Thursday, June 20, 2013

7 Reasons Hezbollah Will Lose in Syria!

By Abu Anas 


Hezbollah has sent its fighters to Syria betting it can save the Assad regime. The city of Qusair was captured by the Assad forces and its militia on June 5th. Additionally, Hezbollah sent its fighters to Damascus and its suburbs. The Assad regime vowed to retake many of the rebel-held areas, especially in Aleppo, with the support of Hezbollah. Numerous analysts have suggested that Hezbollah's support to the regime has and will change the balance of the war between the rebels and the Assad regime. Is Hezbollah capable of winning a war that a fully armed regime, with tens of thousands of militiamen, has lost?

There are 7 reasons why Hezbollah might stumble and falter in its adventure to save the Assad regimefrom the momentum of its rising people who have suffered under its oppression for over 40 years. Ranging from structurally intrinsic aspects, to local Lebanese elements, to external factors, the reasons can be summarized as follows:

  1. High casualties suffered: Hezbollah has taken a huge hit during its attack on al-Qusair, sending 1,700 fighters to occupy the city.[1] The Guardian has reported that it suffered around 200 casualties during the 17 day battle for this small border town, which makes up over 10% of its force used.[2] Hezbollah is not a a regular army, but a militia with an estimated fighting strength 20,000 - 30,000. With such casualties, Hezbollah will have an attrition dilemma that would devastate its basic existence.
     
  2. Doctrine-based resistance: Hezbollah is a guerrilla style militia that is defensive in nature, built since the 1980s has engaged regular armies like that of Israel, and has learned to use asymmetrical warfare when an opponent moves into their geographically known hometowns. Engaging in the Syrian conflict flips all these fundamentals upside down, with Hezbollah now fighting as a regular army against smaller guerrilla style militias. While the rebels are fighting with doctrine-driven cause, protecting their homes from a tyrant and foreign aggressors, Hezbollah fighters are pushed to kill their Muslim brothers, which lowers their morale.
     
  3. Loss of soft-power: Prior to the Arab Spring, due to its hailed victories over the undefeated Israeli army in 2000 and 2006, Hezbollah enjoyed a celebrity status among Arabs in the world, including the Sunnis. Nasrallah used to be a symbol of heroism, but has now lost all sense of goodwill from the entire Arab world. Even the Palestinians, who were Hezbollah’s greatest fans, have sided with the rebels, and reports say that Hamas has revealed Hezbollah secrets to the rebels.[3]
     
  4. Lebanese political pressure: The March 14th Coalition, opposing Hezbollah in Lebanon, has been criticizing Hezbollah throughout the Syrian conflict, and has increased its rhetoric after Hezbollah officially announced military support for the Assad regime.[4] March 14 Coalition has been waiting for the right moment to limit Hezbollah's influence in Lebanon, and sees this encroachment into the Syrian affair as an important opportunity.
     
  5. Sunni-Shia front inside Lebanon: Hezbollah's killing of Sunni civilians and rebels inside Syria has agitated their brothers in Lebanon and spurred clashes on a sectarian basis within the city of Tripoli.[5] Other cities were affected, like Sidon, where a prominent pro-Hezbollah Sunni sheikh was targeted in an assassination. This sectarian fighting will add more burden on Hezbollah's political leadership and stress on its military capacity.
     
  6. Shia dissent within popular base: Two prominent Shia scholars in Lebanon, one being Hezbollah’s ex-chief, have sharply criticized Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict and fighting against rebels in support of Assad.[6][7] Also, a Shia demonstrator protesting Hezbollah's involvement in Syria was killed last Sunday. The demonstration was held by members of an anti-Hezbollah Shia political party that has rarely criticized Hezbollah in the past.[8] All this suggest that the Shia popular base is starting to fracture.
     
  7. Israeli threat: Hezbollah can not push most of its forces inside Syria because of the need to secure its border with Israel. This factor will limit its involvement in rescuing Assad - who is definitely lacking in manpower.

All these reasons together will make Hezbollah's goal of defeating the rebels and saving the regime very difficult. Currently, Hezbollah is driven by its instinct of survival since it has lost its goodwill within many sectors of the Arab and Muslims societies and all political actors around it are waiting for the right moment to eliminate its influence. Hezbollah sees its fate directly tied to that of the Assad regime. The strategic miscalculations of Hezbollah have put it in an awkward position fighting for its existence, after it enjoyed a vast support from all of the Muslim world.


[1] UPI, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/05/30/Syria-Hezbollah-triumphs-but-loses-veterans/UPI-98951369939886/
[2] Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/syria-army-seizes-qusair
[3] Al-Monitor, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/hezbollah-battle-qusair-syria-lebanon.html
[4] Al-Arabiya, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/05/29/Lebanese-Christian-leader-says-Hezbollah-will-destroy-Lebanon.html
[5] New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/world/middleeast/battle-for-syrian-town-spurs-sectarian-fighting-in-northern-lebanon.html
[6] Al-Arabiya, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/05/18/Hezbollah-exploits-religion-to-intervene-in-Syria-says-Shiite-cleric.html
[7] Al-Arabiya, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/06/08/Hezbollah-has-provoked-whole-world-ex-militia-chief-says.html
[8] Washington Post, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-09/world/39856665_1_qusair-lebanese-army-shiite-hezbollah

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