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Inside Story

Gauging Hezbollah's role in Syria

With Syrian opposition angered at Lebanese group's support for the regime, what does it mean for regional security?

Last Modified: 02 May 2013 13:03
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Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, has promised not to let the government of neighbouring Syria fall, saying it has "real friends in the region".

Nasrallah's televised address on Wednesday angered the Syrian opposition who have accused his group of supplying assistance to the forces of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

The Hezbollah leader's comments not only re-ignited a war of words in the Syrian conflict, it also raised renewed questions about the involvement of foreign groups on either side of the Syria issue.

The issue is one of how are we going to get a political dialogue? If you label people 'terrorists' or these other things it becomes very difficult to do that.

Nicholas Noe, Mid-EastWire.com founder

A statement released by the Syrian National Coalition characterised Nasrallah's rhetoric as "threats":

"The Syrians and the Lebanese hoped that the Hezbollah leadership would stop their attacks on Homs and Damascus and take into account the gravity of the situation in the region.

"But they heard nothing but threats and warnings against setting the region on fire and an admission of their interference in Syrian affairs."

In his speech, which came after two bomb attacks in the Syrian capital, Nasrallah called the armed opposition too weak to succeed to bring down al-Assad.

But Wednesday's address was not the first time the Hezbollah leader made comments in support of the leadership in Damascus.

Since the start of the crisis in Syria, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah has sided unequivocally with the Syrian government. And commentators say that move has squandered some of the good will that Hezbollah had on the 'Arab street'.

Hezbollah - literally the party of God - is the most powerful political and military organisation in Lebanon. It is made up mostly of Shia Muslims and was founded with Iranian financial support.

The group maintains those links with Iran today and has been characterised by its hostility towards Israel.

The two sides fought a month-long war in 2006 - after which Hezbollah claimed victory. The party also provides social services and healthcare, which gives it a wide popular appeal.

So, in an already volatile region, how important isHezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict? And what does it mean for the neighbouring nations? 

Joining Stephen Cole on this Inside Story, to discuss the regional implications of Nasrallah's comments are guests: Kamel Waznee, founder and director of the Center for American Strategic Studies in Beirut; Louay Safee, from the political office of the Syrian National Coalition; and Nicholas Noe, Mid-EastWire.com founder.

"Syria has real friends in the region, and the world will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel or salafist groups."

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general

 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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