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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs