Hizbullah Shifts Tactics, Narrative for Syria Fight

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Hizbullah is gaining new combat experience in Syria, shedding its guerrilla tactics to fight alongside an army, and shifting its narrative to explain the battle against "Sunni extremists".

Its forces, who used their homeground advantage and methods such as underground tunnels against Israel's army in Lebanon, are now the targets of unconventional warfare on unfamiliar terrain in Syria.

And the mothers of many of its fighters, who once sent their sons to battle the "Zionist enemy," now pray for them to be martyred fighting extremist Sunnis who make up part of Syria's opposition.

The engagement in Syria has given the Shiite group a chance to initiate new recruits, experts say.

"A new generation of Hizbullah fighters is getting 'blooded' in Syria," Andrew Exum, a former Lebanon desk officer at the U.S. Defense Department, told AFP.

"I imagine they're getting very good at small unit tactics and battle drills against a live opposition."

Hizbullah is believed to have about 5,000 fighters in Syria at any given time, with thousands more preparing to deploy.

Their officials say so many men signed up last year that they are no longer actively recruiting for the Syria front.

Initial training for those who pass scrutiny of their religious credentials and background checks, is carried out in Lebanon, where courses last from 40 days to three months.

Additional training is provided in Iran for about two months, with a focus on heavy weaponry and preparing members for command positions.

Fighters who have battled both Israel and the rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad describe them as very different experiences.

"When I fought against Israel in 2006, it was clear who the enemy was," said Abu Ali, a fighter in his 40s.

"In Syria there are many enemies, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army.

"We know our land well and command it easily, but in Syria the terrain is not as familiar to us, and there is a lot of variety: desert, mountains, valleys."

Syria's conflict, wrote former U.S. defense intelligence official Jeffrey White this January, is giving Hizbullah "valuable knowledge of irregular warfare and actual combat experience".

"Hizbullah is conducting operations, including offensive ones, and not just fighting tactical battles," he wrote in a Combating Terrorism Center report.

"This is warfare of a different kind... involving larger formations, longer periods of time, in more complex maneuvers."

Hizbullah's engagement in Syria has also seen it take on a significant role training Syrian forces, who its members say are woefully unprepared.

Hizbullah fighter Abu Hussein describes the army opening fire on its Lebanese allies accidentally more than once.

"They have no experience in urban warfare or how to deal with a guerrilla force, so we lead the way in battle and have trained them on how to conduct themselves and use certain weapons," he said.

That experience, as well as the chance to introduce new fighters to combat, is "valuable" for the group, an April report by the Institute for the Study of War said.

"Hizbullah now has a cadre of fighters that has experience conducting offensive operations in urban environment.

"Hizbullah units have also gained experience coordinating with allied forces in combat, as well as logistical sustainment over longer periods."

But the conflict has not been without costs for Hizbullah, which has lost about 300 fighters in Syria.

Experts say not all the group's experience in Syria, where it is allied with the better-equipped party and on the offensive, will be relevant to any new defensive conflict with Israel.

And the group's intervention has made it the target of an unprecedented wave of attacks by extremist Sunni groups against its Lebanon strongholds.

Hizbullah has also been forced to shift its narrative away from a traditional singular focus on Israel.

In multiple speeches, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said the group is fighting extremists in Syria to prevent them entering Lebanon.

He has also worked to tie the group's old enemy Israel to its new one, referring to the rebels as an "American-Israeli-takfiri project," using a term for Sunni extremists.

For many Hizbullah fighters, the battle is cast as a way to protect Shiite holy sites in Syria and their sect more broadly, according to Philip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on the movement.

"The conflict is being presented as a defensive jihad for Shiite shrines combined with an undercurrent regarding the existence of the sect in the region," he told AFP.

The narrative and the group's involvement has stirred sectarian tension between Lebanon's Shiites and Sunni residents who back Syria's uprising.

But among the Hizbullah faithful, there is little sign supporters are losing patience with the intervention.

In one Lebanese village, the yellow flags of Hizbullah flapped overhead as a mother received condolences on the death of her son in Syria.

Her three other sons are still across the border fighting.

Comments 45
Thumb popeye 14 April 2014, 12:42

"In one Lebanese village, the yellow flags of Hizbullah flapped overhead as a mother received condolences on the death of her son in Syria."

May all of them become martyrs and orphans. May more go and perform their sectarian Jihadist duties. May non of them come back unless in yellow body bags.

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 12:53

where is the shisha smoker on a bekaa terrace?? without his testimonies any AFP report cannot be credible.

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 12:54

crazy how much anonymous sources from the hezbollah open up to AFP journalists and share with them their tactics and insights :)

(uh sorry, not totally anonymous, since they are identified as "ali" and "abu ali" LOL)

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 12:58

they used to share their biggest secrets with m14 newspapers and kuwaiti toilet papers only, nice to see now they open up to more international media ;)

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 12:59

jnoubi habibi believe what you want, we dont care about your israeli opinion. keep playing on internet, it wont help you in the coming war.

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 13:38

they could call them starsky and hutch for all i care... it's just a pile of rubbish fur gullible fools that you are.

Thumb -phoenix1 14 April 2014, 17:31

OK, ya Bani Maarouf, how about you stash out of your PC, and become an Abadaye? Yalla, after you ya gay.

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 17:52

Your shisha smoker was probably murdered by Hezbollah for buying Shisha through legal means instead of their corrupt underground shisha smuggling network :)

Thumb ex-fpm 14 April 2014, 12:54

amen popeye amen!

Missing samy.. 14 April 2014, 13:17

may ft/movaten be among them :)

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 13:41

in your dreams baby :) keep fantasizing, that's all you got little man.

Thumb ice-man 14 April 2014, 16:07

mowaten: as one of your dearest friends I insist on doing your eulogy during your upcoming memorial service. You can count on me

Thumb zahle1 14 April 2014, 14:06

I am against them in Syria but am not pleased with their death. Shame!

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 15:43

@Mowaten, your comment is utterly stupid !

Since Yabroud fell, more bombed rigged cars were caught than ever before. And those were made in Lebanon showing Hassan's lies and excuses are just that ! VAPOR !

If you want to find stupid and statistically irrelevant correlations here are some for you :

- Since Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, number of syrian refugees has increased exponentially

- Since Hezbollah's war in Syria, the amount of theft, robberies, murders and criminal activity in the country has more than doubled !

- Since Hezbollah's war in Syria, the amount of breaches of our laws and constitution by Hezbollah has exceeded those committed throughout their entire history

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 16:09

lol FC a lot of BS to try and cover up a simple fact that everybody knows and noticed.
i didnt expect you to recognize HA's positive role anyway, bad faith is your middle name.

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 16:15

@Mowaten, don't rejoice yourself too soon.

If people want to blow up Hezbollah, they will find other ways, Ma we'fet 3a Yabrud !

This is in fact a huge fail for Hezbollah.

You don't solve the problem by moving it elsewhere you know !

The same way you don't win a war with Israel when they retreat from Lebanon. You're just postponing things.

You only truly win when you either :

- Make peace with your ennemies
- Eliminate them completely (this can never happen)

For now, Hezbollah has done nothing but lose !

Thumb popeye 14 April 2014, 16:26

see what i mean? mowaten is here all day every day, posting absolutely nothing of substance. no opinions, no arguments, no factual input, nothing. only disruption attempts. how could he possibly be a genuine reader? 
he's probably the least dangerous (because he's so obvious and shallow) but there are many others who are certainly way above his pay grade.

Thumb popeye 14 April 2014, 16:59

SPEAK only when you feel that your words are better than your SILENCE, and that mowaten in Farsi means, Zip it.

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 17:26

What you don't understand Mowaten is that unlike you, I don't support terrorists or their actions.

And what you also don't understand are that you are being lied to everyday by Nasrallah and his 40 terrorists.

You believe in fake victories when all they have achieved is cheat you into believing they are divine and almighty.

You cannot eradicate HATE. Hate created by countless crimes committed by this party of death loving terrorists !

For every Yabrud that falls, you will get 2 more yabruds. For every Israeli attack you prevent, you will get 2 more attacks.

War is not the way to peace !

And we Lebanese will no longer accept to be held hostages by your false claims, your false wars and your IDIOCY !

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 17:30

@Mowaten : "And i'll enjoy watching HA sending you to hell."

Yalla, bring it on ! Can't wait for your terrorists to try ! Bunch of cowards hiding behind weapons who are unable to achieve anything without bombing or killing their way through.

Show me what Hezbollah is capable of that does not actually involve brutality and murder !

Show me the great economical plans Hezbollah holds for Lebanon. Show me the great political victories of Hezbollah. Give me a single reason to believe they fight for Lebanon and not Iran and it's plans to turn Lebanon / Syria into a Shiaa controlled empire !

Default-user-icon nastankir (Guest) 14 April 2014, 22:53

yes thank you hizbullah for keeping YOUR SECT safe..what did Hizbullah do when christian and sunni politicians were being blown up? by car bombs? Nastankir!!

Thumb eagledawn 14 April 2014, 13:04

it is not even funny anymore, watch how many posts these two characters will post on this article alone. Propagandists in action)

Thumb eagledawn 14 April 2014, 13:10

Nasrallah sent a message to Israel through the Russians that the Southern borders are the quietest on earth. HA real objectives are now clearer than ever. All this hot air "zionist" enemy, resistance, Arab cause have dwindled down to a mere sectarian and destructive war in Syria. Nobody is fooled not that any were before.

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 13:39

LOOOL coming from you this is hilarious. here's a shekel for your two comments.

Thumb rover98 14 April 2014, 13:08

The Shia sect should disavow themselves from this group like the Sunnis have of Qeada, except in their case their creed is based on Extremist theology.

Thumb zahle1 14 April 2014, 14:08

I agree 100 pct. they are even leaving Detroit to go fifth because they hate Sunni so bad. It's reciprocal though.

Thumb Mystic 14 April 2014, 14:13

The battle in Syria is crucial, some of this information is not true, but it's right that The Resistance are now greater than ever before, new combat experience, 10 times more recruiting, everytime Al Nusra bombs a neighbourhood, hundreds more volunteer, it's a glory to fight Israels takfiris, everybody wants to take part.

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 15:48

@Mystic : Crucial for whom ? Crucial for what ?

And stop calling it a "Resistance". It's a Shiite Islamist Resistance BASED IN LEBANON.

The term Resistance is far too noble for excrements such as Nasrallah and his sheep.

Long live the true Lebanese shiites free of the rule of Iran's supreme terrorist Ayatollah! And long live the people of Iran, true proponents of democracy oppressed by their terrorist regime.

Long live the people of Lebanon and may they be free of the weapons of terrorist groups who play pretend politics to cover their criminal organisation !

Thumb FlameCatcher 14 April 2014, 18:22

No my friend, obviously, like a good Hezbollah sheep, you have a completely distorted view of the world where people who dont agree with you (people who do not accept your weapons) are takfiri and israeli lovers.

I'm against everyone who fights for other countries. Who takes orders from other countries. Who use my country as a base to serve their sectarian goals.

I'm Lebanese, something you will never understand.

I believe in Lebanon, a country you don't believe in.

And you are a parasite. An temporary iranian epidemy that will become extinct. So did the romans, greeks, egyptians, ottomans, french and many others. You will fail because you do not fight for a cause you understand.

As more and more Lebanese shiaa are fed up with Hezbollah, we will recover our country and bring it back on its feet !

Thumb Mystic 14 April 2014, 19:06

Aha? So what you are trying to say, is that i"m not Lebanese. You are funny, I find it strange that a dozen of my family members serves in the LAF then. Get your facts straight Mr. American,your lies decieve you. The Resistance is Lebanese and serves Lebanon, and volunteered to assist Syria against the foreign plot.

Thumb FlameCatcher 15 April 2014, 11:40

@mystic : THen I would say that the LAF is plagued with elements with allegiances to foreign countries. They should be hanged as traitors !

You cannot both support the LAF and Hezbollah. They cannot co-exist. It's one or the other.

Pick your side.

And if you are proud of the LAF, then remove this terrorist profile picture and replace it with the Lebanese or army flag instead !

Thumb falanges 15 April 2014, 11:16

as you write freely from a western country... come meet me in leb you coward from australia

Thumb ice-man 14 April 2014, 14:47

flamethrower: I know you have an ear for what's hip and cool; what's your take on Pitbull And J. Lo's "We Are One (Olé Ola)." World Cup Song? Is that a good tactical move you think?

Missing beirutbastard00 14 April 2014, 14:48

The Shia in Lebanon are becoming more n more educated, and integrating into Lebanese society. Eventually we r gonna be one people, wether u like it or not.

Thumb lebanon_first 14 April 2014, 15:55

No BB. the shia are not getting more educated. Unlike Hariri (RIP) HA has very clear instructions on NOT educating its constituents. They want a docile gullible hungry home base to manipulate.

Any university in Dahieh?

Thumb .mowaten. 14 April 2014, 16:09

lol LF, you really have no idea do you?

Thumb eagledawn 14 April 2014, 16:28

only you mowaten of iran have ideas as evident by your 12 posts so far!

Thumb lebanon_first 14 April 2014, 16:53

mowaten. No I have no idea. nawwerneh.

Ever since Kamal el Ass3ad who used to say "i educated my son, no need to open schools for shias", Shia leadership has worked hard to keep their population uneducated, so that they keep on controlling them as a herd. Today, Amal and HA are doing the same. Instead of educating their people to become financially independant, they are sending them to carry on Assad's war.

Since no educated man in the right mind would go work as a mercenary in foreign country, and since HA needs a poor uneducated shia homebase for its strategy, it is normal to not educate them.

I am sure there are exceptions, as I have many very well educated shia friends, but this is the general strategy for the shia populace.

Thumb Abubakr 14 April 2014, 15:15

Something about hezbollah-Iran-Assad i don't trust.. they can't be HEZB Allah, they just can't. deception at its best.

Default-user-icon rabih (Guest) 14 April 2014, 16:55

What about she will receive condolences in regards the rest of her kids including 30000$....last price

Default-user-icon rabih (Guest) 14 April 2014, 16:57

I never heard about a Shiite who knows how to read or write...kelllo bi 2eb motoyet...

Missing peace 14 April 2014, 17:06

pityful people....

Default-user-icon ignorant arab (Guest) 14 April 2014, 18:06

samy.. 14 April 2014, 13:10 611
the day i see your head chopped ya ft/movaten, is the day i will be dancing in the streets

And My accounjt was suspended...

Thumb beiruti 14 April 2014, 19:17

The "new narrative" sounds like a new lie to me, a cover story to sell to their co-religion constituents who offer up their sons to the Hezbollah.

The expertize that they are gaining in Syria is of little to no use for a "Resistance Movement". Resistance is a defensive military operation meant to defend and throw off the aggressor. Here Hezbollah is learning the art of military aggression. And where and against whom will it apply this newly learned art after the Syria war is over??

In Lebanon and against Lebanese and the Lebanese Army. Count on it. The cancer that is Hezbollah is not being killed in Syria, it is going to Type 4 and becoming more virulent to Lebanon and the Lebanese.

Thumb Elemental 14 April 2014, 21:54

At first glance at this pic, looked like Tehran. Anyhow they can change whatever narrative they want, it's still the same ol' primitive feud. In other news! There's been advances in cholesterol reduction through new clinical trials....see this is what normal society does, ADVANCES not regresses.