image has also been dented given its support for the other revolutions shaking the Arab world, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but not Syria.

"Nasrallah is torn between his support for Assad's regime and his image as a resistance leader keen on defending the people's rights," Levallois said.

An Nahar summarized the dilemma facing the party in a editorial at the weekend.

"Tomorrow, when the Syrian regime falls -- and it will fall -- what will Hizbullah, which supported those who assassinated women, children and the elderly, say?" it asked.

Nadim Shehadeh, a fellow at the London-based Chatham House, said Hizbullah was in a bind given the platform on which it has built support.

"Their power is based on such big words as freedom and liberation and their constituency follows them blindly on this," he told AFP.

"But they supported the Arab spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya, everywhere except Syria, and that is contradictory," Shehadeh said.

For now, analysts say, Hizbullah will probably continue to adopt a low-key approach and avoid any confrontation.

"We thought that Damascus would ask Hizbullah to launch an attack against Israel to divert attention," Levallois said.

"But the Syrian regime understood that it could loose on all fronts if it did so because it is too weak."

Comments 13
Missing people-power 26 July 2011, 11:15

Hezbollah supporters have such happy faces

Default-user-icon Eagle (Guest) 26 July 2011, 11:17

Hizbullah supported the Arab uprisings in countries where it believed the regimes of these countries were anti hizbullah-Iran etc. IMO this support has nothing to do with hiz care for human rights, liberation, and democracy. In the case of Egypt and upon the fall of Mubarak, they were dancing in Dahiye and firing live ammunition. However, the uprising in Syria is considered an american plot. This is a devilish party indeed. They are driven by hatred and resentment for any Sunni regime, full stop! Yeah.... I believe the brave Syrian people are close to achieving their freedom and fully understand the deceit of Nassralla and his so called resistance.

Default-user-icon ^^hahaha (Guest) 26 July 2011, 11:23

hahahahahahahaha look at their faces

Thumb bashir 26 July 2011, 12:11

Is that photo from the Miss Hezbollah beauty pagent?

Assad will fall and the good people of Syria will be free from Alawite reign of terror. Hezbollah losing their partner in crime will lead to freedom for the Lebanese people.

Default-user-icon Alexander (Guest) 26 July 2011, 13:08

We need a state who controls all its territory and who is able to decide by itself about its political and financial objectives. Like all the states on this planet. Any discussion on this subject is absurd and oriented to the interests of a sect not those of the State. For this we should gather all together and agree on this principle; for sure we will get out winners. Lebanon does not have any interest to fight alone Israel and destroy his infrastructure for the 10th time, while Syria is a spectator, making some funny speeches to hide their truth reality with Israel. Because Israel cannot dream of a more peaceful nighbour than Syria who gave the Golan in return of the nizam. Since 25 years, not even a stone is thrown from their border on the israeli settlers. Both countries are enjoying peace and love. Assad is not as stupid as some other leaders to destroy Damas in some hours, just for the palestinian cause :)

Thumb will_rogers 26 July 2011, 13:18

Best News I've read lately. I pray that the YOKE is lifted off the Syrian people and that IRASTAN is Screwed SOONER than we all hope. Keep it coming. Thank you Lord.

Default-user-icon N (Guest) 26 July 2011, 13:21

Nasrallah, along with his "resistance" is a farce. The only resistance there is, is against progress. Hezb has nothing to do about defending dignity of Lebanon, arab people and their rights. Its about a militia that is seeking great power to dictate events in the middle east. Unfortunately, absolute power corrupts and Nasrallah does not give a rats ass about anybody including shiites except the people directly involved in his militia. Wake up shiites, you being used with the fear card. Its time to move on.

Default-user-icon Hitech (Guest) 26 July 2011, 15:00

At this point in time, no one knows whether the Syrian regime will fall or not, it is pure speculation. For one, the American administration is too indecisive over Syria, and this dithering is empowering the regime. Some on the other hand might argue that more direct American involvement would be like a gift to the Assad regime because they can use it as an excuse of external interference, but both are wrong. There should be a balanced yet firm position from the American Administration: They should not call for Assad to step down, but America should have a very firm stand on stopping the bloodbath and escalate its position if it does not stop: Start with sanctions, then send the USS Enterprise, then start monitoring over-flights… anything short of a direct military intervention until the Syrian regime stops killing its own people. As long as people are not being killed, what happens in Syria is not my business, it’s not America’s business, it’s only the Syrian’s people business.

Default-user-icon Samir A (Guest) 26 July 2011, 15:12

will rogers, your thanking lord for something you dont understand. First of all, the syrian regime has not even begun to fall, it will not fall at this time and when it eventually does fall the first to suffer will be the christians and other minorities in syria. Is it so hard to understand really?? The Syrian opposition is dominated by Salafists, do you know what that is? If not go do some research. Churches will be burned, and christians will be mass slaughtered in order to get them to leave syria. Your thinking with your evil hate instead of thinking of what is good for christians. 95 % of syrian christians support the Bashar al asad regime because they know that the alternative is destruction for them! WAKE UP!

Missing roger 26 July 2011, 23:15

Now go back to your rat hole-

Missing roger 26 July 2011, 23:20

Samir A- That's not true that the opposition is dominated by 95% salafist, that's the same excuse Hafez used to massacre 20,000 from Hama, it will not work the day will come when the Alawite along the Christians will pay the price for supporting the dicktator.What goes around comes around.

Default-user-icon Samir A (Guest) 27 July 2011, 00:44

roger, no offence but you dont have a clue about the syrian oppostion. ALL its funding comes from saudi arabia and those who dominate in the oppostion among the leaders are radicals from the salafite and other such movements. Of course there are honest good people in the syrian opposition (especially among the people) but this opposition was dead the day it was born because it is a product of saudi arabia who wanted to hijack the legitimate cause to topple the syrian regime. This oppostion wants to topple bashar in order to replace him with a saudi-puppet dictator. Do you also believe that the christians in lebanon who support hezballah should get slaughtered like you wish the christians in syria to be because they support their president who unlike the alternative have given them rights?? You must be really evil. You think with hate, not with logic.

Default-user-icon eli (Guest) 27 July 2011, 03:11

What do we care about the christians of Syria? Where were they when the assad military had its boots on our necks?Did they help us in Lebanon?