Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Russian Deputy FM: Hezbollah Will Leave Syria when Conflict is over | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman walks past damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Beirut – The Syrian war paved the way for a direct contact between Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russia. The field relationship evolved into strategic ties, which are not limited to the Syrian file, in spite of the differences n several other issues including the struggle with Israel and Hezbollah’s declared position on Yemen’s war.

Yet, Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is not permanent according to Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov who expected the group and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to leave Syria after the war.

“I understand the fears of Israel relating to Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Syria, and you of course fear that they will stay in Syria after the war,” Syromolotov, who is currently on a visit to Israel, said, stressing that Iran and Hezbollah “will leave,” as the war in Syria ends.

“For us, Hezbollah is part of the politics of Lebanon. An important part of the population of Lebanon supports it and it is a part of the parliament,” Syromolotov told The Jerusalem Post.

Russia had always considered Hezbollah part of Lebanese politics, even before the Syrian crisis. Despite not having prior direct relations with Hezbollah, Moscow always viewed the party as a political organization that has an effective role in the Lebanese political scene, researcher on Russian security matters Mohamed Seifeddine told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Seifeddine pointed out that Russia didn’t support Hezbollah in its war with Israel, but didn’t object the Russian weapons reaching it through Syria. He added that unlike the U.S., Moscow maintained its mediating role in the Arab-Israeli conflict without supporting Israel.

Yet, the field contact in Syria between the two enhanced the communication which was missing before. This led to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling the U.S. to recognize Iran-backed Hezbollah’s role in the war on ISIS.

The researcher explained that the engagement in the war in Syria and developments of the battles, made it inevitable for both parties to coordinate militarily. He added that Moscow reached the point of having to benefit from Hezbollah’s role in the war.

He didn’t deny the fact that Russia is interested in protecting Hezbollah and the Syrian regime for the purpose of protecting itself.

While Moscow shares the Syrian regime, and its allies Iran and Hezbollah their views on the war being against terrorists, Russia maintains a distance concerning the possible war between Israel and axes of resistance including Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that theory saying Russia is not part of the axes of resistance. He pointed out that they both agree on the war in Syria, and disagree on Yemen and Israel.

Experts on Russia don’t believe that the direct relation between Hezbollah and Moscow will end after the end of the Syrian war. They rather think it will go back to square one where Moscow supports the Syrian regime, which backs Hezbollah, aiming to maintain a balance in the region.

Seifeddine stressed that Hezbollah’s relations with Moscow are limited to Syria for representing Russia’s point of existence in the region.

He added that Russia’s disagreements with Iran about Yemen and its continuous attempts to establish relations with the Gulf are the reason why Moscow kept its distance from this issue.

Seifeddine concluded that Russia will be obliged to provide the party with political support to protect its interests and maintain the current balance.