Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hizbollah debates dropping support for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad

Hizbollah has been one of the staunchest supporters of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but now there are bitter arguments within its ranks about whether it is time to change course. 

The Telegraph

"....Now in Mr Assad’s time of need Lebanon’s Shias have mostly been loyal in return - providing logistical and moral support and even sending fighters into Syria’s civil war to kill his enemies.
But in Lebanon there are as many Christians and Sunni Muslims as there are Shia. Now, as doubts grow that Mr Assad will survive and Syria’s civil war begins to spread into Lebanon, The Sunday Telegraph has been told of secret arguments raging inside Hizbollah’s ranks about whether the time has come to stop backing Mr Assad......

If it looks as if he is in real danger, we will send thousands of our men into Syria. And if America or Nato is stupid enough to intervene, we will be there defending Arab lands.”.....

Since it was founded in the 1980s it has built a reputation as a formidably disciplined organisation, tolerating no public dissent. But a year ago the rival Palestinian militant organisation Hamas, which controls Gaza, abandoned its support for Mr Assad. Now, insiders say, Hizbollah is engaged in a fierce debate behind closed doors over whether to follow suit.....

They say it is now urgent to end their support for Mr Assad, so that a new relationship can be formed with whoever comes to power in Syria next.
“There is an awareness inside Iran and Hizbollah that they are going to have confrontation with the Sunnis, or are going to have to bridge the gap between them,” the source said. “The hardest topic is Syria. The future of Hizbollah and the Shia is directly related to the future of Syria. If Bashar is to be sacrificed, let’s sacrifice him and not Syria.”
The most dramatic sign of dissent within Hizbollah is the cancellation of a forthcoming party convention that is usually held every three years - the first time anybody can remember it being dropped. The official explanation is that it would be a security risk.....

Beyond Lebanon, Hizbollah’s prestige, once sky-high, now looks tarnished. Instead of being praised among Arabs for standing up to Israel, it is seen by many as the lackey of a bloodstained dictator.
When Hamas abandoned its support for Syria, under pressure from Palestinians appalled by the regime’s slaughter, Ismail Haniya, its leader in Gaza, dramatically announced it during Friday prayers in Cairo. “I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform,” he said. There were calls of “No Hizbollah and no Iran” from the crowd.
For sticking with the Damascus regime, Hizbollah has been criticised by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States.
Its support for the Assad regime was “an obvious strategic mistake”, said Abdel-Halim Qandil, the co-founder of the new left-of-centre Egyptian political party Kefaya (Enough). “It would have been better to be neutral or to keep silent,” he said.
There is growing unease even among Hizbollah’s grass-roots supporters in its political heartlands of South Beirut, and speculation that it will lose out politically as well.
“My mother has always voted for Hizbollah, but she has seen the television pictures of dead children in Syria and she is horrified,” said one Hizbollah supporter. “Of course she is behind the resistance. But for the first time in her life I think she may not vote for them in the next election.”".

No comments: