Hezbollah’s strategy in Syria will accelerate sectarian war

Hassan Hassan writes: Fears that the Syrian conflict may spill over the country’s borders are being realised, but in reverse: the Lebanese conflict is coming to Syria.

Ahmed Al Aseer, an influential Lebanese Sunni cleric, declared on Monday that jihad in Syria is now mandatory for all capable Muslims. Sheikh Al Aseer said that the decision was taken after Hizbollah’s involvement in Syria became clear.

“We felt that [Hizbollah] was militarily involved and everyone was denying,” he said in a video statement posted on YouTube on Monday. “But now that has become clear.”

Hizbollah’s initial denial of involvement in Syria appears to have changed to justification, primarily because it has become difficult for the group to continue denying reports as an increasing number of dead fighters are sent back from Syria. Although the party’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, admitted in October that party members were fighting alongside the Assad regime, he said those fighters were acting as individuals and not under his orders.

This escalation should not be played down as part of traditional Lebanese sectarian bickering. Hizbollah’s decision to openly support the Syrian regime is a serious move that merits a closer look.

The obvious question is, why now?

According to accounts, the party’s fighters in Syria are numerous and well-trained. Additionally, the structure of Hizbollah allows it to order the fighters to withdraw if needed.

But why would the party opt to wage war against the people of a neighbouring country that is far larger than Lebanon, offers access to its allies in Iraq and Iran, and most of all, has a vast number of supporters inside Lebanon?

The escalation of Hizbollah’s involvement in Homs follows a series of media reports that suggests the party, in coordination with Tehran, has moved aggressively and openly to back the regime of Bashar Al Assad. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai, Nasrallah visited Tehran this week and met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the commander of the Al Quds Brigades, General Qasim Sulaimani. [Continue reading…]

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