Robert Fisk writes: Hezbollah was once the Lebanese “resistance”, the tough, courageous, self-sacrificing guerrilla army which drove Israel’s occupation soldiers out of Lebanon 12 years ago.
Today, it looks more like yet another Arab “security” institution – or insecurity institution – as it flies drones over Israel and continues to support, to the increasing condemnation of many Lebanese, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader – famous for wind-milling between Syria and its opponents – is one of several Lebanese politicians to ask why Hezbollah does not give its military and political support to the Syrian “resistance” rather than the regime it is fighting. Hezbollah is not, as the US State Department claims, fighting alongside Assad’s men: but it has assumed “security” duties on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border – effectively keeping the Lebanese-Syrian frontier out of rebel hands – and uses its formidable intelligence services in the regime’s favour. At least four Hezbollah “martyrs” have been returned from Syria for burial in Lebanon. [Continue reading…]
Dear Paul, Interesting article by Robert Fisk. But I distinctly recall you making the case that Israel really wanted Assad to stay in power. Now I’m confused. – Patrick
Patrick – You’re right. You did see me make that argument. I wouldn’t claim to have special insight on the Israeli consensus at any particular time, nor even assume that there often is such a thing as the Israeli consensus. The observation I was making about Israeli interests being served by Assad was primarily an observation about a historical fact: that despite Assad’s support of Hizbollah, Israeli-Syrian relations had long been stable and in terms of providing the opportunity for a tangible advance in the “peace process,” a deal with Assad over the Golan Heights could probably have been reached more easily than a deal on any other front. Moreover, the Israelis would clearly have been happier with Assad remaining in power than with there either being a power vacuum or an Islamist government.
Having said all that, it’s very hard to envisage Assad clawing his way back to having control over Syria and thus the bounty of his fall (from the Israeli-U.S. pov) is that Assad’s fall will seriously trim Hizbollah’s power. Also, as a general point, identifying the difference between Israeli/US/Western interests and the way things pan out is an important reminder that there’s a huge difference between “foreign meddling” and foreign control. Yes, there are lots of actors attempting to sway what’s happening in Syria, but they are like puppeteers grasping elastic strings whose connections turn out to be invisible.
Hi Paul, Thanks for your reply. I agree that it’s a fluid situation and assessments of the pros and cons of Assad leaving may have shifted. – Patrick