News / Middle East

Hezbollah Has Edge on Syrian Battlefield

A Hezbollah fighter who was wounded in Qusair, Syria, listens to a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, not shown, during a rally in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, June 14, 2013.
A Hezbollah fighter who was wounded in Qusair, Syria, listens to a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, not shown, during a rally in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, June 14, 2013.
The decision by Western and Arab Gulf nations to speed up weapons deliveries to Syria’s anti-government rebels is testimony to the battlefield effectiveness of Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters, according to regional analysts and military experts.
Since the Hezbollah guerrillas appeared in force on the Syrian battlefields this spring alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s army regulars, they have put the brakes on a rebel offensive. Then they turned the momentum of battle around by seizing the strategic town of Qusair on the Syrian-Lebanese frontier, which had been in rebel hands since last year.
Tipping point or not, the capture of Qusair demonstrated the military edge Hezbollah has brought in with rigorously trained and disciplined fighters and an grasp of battlefield tactics honed from decades of conflict with Israel.
Hezbollah fighters spearheaded the retaking of Qusair. Initially Hezbollah reservists were deployed but then elite and special-forces units were send in to overcome stiffer than expected resistance from foreign jihadists on the rebel side, say Hezbollah and Syrian rebel commanders.
Qusair’s rebel defenders used a system of tunnels to move fighters around, a defensive tactic that had stymied Syrian army regulars. But Hezbollah was familiar with the tactic, which it had used in fights with Israeli forces, and knew how to counter it.  
The decision to send more lethal weapons to the anti-government rebels came in a meeting this past weekend at Doha, Qatar, of the Friends of Syria, a group of 11 Western and Middle East countries.
Kerry: weapons supplies essential

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said weaponry was needed urgently, and “We have no choice . . . but to provide greater assistance.” In a joint declaration, the group’s foreign ministers said they hoped “to change the balance of power on the ground.”

The representatives at Doha also took the action in response to desperate appeals for help from General Salam Idriss, commander of the rebels’ Supreme Military Council.

The military stakes in the Syrian conflict have risen dramatically since President Barack Obama decided earlier in the month to send lethal aid to the rebels.
With Gulf countries reportedly ready to supply the rebels with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, and Russia supplying Assad’s forces with a state-of-the-art air-defense system, the conflict is fast developing into a full-scale proxy war. On one side are Syria, Shiite Iran and Russia, while on the other are the Sunni Muslim governments of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries as well as the United States and its allies.
But regional experts say no one in the struggle has had a greater impact in recent weeks than Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The Lebanese group’s appearance in force on the battlefield has prompted a new direction in a war that had ebbed and flowed and until this spring appeared to be slipping away from the Syrian government.
Hezbollah fighters wounded in Syria listen to a speech by their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, this month in Beirut.Hezbollah fighters wounded in Syria listen to a speech by their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, this month in Beirut.
Hezbollah fighters wounded in Syria listen to a speech by their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, this month in Beirut.
Hezbollah fighters wounded in Syria listen to a speech by their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, this month in Beirut.
Hezbollah’s fighters have been schooled from a young age to submit to strict military discipline and are nurtured in a culture of martyrdom, believing God sanctions their struggles. Because of this, Lebanese author and commentator Michael Young says, Hezbollah will do what it takes to achieve success.
“Hezbollah is willing to take heavy casualties in Syria, if this allows it to rescue the Assad regime,” Young said. That reflects the importance Syria holds for Hezbollah as a longtime patron of the Lebanese Shiite movement. 
Hezbollah’s military know-how

But what the Lebanese movement has brought Assad is more than that: Hezbollah is exporting its military know-how and military strength to complement the military advice the Syrian army is receiving from Iranian and Russian advisers, say U.S. officials.
“You can see the improvement in military strategy,” says a U.S. special forces officer, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “Assad’s forces are more focused strategically. First, there’s the rolling back of rebel positions along the Lebanese-Syria border that is denying easy access for the rebels to Lebanon, cutting and disrupting supply lines.
“That is as yet incomplete,” the special forces officer said, “but I expect to see more action to interdict Syrian territory neighboring the Lebanese town of Arsal.  Then there’s a focus on clearing up some Damascus suburbs and reaching out to towns to the east of the capital that dominate logistical routes radiating out into central Syria.”
The officer said he expects those objectives to be secured and consolidated before Assad orders his forces to take on a much bigger battle against the rebel-held half of Aleppo, Syria’s onetime commercial hub.
When the time comes, Hezbollah fighters say they will be ready to help out.
In an interview with the NOW Lebanon news website, a Hezbollah fighter said the group’s elite units are “using the training in street fighting they received in Iran, which was done in mock cities specifically built for this purpose.”

According to a recent study of Hezbollah by British journalist Nicholas Blanford, that elite training was done with Israel in mind. He concluded that Hezbollah’s tacticians had focused since 2006 on ways to go on the offensive against Israel by seizing and holding Israeli towns.

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Comment Sorting
by: MikeyG from: Wales
June 27, 2013 5:22 PM
I am wondering when the anti Assad forces will raid the Hezbollah base towns in Lebanon as retaliation It would be easy as many fighters are away and probably would be an undefended target.
It would be a pure revenge tactic but would draw fighters back home for defence. You do not want to fight other peoples wars when your own home and family is in danger

by: Shalom Freedman from: Jerusalem Israel
June 27, 2013 9:59 AM
This dispatch gives a mistaken impression of what is happening in
Syria. The Assad regime with Iran and its Hizbollah satellite's help have won a victory which will enable the Assad regime to continue to control the Alawite areas of Syria. The Sunni and Kurd regions will remain out of the control of the central government. Hizbollah has suffered serious losses in Syria and so long as the war goes on , which promises to be very long, they will continue to suffer. They no longer are the darlings of the Arab world but are now its demon. They face a serious challenge in their own backyard in Lebanon.

Should they think to start with Israel,and they won't, they will be overwhelmed by a far superior and determined power in a fairly short time. Israel has absorbed the lessons of the previous confrontation in 2006 and will not be showing hesitation this time. The organization is too challenged and demoralized within because of the losses which will continue to mount. VOA has a bit of an over-positive tone here about this murderous terrorist group whose fanatic Islamist principles violate the very principle of free speech VOA supposedly exemplifies.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 26, 2013 11:40 AM
While Hezbollah soldiers are busy perfecting strategies to win their wars on the battle field, the western backed opposition is busy perfecting how to sit down in Damascus to share loots. The West promises aids and arms, but of what use will arms be to an untrained army? The West will not send soldiers because they fear Hezbollah will route them. Countries of the West, especially USA think military operation should be left for ninjas and Ben10 alien forces on play-station 3 etc. but Hezbollah is preparing to take over the world vacated by trained army. Hezbollah has an upper hand, even over US special forces out there, because while Hezbollah uses complete men in battles without distraction, Western forces use revised men who look sideways to have fun with their fellow men in the trench thereby forgetting what they are out there for.

If their mothers are not crying in the town for their babies, they are thinking of how much they're going to make if their ward gets killed making love to one another in a supposedly battlefield even faced with AL Qaida, Taliban or Hezbollah fighters who are determined to wipe them out. The West seems now a purposeless entity without direction, or an entity that has lost focus and direction. Otherwise, this is not the kind of story we used to hear when the West entered a battlefield. Rather than concentrate on defending their unit, they are busy perfecting how to round-trip the law to accommodate illegalities and falsehood in the name of making room for everyone. Thank God this is not going to hold for too long, as other powers are just emerging -defenders of the universe that are not just ninjas.
In Response

by: 3arabe from: Lebanon
June 28, 2013 8:27 AM
"The West seems now a purposeless entity without direction, or an entity that has lost focus and direction. " Africa never had a use or direction, other than exporting slaves ;)

by: Anonymous
June 26, 2013 10:18 AM
The only reason Israel did not defeat hzbolah is because the Israelis care more about Palestinian lives/Lebanes lives than Hezbolah does. If they did not, they could have destroyed all of southern Lebanon within days. There wouldn't be enough virgins to go around to all the dead martyrs. Israel is too civilized, which makes them too soft for a war with savages who toss their own people from the roofs of buildings while their children watch in horror. Let them all kill each other is Syria.

by: Geeks from: WA
June 26, 2013 12:53 AM
What these analysts do not say is that Hezbollah was able to drive Israel from Lebanon after 23 years of occupation. The Lebanese army couldn't challenge Israel in a conventional way and had to let a guerilla do the job!

This is a guerilla force kicking an occupier out of an independent country. That's why Sunni muslims reacted fast to arm Syrian rebels after Hezbollah acknowledged publicly their presence in Syria.

With that said, arming the rebels won't solve their problem which is to kick Shia muslims from power in the Middle East since both sides have their external jihad backers.
In Response

by: Brown from: us
June 27, 2013 7:50 AM
Israel went after Palestenian refugee camps in Lebanon. They occuppied Lebanon and set in motion a civil war that toppled the Maronite government. The Shia were rural and politically, socially and economically disenfranchised prior to the occupation. Israel created Hezbollah through war. The Shia were caught in the middle and eventually began to fight the occupation.

Over years they perfected ways to inflict heavy losses for the IDF in Lebanon. Israel has come after them since the first withdrawal, so they continue to fight. Setting up radical groups calling for their death in Syria has prompted the same response. They fight. Like them or dislike them their social, political and military transformation has been amazing to watch over the years.
In Response

by: Rfactorial from: San Francisco
June 27, 2013 2:58 AM
Bob. Are you serious? Have you not heard of siddikin school leveled, qana massacre etc...? Besides, in 2006 the entire southern suburb of Beirut was LEVELED to the ground and 1000 Lebanese died most of them civilian..".....
In Response

by: Bob from: NYC
June 26, 2013 12:41 PM
The "occupation" you speak of didn't fall from the sky. Israel entered Lebanon due to terrorist rocket fire into Israeli civilian centers. Hezbollah aims at civilians. If Israel had the same mentality as Hezbollah, they certainly have the ability to clear all of southern Lebanon of Hezbollah and everyone else. They chose not to because Hezbollah stations their forces in towns and their rocket launchers next to schools, knowing that the Israels have a different moral code than they do.

by: Anonymous
June 26, 2013 12:50 AM
VOA along with main stream of Western Media spreads liar and again. There isnt any concrete evidence Russia supplied any weapon that Syria regime can use to fight with rebels. But there are tons of evidences that many foreign regimes along with foreign Jihad elements directly involve the fighting.

by: Anonymous
June 25, 2013 6:18 PM
Hezzbolah is a terrorist organization no different than Bashar al Assad both parties should be treated as such. Criminals against the nation of Syria.

by: Leer from: Hmaburg
June 25, 2013 6:17 PM
If Hezbullah strong enough to give israel a bloody nose, defeating a bunch of mercenaries should not be a big problem for them.
After this they have to finish Saudi's misery
In Response

by: ron rewal from: spain
June 26, 2013 12:25 PM
lolol losing 1200 citizens and billions in damage is a blloody nose for Hez they're are too scared to try kidnapping soldiers any more

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