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The war between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The war between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah in Syria

If someone last year had said that some form of military confrontation was going to take place between Hezbollah fighters and armed militia affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have been accused of insanity. The Brotherhood has very special and complex relations with Iran, as well as its adherer Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. As for the Hamas movement, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot in Palestine, its relations with Iran have strengthened to the extent that the latter extends financial aid and pays part of Hamas’ budget, as well as the salaries of its employees in the Gaza Strip. However, the Syrian revolution came as a surprise to everyone and sparked confusion, not only within the Syrian regime, but also with regards to the Brotherhood’s relations with Iran as well as its two allies in the region: Hezbollah and Hamas (with my deep conviction that Iran’s alliance with the former is strategic and ideological, and its relations with the latter are tactical and timely).

Here the Muslim Brotherhood finds itself face to face with an issue that has gone beyond mere political skirmishes to a military confrontation, in line with the logical developments of any heated issue around the world (a political crisis must occur first and then a military confrontation may take place). It is not an exaggeration to say that the unlimited Iranian support for the Bashar al-Assad regime has led to open military confrontations between militant affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and fighters from both the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. This is because the Islamists, and principally the Muslim Brotherhood, are the backbone of the Syrian opposition, which is also an active participant in the armed opposition. At the same time, news has been leaked (from Brotherhood sources) reporting that both Iran and Hezbollah have members enrolled in Bashar al-Assad’s forces, in their fight against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and this was evidenced in the footage showing Iranian soldiers being captured by the armed opposition.

Thus Syria has transformed into an arena for genuine political and military confrontation between the Shiite Crescent and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Even if it is described by some as a cold war between the international Muslim Brotherhood Organization and the countries now ruled by Islamists on the one hand, and Iran and its ally the Bashar al-Assad regime on the other, over the Syrian revolution, the confrontation is still unprecedented. For example, the Ennahda movement which currently rules Tunisia, whose leader Rashed al-Ghannoushi has old and strong ties with the Iranian revolution, has also entered into this cold war, with Tunisia hosting a conference for the Syrian opposition and supporting politically. Although the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood originally adopted a somewhat vague position towards the Syrian revolution, and the movement was criticized sharply as a result, the Brotherhood has moved to adopt a more proactive stance in recent weeks. Even Hamas, a major beneficiary of Iranian financial support and Syrian logistical assistance, has broken its silence – albeit timidly – with regards to what is happening in Syria. It has begun to be liberated from its silence in the same manner that its leaders have also been liberated from Syrian pressure, or more precisely Syrian blackmail. This liberation took on qualitative steps when Hamas’ leaders left Damascus, and reached its climax when Ismail Haniyeh, a senior leader of Hamas, issued statements during his recent visit to Cairo in which he advocated the Syrian people’s demands.

The fruit of such a confrontation is that the moderation axis, whose relations with Iran and Syria have declined dramatically, now has a favorable opportunity to bridge the gap with the rising Islamic powers – those that have come to power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – and set aside their old differences, which were only a cause for further Iranian interference in the Arab region. This is because the ideological Iranian influence is like a harmful virus that only spreads in an infected atmosphere.