Sweets were given out in Hezbollah's republic of Beirut's southern suburb, as the party raised its flags to celebrate destroying Syria’s central town of Qusayr and displacing its people; a scene as frightening as the scene of women and children escaping the horrors of siege and murder.
In the past twenty years, there hasn't been a story that appealed to people's sentiment like Qusayr's story did. It's a story of resistance and steadfastness and of the tragedy of 40,000 people, most of whom are women and children, and of the barbarism of the enemy who started to shell the town to destroy it when it failed to fight these people Twenty days of battles there are documented with photos and videos. Residents' testimonies revealed Hezbollah's savagery and tyranny and exposed its fake history. Finally, after Hezbollah lost in fighting, it resorted to destroying the town by using Scud missiles along with the aid of Assad's warplanes that conducted more than 80 air raids on the town. The invaders succeeded in "purging" Qusayr and displacing its people. This is the glory and pride that Hezbollah celebrated.
On the military aspect and for those who know the area's geography, losing Qusayr was inevitable. The town is only 15 kilometers away from Lebanon's borders where Well-armed and trained Hezbollah's militias are stationed. Following their continuous losses last year, the battle there turned into a moral one for Assad's forces particularly for its ally, Hezbollah.
A shift in politics
Qusayr was destroyed and its people were displaced. But the price that Hezbollah and Iran paid there is much higher than the cheap blood they had already paid in town. The price is a shift in political concepts amongst the Arab public. The enemy today is Hezbollah and Iran. The desire to liberate Syria from its regime and from Iranian, Iraqi and Hezbollah forces supporting it is currently stronger than ever. If Hezbollah thinks that it has done Bashar al-Assad a favor as he will go to the Geneva Conference strengthened with the victory in Qusayr, then it's completely wrong. Truth is the complete opposite of that. Its victory in Qusayr in the barbaric manner which Arabs witnessed, distributing candy in Beirut's southern suburb and sounding the drums of victory in Tehran have weakened all voices that had accepted to go to Geneva or that had accepted some sort of a political solution. Does the fall of Qusayr mean that Assad is staying and that the Syrian revolution ended?
No, not at all. The rebels in Syria are not like American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. The those forces had to leave these countries at some point. But the rebels in Syria are residents and people. Where will the majority of residents who are more than 15 million Syrian people go? How will Hezbollah eliminate them when it has lost hundreds of its members and when it had spent three weeks fighting for Qusayr?
Syria's battle is not a political war between regional and international parties even though these parties are in fact present in Syria and fighting there. This is a real war of people. It can only be compared with wars like that of the Algerians against the French and the Palestinians against the Israelis. So does Hezbollah and Iran intend to stay in Syria and occupy it? And for how long?
In order to survive, Assad's regime lives upon the support of Iran's Quds Forces, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. Are these parties ready to fight for him up until the last town in Syria? And for how long? Syria will become a land attracting fighters of different intellect and mentalities. Qusayr's tragedy will thus merely inspire angry powers spread across the Arab region to join the fighting in Syria.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 6, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.