Rami G Khouri writes: The most fascinating aspect of the war in Syria this month – and perhaps also the most significant in terms of long-term regional geopolitics – is the direct involvement of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite party and resistance group that is closely allied to Iran and Syria. The significance of Hezbollah’s participation in the battle for the Syrian town of Qusair comprises several distinct elements – its reputation as a fighting force, its political wisdom, its perception among Lebanese, its independence from Iran, and its standing in the region and globally as it identifies more closely with the Syrian regime that has been increasingly isolated and sanctioned.
Together, these factors make this a potential turning point for the organization whose history since its establishment in the early 1980s has been one of the most remarkable achievements in modern Arab political life. It can be credibly argued that Hezbollah is the single most successful political party or organization in modern Arab history, given its many accomplishments: It has transformed Lebanese Shiites from a downtrodden and subjugated community to the most powerful single group in Lebanon; it has forced Israel to end its occupation of southern Lebanon, and it has helped shape a regional “resistance and deterrence front” with Syria and Iran that defines many regional policies and confrontations.
These achievements have been countered by its single biggest weakness to date, which is inherent in all such resistance or revolutionary movements: difficulty in making the transition from liberation hero to governance maestro. The multiple strengths that have defined Hezbollah’s many successes in community empowerment and military resistance – secrecy, external support from Syria and Iran, anchorage in a powerful form of theocratic nationalism, independence from state controls or public accountability – have all proven to be weaknesses in its slow and imprecise move into the political arena in Lebanon. [Continue reading…]