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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs