Assad’s defeat spells the end of Hezbollah
Since its foundation in the early 1980s, Hezbollah has not suffered as major losses as it is suffering in Syria
Since its foundation in the early 1980s, Hezbollah has not suffered as major losses as it is suffering in Syria. The party has lost more than it did in all the wars with Israel combined. It is estimated to have lost 1,000 - 3,000 fighters, including important military leaders.
Among them, according to writers Matthew Levitt and Nadav Pollak, are Fawzi Ayoub, a Lebanese-Canadian who was killed in Daraa in southern Syria and was one of the figures most wanted by the FBI; Hassan Hussein al-Hajj, killed in battles around Idlib; Khalil Mohammed Hamid Khalil, killed in Homs; Ali Fayyad, killed in Aleppo; Khalil Ali Hassan, a veteran leader killed in Aleppo this month; and the party’s highest-ranked leader in Syria, Mustafa Badr al-Din, who was killed in May.
All of them were killed in battles with Syrian rebels or other armed groups. Unlike Iran, Hezbollah cannot impose conscription on the young men in its community in Lebanon. It can only convince them to engage in its ranks through religious and political propaganda and financial temptations.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to eliminate “extremist groups” in just a few months. However, after five years of war in Syria and four years of the party’s involvement, can it keep on fighting no matter how long the war lasts? Even worse, Hezbollah’s involvement has increased and expanded beyond Syria, its men fighting on behalf of Iran in Iraq too. It lives in a continuous and exhausting state of alert inside Lebanon.
Apart from the loss of blood and money, the party has almost completely lost the reputation and support it earned during its confrontations with IsraelAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Apart from the loss of blood and money, the party has almost completely lost the reputation and support it earned during its confrontations with Israel. Iranian failure in Syria, which is most probable, will have serious repercussions on Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.
The party used to justify its defeats against Israel, as in the 2006 war, by saying it won by not letting Israel achieve its goals. However, if it is defeated or continues to suffer losses in Syria, it will not be able to ensure the support of Lebanon’s Shiites.
Hezbollah used to tell them that it was fighting in Syria for their safety and very existence, but now it is a war on behalf of Iran’s interests that has turned Hezbollah fighters into mercenaries.
The party’s involvement in Syria has cost the Shiite community dearly, and has not given it promised security. Hezbollah’s raison d'être as an armed militia against Israel is no longer valid, especially after Iranian-Western rapprochement following the nuclear deal. Also, due to the party’s military losses, it will have difficulty persisting without challenges in Lebanon.
Hezbollah and Iran reject any solution that does not maintain Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s full powers, because they know that his defeat will most likely end Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The price of its involvement in the Syrian quagmire is too high, a price it tried to avoid in its confrontations with Israel by hiding among civilians or underground. Syria’s dirty war has tarnished Hezbollah’s reputation, history, popularity, legitimacy, youth and leaders.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jun. 17, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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. He tweets @aalrashed
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