Regardless of whether the supporters of political Shiism in Lebanon and the Middle East really believe in what the Hezbollah leaders term the “resistance project” or if the whole thing is nothing more than Iran’s grand regional project; what is happening on the ground is more than enough for us to put the trivial arguments aside.
The “resistance project”, which many have found to be nothing more than a label used for public relations purposes, is preoccupied with achieving sectarian religious dominance by force. After the truth has been exposed about the Syrian regime’s “secularism,” “Arabism” and, of course, its “socialism,” we now see how Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki behaves with the ethnic and sectarian components of Iraq, and how Hezbollah proves that it is an occupying force in Lebanon, in precisely the same manner that it is a “rapid intervention force” in Syria to support Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Battle of Qusayr
Last week, the battle to overrun the town of Al-Qusayr was raging, with the aim of surrounding and occupying of the city of Homs, thus creating a new sectarian, political and geographic reality in Syria. At the same time, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered an important speech marking “resistance and liberation day” in the Lebanese town of Mashghara, in the southwest of Lebanon’s Beka’a province.
The choice of Mashghara is supremely ironic. Why Mashghara? And why now?
Nasrallah now reveals the truth behind Hezbollah’s direct and active role in a regional plan that has nothing to do with confronting Israel.Eyad Abu Shakra
To those who followed the Al-Qusayr battle and its sectarian justifications, including confronting those described by Nasrallah as “takfirists” and the dangerous geographic consequences of what Syria will become, Nasrallah’s choice of Mashghara to deliver his speech was not surprising. This is particularly the case when you consider that this was a political speech in which the Hezbollah secretary-general officially announced that he no longer recognizes the state of Lebanon and invited Lebanese adversaries to meet him on the battlefields of Syria.
Mashghara is a large town, steeped in industrial, cultural and religious history. It is the center of the tannery industry in southern Lebanon and has a religiously mixed population of three religious sects: Shiite, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. However, despite its rich religious background, Mashghara was, until recently, one of the strongholds for leftist, nationalist and secular politics in Lebanon, and it has produced a number of leading political figures for such parties, especially the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. It has also produced some of Lebanon’s leading figures in the fields of art, literature and music.
Mashghara was never known for its hostility or discord with its Sunni, Druze or Maronite surroundings. On the contrary, the existence of secular parties in the area known as Western Beka’a (or Al-Chouf Al-Bayyadhi or Chouf Al-Bayader), including Mashghara and Wadi Al-Teym on the western lower slopes of Mount Hermon, contributed to creating a healthy and friendly social fabric throughout the decades.
Mashghara was never seen as a “bridge” between the two huge Shiite communities in Lebanon’s south and northeast.
It was never seen as the protector of the Shiite highway which links the southern town of Nabtiyyah, and the northern Beka’a town of Baalbak, where many parcels of land were dubiously purchased along this route, particularly in some of the villages of Mount Rihan, Western Beka’a and the suburbs of the city of Zahlaeh.
That road was seen as strategic road which the supporters of the “resistance project” were keen to control, not only to bridge the two Shiite population centers, but also to isolate the Sunni, Druze and Christian communities of Mount Lebanon from those in Wadi El-Teem and Western Beka’a, in addition to isolating the two large Sunni towns of Sheba’a in the south and Irsal in the north from the rest of Lebanon. This dangerous side has a political objective which correlates with the demographic–geographic objective, built on destroying any plan which may preserve a viable Lebanese state by implementing the “administrative decentralization”, stipulated by the Ta’if agreement.
Nasrallah reveals the truth
Nasrallah—who did not shy away from announcing publicly that he was “a solider of the velayat-e faqih [guardianship of the jurist]”—now reveals the truth behind Hezbollah’s direct and active role in a regional plan that has nothing to do with confronting Israel, unless we believe that Washington, Tel Aviv and the takfirists are on the same side! The Hezbollah secretary-general did not deny that his movement was waging open war against those it considers to be takfirists in Syria, purely on sectarian grounds.
This poses a logical and simple question: How would Hezbollah act according to its religious–legislative obligation if the takfirists they talk about found a welcoming and protective environment inside Lebanon? Does this obligation of the velayat-e faqih not extend to Tripoli, Sidon, Beirut and even Sheba’a, whose Israeli-occupied plantations Hezbollah has always used as an excuse to keep its arms, when all the Lebanese gave up theirs?
Theoretically, anyone observing the scene may find it strange that Hezbollah and its leader fail to link the increase in the numbers of the takfirists and the increase in Iranian expansion in the region. It would be even stranger to learn why Washington and Tel Aviv are reluctant to come to the aid of their cohorts—according to Hezbollah’s logic—when they are in dire need of American–Israeli help, after a death toll of more than 100,000 over two years in Syria.
The developments of the last few weeks give the impression that the international community has no objection to the Assad regime regaining the initiative militarily. While the regime’s army enjoys air cover and missile capability, as well as a “green light” to even use chemical weapons, it can be said that the battle for Qusayr is no longer evenly balanced. In contrast, it is difficult to see a tangible change in the arming of the Free Syrian Army or guarantee that the opposition will reach a significant agreement to qualify them to negotiate as political powers able to maneuver and give guarantees, and disrupt plans to place groups who support the regime, pretending to be opposition, on the negotiation table.
As for Lebanon, it must be acknowledged that Hezbollah has achieved its task in paralyzing the Lebanese institutions as a prelude to destroying Lebanon. In the coming months, the Lebanese may discover the result of Hezbollah’s deliberate push for a vacuum in the state’s security, judicial, executive and legislative branches, after destroying the tourism and services industries, which are the cornerstone of the Lebanese economy.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 30, 2013.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.