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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora