x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Syrian conflict shows Hizbollah's true agenda

The original reason for Hizbollah's existence has long since vanished, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Egypt and terrorism.

Syrian conflict unveils Hizbollah's true purpose in protecting interests of Iran and Assad regime

May 25 marked the 13th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon following 18 years of Israeli occupation.

It was the occasion that catapulted the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizbollah to power. After years of resistance against occupation, the party was awarded victory, which it exploited to gradually infiltrate all levels of authority in Lebanon and eventually hijack its political and military decision-making powers.

Hizbollah's involvement in the Syrian war in support of president Bashar Al Assad has reached an alarming point, with Syrian rebels threatening retaliation on the group's strongholds in Lebanon.

In comment, Hazem Saghyia, a contributing columnist with the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, noted: "Hizbollah critics argue that it has turned its guns from the Lebanese-Israeli front in the south to fight the Syrian people in the north, especially as reports from the Al Qusair battles in Syria have confirmed its active role in combat."

Despite their best intentions, such diagnosis by Hizbollah detractors is incorrect and misleading, the writer suggests.

He goes on to explain that even at a time when the heavily armed group was fighting Israel, it fought in defence of the Syrian-Iranian alliance and its powerful position in the Middle East region.

It would be impossible otherwise to explain Hizbollah's systematic efforts in the 1980s to sideline any other powers that sought to combat Israel but didn't want to submit fully to Iranian and Syrian strategic directives.

Then in 2000 came the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the south of Lebanon. This embarrassed the Shiite militant party because it denied it the very reason for its existence.

However, the party, supported by the Syrian regime which governed Lebanon's internal affairs at the time, was quick to find a solution by inventing the contested Shebaa Farms issue that gave it sufficient grounds to resume the fight and keep the country in the throes of war.

It is true that Hizbollah was engaged in the quest for liberty and it paid a hefty price for it, but when liberation happened in 2000, it became apparent that the party's objectives had nothing to do with Lebanon's security or sovereignty. It had everything to do with entrenching Iran's stronghold in the Middle East.

The fierce battles in the Syrian town of Al Qusair, where Hizbollah has emerged as an essential pro-regime fighter and lost dozens of its fighters, prove that the party's primary focus isn't the conflict with Israel, but the safety and security of the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

"The conflict with Israel is a mere necessary condition that makes it possible for the Assad regime to plot against its people and peoples of the region," the writer added.

Morsi's quest at African Union may be fruitless

Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi's visit to Addis Ababa last week to attend the African Union summit may be the most important of his aid- and cooperation-seeking diplomatic visits in the past six months, said the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial over the weekend.

The summit represents an opportunity for Mr Morsi to meet African leaders and reinvigorate Egypt's relationship with their countries.

"Protecting Egypt's share of the Nile waters is at the top of Mr Morsi's agenda, especially as he meets with his Ethiopian counterpart," the paper said. "More than 85 per cent of the Blue Nile's waters originate in the Ethiopian highlands."

Israel had been active in Nile basin countries in recent years. It has proposed building projects and offered attractive weapons deals in an attempt to circumvent any Egyptian action related to the Nile water.

"Israeli instigation helped in persuading representatives of Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania - all Nile basin countries - as well as Congo, Kenya and Burundi, to sign a new agreement for the distribution of the river's water in a way that decreases considerably the shares of Sudan and Egypt," the paper explained.

Mr Morsi's decision to attend the summit is commendable, but, in the absence of Arab support and coordination, it may not be beneficial, it said.

Acts of terrorism have no religion

It is a tragic, sorrowful coincidence that the day an ugly terrorist attack was perpetrated by terrorists of Nigerian origins in London against a British soldier, the city of Taef in Saudi Arabia was shook by a similar tragedy as another terrorist of Nigerian origins killed a Saudi security officer, said the columnist Tariq Al Homayed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

The British soldier who was brutally killed in broad daylight was 28 and a father of one. The Saudi officer who was killed while putting out a fire was 27 and a father of three.

"The point behind both stories is that terrorism has no religion. It doesn't distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslim victims," the writer said.

"The issue with terrorism is that it can be carried out by any lunatic extremist and for any reason," he argued.

Many British media were quick to brand the terrorist crime as "Islamic terrorism", which provoked rage against Muslims throughout the UK.

The crime was indeed a betrayal of Islam.

Giving terrorism a religious face would be a service to terrorists and an impediment to antiterrorism efforts, the columnist concluded.



* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem