The word “If” is Hezbollah's propaganda weapon to justify its involvement in Syria and its implication of Lebanon's Shiites and the entire of Lebanon in the Syrian war. It says: "If Hezbollah hadn't supported the Assad regime, Shiite religious shrines would've fallen," "If Hezbollah hadn't gone to Syria, takfiris would've made it to Dahiyeh" and "If Hezbollah hadn't protected Lebanon's borders, ISIS would've seized it from south to north."
And now another of these "if" statements is being attributed to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai. According to media reports, a source close to Hezbollah claims that before heading to Rome, Rai said to an inner circle that "if Christians in Lebanon were asked their opinion on the ongoing developments, they would all give the same reply that if it weren't for Hezbollah, ISIS would have been in Jounieh.”
Have the Shiites become safe after thousands of their sons were dragged to the Syrian civil war? Of course not.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
If the patriarch truly said that, then it seems he hadn't yet heard of the ISIS and al-Nusra Front's advance in Damascus' Ghouta - where Hezbollah fighters had gone to protect Shiite shrines – and their advance on Lebanon's borders, particularly in Aarsal. Perhaps the patriarch does not feel threatened, but Jounieh is no more than 20 minutes away from ISIS areas; yet is he certain that Hezbollah will protect him from their evils.
We can only judge these "if" statements by observing their results on the ground. Hezbollah is no longer protecting any Shiite holy sites in Syria. Its fighters are currently dying in defense of Assad's regime in barren areas remote from anything sacred. They are forced to do so because Iran has always been the party deciding Hezbollah's wars.
Have the Shiites become safe after thousands of their sons were dragged to the Syrian civil war? Of course not. Shiites have in 30 years never felt worried of explosions, assassinations and security restrictions like they currently feel. It's all because of Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war.
It is worth asking whether Jounieh and the rest of Christian hills and plains are really safe thanks to Hezbollah's bravery in Syria. He who follows the news knows how the Lebanese army is being humiliated, how the innocent are being abducted and how fear is spreading. Jounieh which was one of the most secure areas have become a mere sign on the map of terrorism and violence thanks to this "if."
"If" is used here to sell a myth and has nothing to do with reality. Truth be told, if Hezbollah hadn't fought in Syria, Lebanon would've remained neutral but this is not the case. When speaking of nations' interests and people's safety, we must deal with facts and not with hypotheses and wishes. Hezbollah is drowned up to its ears in the swamp of the Syrian war because the Iranians sent it there two years ago thinking they are capable of saving their ally, the Assad regime. Now in Tehran, they've begun to realize what we've been saying for a long time now - that the Syrian regime died when Hafez al-Assad died and that the phase after him is a mere transitional one. Hafez al-Assad was a veteran and smart politician and a skillful player. His son, Bashar, inherited governance and not his father's wisdom and experience. He thus implicated himself and his allies and destroyed the country due to his crimes of assassinating Lebanese politicians and expelling figures affiliated with his father and his thoughtless behavior in regards to Daraa's children and the Syrian revolution.
Hezbollah as a resistance group also ended ever since the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon 14 years ago. After this, Hezbollah turned into a mere militia linked to Tehran and Assad.
Hezbollah has only temporarily served Assad in the war. It's done so by dragging terrorist organizations from Syria onto Lebanon. The Syrian president wants to export the war to his neighbors, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon. But how can the small country of Lebanon fight the ISIS and al-Nusra alone when 50 countries from across the world joined together to fight these groups hoping to succeed within five years?
After all this, does it make sense for Patriarch Rai to believe that Hezbollah has made Jounieh safe after it actually awakened the viruses of a sectarian war and brought in the ISIS and al-Nusra Front into Lebanon?
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 8, 2014.
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.