x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Hizbollah's role in Syrian war is destructive

As with Iran's involvement in Iraq, Hizbollah intends to stay beyond the end of the conflict in Syria. The GCC would like to see all foreign groups leave Syria, so that Syrians can build a peaceful society.

How does Hizbollah imagine its Syrian adventure will end? By so explicitly coming out in favour of the Syrian regime, Hizbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah has tied the fate of his group to that of Bashar Al Assad. Moreover, he has tied his credibility to that of a man, and a regime, with none. Every time a new atrocity is committed, whether it is the horrifying deployment of chemical weapons- as alleged yesterday - or the daily grind of murder, rape and displacement that still continues, Mr Nasrallah's group shares some of the blame, and has some of the blood on its hands.

Regional powers have made clear that Hizbollah must step out of the Syrian conflict. Hizbollah's weapons have been used, in the past, to safeguard Lebanese territory from Israel's relentless incursions. Indeed, many in the Arab world who were not pleased with Hizbollah's creation of a state-within-a-state in Lebanon were still buoyed by its "divine victory" against Israel in 2006, when the militia group fought Israel's army to a standstill. Yet the entrance of the Shia militia into Syria on the side of the Assad regime, and its use of its weapons against the mainly Sunni rebels and population, has drained Hizbollah of all that support.

Abdullatif Al Zayani, the secretary-general of the GCC, was explicit on Tuesday when he called Hizbollah's fighting in Syria "flagrant meddling in [Syria's] internal affairs". The GCC have taken action in the past, agreeing to sanction the group's interests in the Gulf, but the statement was the most explicit against Mr Nasrallah by the regional body.

Some might ask why Hizbollah have been targeted thus. They are not, after all, the only outsiders meddling in Syria's civil war. Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States and others have all been involved in various ways. Yet there is a crucial difference, which bears explaining.

The Syrian conflict, even if it is now a civil war, did not begin that way: it began as a peaceful uprising. Only after repeated and brutal retaliation by the regime were civilians forced to pick up guns and seek the assistance of anyone who might offer protection against Mr Assad's brutality. Their involvement has only been in service of the end of the conflict.

Hizbollah, by contrast, and Iran as well, have an interest in widening the conflict. As with Iran's involvement in Iraq, they intend to stay beyond the end of the conflict. The GCC would like to see all foreign groups leave Syria, so that Syrians can build a peaceful society. Hizbollah has no intention of leaving, which means that they, and the Iranians, will have to be forced out.