Has Hezbollah withdrawn from Syria?
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has announced that his party’s mission along Lebanon’s northern border with Syria is “completed,” and that its forces have begun to withdraw from their positions, which will be handed over to the Lebanese Army. So the party seems to have decided to return from its heinous fight alongside the Syrian regime, and has asked the Lebanese Army to take its place. What is the meaning of this?
It is well-known that there is no substantial difference between the northern Lebanese-Syrian border region being controlled by the Lebanese Army or by Hezbollah, because military and security decisions will remain with the latter.
There is no contradiction with the call for the army to be the only military authority on the border; in recent years the army was essentially a guard, subject to authority from outside the Lebanese state, thus controlling the border from only one side against insurgents and Syrian refugees. As for Hezbollah fighters and their weapons, the army’s task was to facilitate traffic and secure the movements of their arms shipments.
All parties involved in Syria, particularly Iran and Russia, are reconsidering their positions.
Nasrallah’s words coincided with images distributed by Hezbollah media about “American and British” crowds along the Syrian-Jordanian border. Is it true, as Nasrallah said, that Hezbollah is not worried about a strike in Lebanon or Syria, or about the consequences of a major deal being prepared under which the party would lose out? In reality, it is clear that the party is very concerned about the possibility that he suggests.
All parties involved in Syria, particularly Iran and Russia, are reconsidering their positions, but Hezbollah appears less able to do so. In Syria, it is carrying out a task it had no role in starting and has no power to direct or end. Any task for Hezbollah in Syria or along the border will have repercussions for Lebanon. Nasrallah has called on the Lebanese Army to take over the border, as if Hezbollah is using Lebanon as a front to cover its actions in Syria.
Meanwhile, preparations are underway on the border between Syria, Jordan and Iraq for a war to eliminate Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah is among the concerned entities at this stage, and its spread in southern Syria increases the possibility that part of this war deal will mean sacrificing it to large international deals. Russia, Israel and the US view the Lebanese border as a card that must be withdrawn from Hezbollah. This explains the party’s faltering and exaggerated rhetoric of war.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.