The National: The battle of Al Qusair, which has been raging for weeks in Syria between Hizbollah militants and Syrian opposition forces, evokes images of Mohamed Bouazizi’s torched body in Tunisia, which was the first spark of the Arab revolutions, observed columnist Mamoun Fandi in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.
“Al Qusair mirrors the town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, in that it signals the start of a new conflict in the Arab region in light of the new strategic direction that Hassan Nasrallah has dictated clearly in his last speech,” the columnist said.
The chief of Hizbollah, the Shiite militant group in Lebanon, gave a televised address on Saturday vowing to fight alongside Syrian president Bashar Al Assad until the bitter end, and promising victory over the rebels.
The strategic implications of his attitude may be the most substantial in the last two years in the changing Arab world, according to the writer.
“Despite his persistent denials of allegations of sectarian alignment, Mr Nasrallah’s speech outlines the nature of the next conflict in the region: a Sunni-Shiite conflict par excellence, and its first combat skirmishes on the ground have begun in Al Qusair,” the writer said.
It is a new manifestation of the Arab Spring where the usual protagonists – autocratic regimes versus pro-democracy oppositions – have taken on a sectarian aspect with the Sunni-Shiite conflicts.
“The Arab region would fall hostage to a religious ideological clash that pits the Shiite camp sponsored by Iran against a Sunni axis of power that is taking shape between Turkey and influential Gulf states,” the writer suggested.
But Hizbollah’s deep involvement in the Syrian war isn’t rooted in ideology alone. It is a real involvement with serious military and operational aspects.
The two-year fight has revealed some real gaps in the Syrian army’s capabilities. It isn’t the fine-tuned combat machine that Iran and Hizbollah thought they could depend on for support.
Hizbollah and Iran’s direct interference in the war is aimed at bridging the gaps of the regular army and reorganising it while also testing the compatibility and the potential for interoperability in their alliance.
Such an advanced level of coordination between the three military forces – Syria, Iran and Hizbollah – creates the exemplary Shiite army that would be tasked with implementing and protecting the new strategic map for the region, the columnist remarked. [Continue reading…]