27th May, 2013 –
Those of across the Arab world who admired Hezbollah for standing up to Israel in the 2006 conflict had hoped that Lebanon’s “resistance” wouldn’t find itself backing the wrong side in the Syria conflict.
Until recently it had perhaps been possible to believe that Hezbollah could sit on the sidelines. Even if it was obvious which side Hassan Nasrallah supported, at least Hezbollah hadn’t got significant amounts of Syrian blood on its hands.
This all changed after the recent fighting in Qusair near Syria’s border with Lebanon. Clearly hundreds of Hezbollah fighters had been employed in the fighting and it seems that there were at least 40 Hezbollah fatalities in the remarkably heavy clashes.
Despite being outgunned, Syria’s rebels seem to have held their own against hardened Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army; even if they have lost parts of the town. This says a lot about the passion with which ordinary Syrians are fighting in order to win their freedom.
Hezbollah have found themselves fighting on the side of repression, in order to stamp out any chance of freedom for the Syrian people – What a long way they have come from being an organization fighting to defend Arab nations against Israeli oppression and occupation.
However, beyond the rhetoric there has always been a very different darker side to Hezbollah. In more peaceful times it was possible to ignore the fact that the organization’s existence was owed to Iranian funding, making them an arm of Iranian foreign policy in the region.
Therefore, Hezbollah operatives were involved in training and supporting pro-Iran militias in Iraq after 2003 – some of whom were implicated in bombing attacks which killed hundreds of Iraqis.
Iran is often unable to act directly in Arab countries; so it is less conspicuous when Hezbollah operatives become involved in Iranian clandestine activity. Therefore it is no surprise when several Lebanese citizens with Hezbollah links are frequently numbered among those arrested in spying rings in Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
The Bahraini opposition also has close links with Hezbollah and is highly active from Lebanon. For example, the opposition’s media and communications activities bear many pledges of Hezbollah’s own propaganda operations, and there was clearly mutual assistance in developing these capabilities.
You only have to watch a few minutes of Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV to notice the prominent coverage of Bahraini issues from an opposition perspective; usually with senior Al-Wefaq officials appearing one after the other to attack Bahrain’s Government.
Hezbollah also turned its weapons on fellow Lebanese on numerous occasions in recent years – undermining its claim to be the first line of defense of Lebanon against foreign aggression – Hezbollah has become the aggressor.
Tripoli in northern Lebanon has been in a state of war for some time between Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian regime forces on one side; and anti-regime forces on the other. This conflict has periodically spread to Beirut and elsewhere.
If all of Lebanon descends into full-blown civil war, responsibility will rest fully at the front door of Hezbollah and its Iranian backers.
In his recent speech the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, defiantly defended Hezbollah’s aggression in Syria. Nasrallah declared: “There is no Lebanese state, there are groups in the security apparatus that serve regional powers.”
This incredible statement can be read both as an admission and a threat:
Firstly this is an admission that Hezbollah’s existence has prevented the emergence of an effective Lebanese state. By acting as a state within a state and an alternative to a national Lebanese army; Hezbollah has kept Lebanon weak and divided. The “groups in the security apparatus that serve regional powers” are Hezbollah itself – Hassan Nasrallah has never spoken a truer word.
Secondly, this is a threat: “There is no Lebanese state”; therefore Hezbollah can claim to be the de facto power, with a right to impose itself on all Lebanese in defense of the long arm of Iranian foreign policy – and in defense of Bashar al-Assad.
Hassan Nasrallah would have preferred to sit on the side-lines of the Syrian conflict, so as not to make Hezbollah’s hostile objectives transparently obvious to the world. Hezbollah wants to be able to portray itself as the defender of Arab and Muslim interests against Israel and America – but it has become the oppressor of Arab and Muslim citizens inside Lebanon, Syria and beyond.
With each passing day, the whole region gets closer to a situation of open conflict; as war spreads to Lebanon; dozens die each day in sectarian violence in Iraq; Egypt and Libya remain volatile; and Iranian interference in Gulf states becomes more dangerous.
It was always obvious – although many of us would have liked not to have believed it – which side Hezbollah would take. There was only one side it could take: The side of the Islamic Republic of Iran against the freedoms, rights and aspirations of millions of Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.