News / Middle East

Hezbollah Upsets The Balance in Lebanon

Fighters loyal to the Assad regime hold up the Syrian national flag stand June 5, 2013 after capturing the town of Qusair from anti-government rebels.
Fighters loyal to the Assad regime hold up the Syrian national flag stand June 5, 2013 after capturing the town of Qusair from anti-government rebels.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says the nation’s militant Shia movement, Hezbollah, is risking the “fate of the nation” by taking on an expanded front-line role in neighboring Syria’s civil war.
 
The warning from Hariri comes a week after Hezbollah guerrillas from Lebanon, fighting beside Syrian government troops, led the attack on Qusair a strategic Syrian town on the main highway into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The government’s capture of Qusair is considered a major blow to the Syrian rebel movement, which has been trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Hezbollah, the militant arm of a Shia Muslim movement considered stronger than Lebanon’s own army, has been closely allied with Assad, whose Alawite religion is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Most Syrian rebels belong to the Sunni branch of Islam.
 
The United Nations estimated about 93,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which has been going on for more than two years. On Thursday, the Obama administration in Washington said it had concluded that Assad’s forces had been using chemical weapons in the fighting and that the United States would begin helping to arm the rebels.
 
Hariri said on Thursday the Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, was engendering Lebanon by dragging it into the conflict next door. Nasrallah, He said, was acting as though he was Lebanon’s head of state by “allowing the borders to be opened for thousands of fighters to take part in the Syrian war.”
 
Upsetting the political and religious balance
 
The fear is that Hezbollah’s prominent role in Syria will upset the delicate political and religious balance in Lebanon, where Christians and Sunni and Shia Muslims have maintained a fragile truce since ending a bloody civil war of their own 23 years ago.
 
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, gives a televised speech from an unknown location, May 25, 2013In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, gives a televised speech from an unknown location, May 25, 2013
x
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, gives a televised speech from an unknown location, May 25, 2013
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, gives a televised speech from an unknown location, May 25, 2013
Indeed, sectarian tensions already have been boiling over in Lebanon, which has seen episodic clashes in the north between Lebanese Sunnis who back the Syrian rebels and Shiites who back Assad.
 
Foreign aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are reviewing their evacuation plans and, say relief workers, several are stocking up on body armor for their employees.
 
“Security for our workers has become one of the biggest challenges we face in the Bekaa Valley,” says William Barakat of the U.N.’s World Food Program. 
 
Hariri is the businessman son of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination in 2005 almost plunged Lebanon into civil war.  Hariri said he couldn’t “hide the fact that my feelings of apprehension over the nation’s fate during this historic moment far surpass the feelings of concern we all lived through” after his father’s slaying.
 
In recent weeks, Hezbollah has redoubled its military engagement in Syria and thousands of Lebanese Shia fighters were at the forefront of the Syrian government’s capture of Qusair last week after a three-week siege.
 
Fear of retaliation inside Lebanon
 
One of the biggest fears among regional analysts is that Hezbollah’s engagement in Syria will encourage Syrian rebels to strike Hezbollah inside Lebanon. The Free Syrian Army’s military commander, General Salim Idris, warned recently that his rebel fighters might begin targeting Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.
 
A further danger is that Sunni Muslim fighters from Jabhat a-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliate that has been battling against Assad, will also take the fight to Hezbollah inside Lebanon.
 
“You have got two of the most vicious factions in this war facing off,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a Middle East scholar and vice president at the Washington D.C. think tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
 
The increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian crisis is raising fears of a more widespread Sunni-Shia confrontation.  On Thursday, Muslim clerics representing 70 influential Sunni organizations meeting in Cairo issued a call for a holy war against Assad and his Shiite allies.

Concluding the Cairo meeting, Mohamed Hassan, a leading Egyptian preacher, made a televised statement saying that Assad was waging “war on Islam” and urged the faithful not only to aid the mainly Sunni rebels, but to wage jihad.
 
“Jihad is necessary for the victory of our brothers in Syria - jihad with mind, money, weapons; all forms of jihad," Hassan said.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
June 16, 2013 8:47 PM
While Hezbollah of Lebanon is attacking Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria, the fighting in Syria has escalated from civil war to war between countries. The involvement of the other countries in the next escalation for the regional war. While the Lebanese Hezbollah is fighting in Syria, Israel might try to clean out Hezbollah in Lebanon. The presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon threaten the national security of Lebanon, Israel and Syria.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 15, 2013 1:54 PM
Hariri should go bury his head in shame. He was prime minister after his father's assassination and he did not realise the importance of removing Hezbollah. Was he sleeping? Hezbollah has been there all along because all of Lebanon thinks it would be an effective counter force to Israel. Now do they cry! And look at the call for jihad, another stupid engagement of an entirely brainwashed people. Jihad? Well. How soon are they going to arm up to face Hezbollah? While it is one of those things that expose the ill-wisdom of the Arabs, it might be the best thing to happen in the region to eliminate the most acrimonious haters of the West in the Middle East, and it should be given all the support in the world, even though it will launch the region into greater turmoil. But it can't get better until it first gets worse.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs