Following his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saddam Hussein attempted to justify himself in his speeches by alluding to the Palestinian struggle, saying that he would pray in Jerusalem once he fought the conspiracy against Iraq. Many thought that Saddam had gone astray, because the liberation of Palestine obviously would not be achieved by means of invading Kuwait, another Arab country.
A few days ago, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated his reasons for involving his fighters in the Syrian war. He also spoke about a conspiracy being organized against Hezbollah and about defending the resistance. Nasrallah also seems to have veered off his target, given his former claims that Hezbollah’s weapons were pointed at Israel, not Qusayr or Damascus.
It does not matter that Saddam Hussein was Sunni and that Hassan Nasrallah is Shi’ite. Both leaders have used words such as “resistance,” “conspiracy,” and “Palestine” to win favor and to cover up their reasons for sending soldiers to fight in an Arab country. Those adventures were costly for both Saddam and Nasrallah, the latter of whom, I think, will also pay a dear price.
Despite his mastery of oratory, Nasrallah could not hide that the war in Syria was becoming sectarian or conceal the truth by using defense of “the resistance” as a slogan.
Remarkably, Nasrallah’s speech came just days after Assad claimed that he will open the door to resistance against Israel and transform Syria into a bastion of “the resistance,”; as if resistance was a new idea that suddenly occurred to him despite all of his former speeches about the “axis of resistance” and “steadfast countries.”
Attempting to justify his militants’ embroilment in the Syrian war, Nasrallah said that Syria (by which he means the Assad regime) is the backbone of resistance and the fighting taking place there is a life-or-death issue for Hezbollah.
By applying the same logic, one can assume that Hezbollah’s back will be broken if it loses its gamble in Syria. The Shi’ite militia has been brought into a sectarian confrontation with Sunnis in Syria and this will have regional and international consequences. The fight in Syria has seeped into Lebanon, threatening a wider war.
This is not the only mistake that Nasrallah made by sending his troops to Syria. It is no secret that several groups, both in Lebanon and abroad, have been calling for Hezbollah to lay down their weapons. The party has always responded that it keeps its weapons as part of “resistance” to Israel. There have been increased calls for Hezbollah to disarm, particularly following the assassination of Hariri in 2005, and again after the 2006 Lebanon war [with Israel] when Hezbollah began to point its weapons towards the Lebanese interior.
By becoming embroiled in the Syrian war, Hezbollah has fallen into the most dangerous of traps, leaving the party vulnerable to potential attackers. Moreover, the Lebanese party has put itself in a no-win situation politically and militarily, as well as by getting involved in the sectarian struggle. Many influential Shi’ite figures criticize Nasrallah and refuse to fight against the Syrian opposition, warning the fallout in Lebanon, which is still fragile.
As it enters its third year, there are many indications that the Syrian war will continue, particularly because there are parties that benefit from the ongoing struggle. This is further exhausting the already fragmented and embattled Arab countries.
Logically speaking, the Assad regime will undoubtedly fall due to the bloodshed and destruction of the Syrian societal fabric, not to mention the wide support the opposition has.
It is true that the Assad regime enjoys support, but he does not have the upper hand on the ground. Had it not been for the opposition’s weakness and infighting and the parties that benefit from prolonging the war, Assad’s regime would have fallen long ago. As the war continues, Syria will be exhausted, joining the countries in the region that have been debilitated by internal wars or revolutions.
Even if the impossible happens and the Assad regime survives, Hezbollah’s situation will be increasingly complicated. If Hezbollah gets more powerful it will complicate things in Lebanon further, as the militia will be regarded as a greater threat, leading more parties to call for its disarmament and disbandment.
Nasrallah himself has said that if Hezbollah’s Syrian ally falls, its “back will be broken.” Hezbollah will then have lost a large number of its soldiers, depleted its arsenal (which cannot be easily restocked), and lost the Arab world’s sympathy—which it might have gained, at a time when it still could play the resistance card. That chance ended when it joined the sectarian war in Syria.