News / Middle East

Lebanon Faces Uncertain Future if Assad Falls

Supporters of Lebanese hard-line Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir hold a Syrian revolution flag and chant slogans against Hezbollah during a demonstration after the Friday prayer, in Beirut, Lebanon, July 5, 2013.
Supporters of Lebanese hard-line Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir hold a Syrian revolution flag and chant slogans against Hezbollah during a demonstration after the Friday prayer, in Beirut, Lebanon, July 5, 2013.
Lebanon’s militant Shi’ite movement Hezbollah has always been opaque. But since intervening in the Syrian civil war it is even more secretive -- to the frustration of Lebanese political opponents trying to discuss with Hezbollah leaders what happens if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.

Few Lebanese doubt that the fortunes of Hezbollah and Assad are linked. The Shi’ite party-cum-militia would never have grown as powerful without Syrian manipulation of Lebanese politics and the patronage of Assad’s intelligence services.

Hezbollah has linked its future with Assad even more by fighting on his side.

But if the Syrian president should fall, what’s Hezbollah’s future? Will it stay aligned with Iran, try to retain its arms and argue it is the only deterrence against an Israeli attack on Lebanon? Or will it turn into more of a domestic political movement and less of a militia?

Lebanese author and commentator Michael Young argues the ouster of Assad will weaken Hezbollah significantly, although it will not mean the end of the movement.

“I don’t think there’s an assumption that it will be the end of Hezbollah. That is a very simplistic assumption. Hezbollah will not end because the Syrian regime falls," Young said. "Hezbollah’s capacity to engage in war will be much diminished, it will not have the same ability to re-arm itself and it won’t have this big ally sitting on the Lebanese border that can help it.”

Publicly, Hezbollah leaders insist Assad won’t be defeated and the “axis of resistance” of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah will endure. But Lebanese Shi'ites are growing nervous amid heightened sectarian tensions in Lebanon and Lebanese Sunni Muslim and Christian leaders are trying to engage Hezbollah in discussions about how it sees the future, but to little avail.

In 2000, many Lebanese -- including Sunni Muslims -- applauded Hezbollah for its role in the war against Israel but that admiration has now diminished said Bassel Salloukh, a political scientist at Beirut’s Lebanese American University.

“In 2000 when Israel withdrew from most of the territory it occupied, Hezbollah was the hero of the region," Salloukh noted. "Today Hezbollah is a pariah in the region for most of the people of the region.”

Already, Sunni Islamists in Lebanon are becoming more outspoken in their hostility towards Hezbollah, warning the group it will be held accountable for any Sunni blood it sheds in Syria. An Assad defeat would likely embolden Sunni opponents to challenge Hezbollah’s status as a state within the state.

Political scientist Salloukh believes that before the events in Syria, Hezbollah was ready to start transforming itself into more of a political party, but he worries the Syrian civil war has stopped that evolution.

“As a Shi’ite minority in a greater Sunni world with the sectarianization of the region I think they realize now that if anything they should stockpile more weapons," Salloukh said. "And the biggest victory, I think, against Hezbollah in the past couple of years has been this sectarianization of the region, which has transformed them from a pan-Islamist, pan-Arabic revolutionary resistance movement really to a sectarian militia.”

A toppling of the Assad regime would deprive Hezbollah not only of a key political ally but leave it weakened and facing foes keen to further diminish its power.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 08, 2013 9:24 AM
Interesting as this suggestion sounds, it will be the best thing to happen to anyone with peace at heart in the region to see Hezbollah weakened. But this is not about to be because Hezbollah's main backer and benefactor, Iran, is not letting up. Even as far away as Nigeria, Iran's weapons and money continue to challenge the army and decimate populations in the country. In as much as Iran will not back down from state sponsorship of terrorism, even with the new election victory by the so-called moderate cleric, as long as the Ayatollah Khamenei continues to determine the politics of Iran and the fate of Shi'ite islam, Hezbollah will continue to be a regional threat to everyone. I do not see a slowing down until Iran gives up - in real terms - sponsoring terrorism.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More