While they come from opposing Muslim factions, Palestinian Sunni group Hamas and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah have much in common: they are both designated terror organisations in most Western countries, Australia included; they both hold extremist and violent ideologies; they both fought wars with Israel in the second half of the last decade; and they have both received significant backing from Iran and Syria. That said, they seem to be diverging on that last point. With the ongoing violence in Syria, the last Hamas operative from the Damascus-based political bureau seems to have fled for Gaza, however it seems that Hezbollah is unwilling to follow suit and remains resolutely behind the ruling Assad regime.
This revelation comes after the Russian and Chinese veto of the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian regime, with AP reporting that the US is calling for some form of “international coalition” in support of the Syrian opposition.
The Jerusalem Post has reported Hezbollah’s response: the group is willing to do whatever is necessary to prevent any interference in Syria, even if it would involve starting a war with Israel to distract the international community.
Hezbollah is prepared to attack Israel if Western powers interfere in Syria against the regime in Damascus, a Lebanese Hezbollah official said Sunday according to the Palestinian News Network.
The unnamed official said Hezbollah was prepared if Western powers intervened in Syria in order to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, even if the “price for it” is to engage the IDF in battle in order to divert attention away from the Syrian arena.
This announcement strengthens the recent allegations that Hezbollah has been supporting Assad militarily throughout the crackdown on Syrian opposition forces. That said, the fact that Hezbollah is even entertaining the idea of provoking another Israel-Lebanon war indicates just how seriously they consider Assad’s fall might affect them. The 2006 conflict with Israel had a devastating effect on Hezbollah and on Lebanon as a whole, so much so that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah has publicly declared that in hindsight, he regrets the actions that led to it (six years of incessant rocket bombardment of northern Israel and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers).
With this in mind, the West should have even more reason to increase support for the Syrian opposition. Defeating Assad would not merely be a boon for the Syrian people, it would dramatically change the geo-political dynamic of the Middle East by weakening Hezbollah and the rest of the pro-Iranian axis.