Hizbullah Leader Condemns Syrian Opposition

The Secretary-General of the Lebanese Hizbullah party-militia, Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah, made an appearance in largely Shiite South Beirut on Tuesday for the first time since 2008, according to al-Hayat writing in Arabic. Via a giant television screen, he addressed a large crowd of tens of thousands, most of whom could not get very close to the stage from which he spoke. The occasion is Ashura or the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, which marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680 AD.

Nasrullah attacked Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the rebel Syrian National Council, which is aiming to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Baath Party.

Nasrullah pointed to Ghalioun’s Dec. 2 interview with al-Arabiya and Agence France Presse, in which the dissident Syrian leader pledged to cut ties with Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian Muslim fundamentalist group, Hamas, were the Syrian National Council to come to power.

The Lebanese Shiite leader accused Ghalioun of saying these things in order to gain support from the United States and Israel.

Nasrullah pledged that Hizbullah would remain an armed militia ready to repel Israeli aggression.

(Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and occupied the south of the country for 18 years before withdrawing in the face of sustained Hizbullah guerrilla actions; Israel attacked the country again in 2006, saying it was in response to a Hizbullah provocation).

The appearance of Nasrullah was, according to MP Amine Wehbe, a desperate attempt to galvanize his party’s supporters at a time when both his foreign patrons, Iran and Baathist Syria, are facing difficulties because of the Upheavals of 2011.

If the Baathist regime in Syria fell, Hizbullah would lose not only a patron but also its supply route whereby its stock of rockets is replenished.

On the other hand, Ghalioun’s pledges to cut off Hizbullah and Hamas mean nothing at this stage. If the Syrian revolutionaries win, a Sunni fundamentalist government might well come to power at the ballot box, and they would likely be big fans of Hamas in Gaza, at the least.

Nasrullah’s strident stance in favor of the brutal Baath government risks alienating the party’s Arab supporters throughout the Arab world.

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18 Responses

  1. The best thing at this point would have been for Nasrullah to have kept his mouth shut. But I’m sure Assad’s been demanding something from Hizbullah in exchange for all the patronage Assad has given them over the years.

    Now that Hizbullah has shown itself to be opposed to the Arab Spring, at least in its Syrian manifestation, it will be interesting to see what happens. If this had occurred six months ago, it might have meant the end of the movement. Now, I suspect it might eventually lead to the end of Hizbullah.

  2. You might just as well say that Ghalioun’s sucking up to Israel and the U.S. risks alienating his support among Muslims throughout the Middle East. I haven’t seen any “Strident” support for Assad’s regime. Just a careful neutrality.

    • The Lebanese Shiite leader accused Ghalioun of saying these things in order to gain support from the United States and Israel.

      I haven’t seen any “Strident” support for Assad’s regime. Just a careful neutrality.

      Because nothing says “careful neutrality” in Middle Eastern politics like accusing one side of pandering to Israel and the United States.

  3. The conditions in Syria between the conflicting groups are not black and white. For example; 2 weeks ago in Homs the Christian minority was given an ultimatum to leave their homes or face being killed by the anti-government rebel fighters. SOme refused and were lynched and killed by the jihadists. Those Christians who escaped begged the Government forces for help; they sent a squadron of soldiers who then had a gun fight with the rebels. This was mis-reported in the western media as being: the brutal Baath government army killing civilians. No mention was made of the brutal anti-Government froces killing unarmed Christians. Theere is a whole lot of misreporting going on – and your peice only adds to the propaganda. Shame.

    • You may want to review the definition of the word propaganda. Prof. Cole is focusing on a specific subject: the political prospects, current and future, of Hezbollah given the stance it has taken on the Syrian uprising. Brutality by anti-government forces would be a subject for a different article. Also, the existence of brutality by anti-government forces would not suddenly absolve the Assad regime of its own brutality. Finally, as far as propaganda goes, mentioning only Christians killed in Homs while using terms like “jihadists” and “ultimatum” (as if everyone else in Homs issued it) sounds a whole lot more like propaganda than anything in Prof. Cole’s article.

      • Successful propaganda is by definition not recognized as such by its target audience. That would be you, Dhalgren.

        • Your comment does not help anyone understand what propaganda might be on display in the Syrian uprising. A good place to begin when looking for propaganda is with institutions and to see who is aligning in an unqualified manner with an institutional point-of-view. The fact that Prof. Cole is not even speaking on an institutional point of view suggests that the label of propaganda is being sorely misplaced.

    • I heard there’s been a lot of sectarian violence in Homs, mainly between Sunnis and Allawites. It sounds like some Sunnis decided to target Christians. If the revolutionaries continue to engage in religious war, they will cause as much harm to Syria as Assad has.

      • Well, your comment is certainly more likely to lead to a better understanding of the situation than comments such as Dr Peter Handley’s. At least you make distinctions between and within factions.

        I would like to ask, though, why you make no mention of government “shabiha” and why you use the term “religious war.” First and foremost, what we are looking at in Syria is the prospect of civil war. The religious aspects are important but secondary. Imagine considering the American Civil War a “religious war” based upon the different church affiliations of the combatants and the different church positions on slavery.

        Having said that, I would agree that to the extent the revolutionaries engage in sectarian violence they undermine their own cause of a more democratic Syria.

  4. Judge countries & political leaders by the company they keep. Assad-Ahmadenijad-Nasrallah – are we really surprised? More interesting is whether this will build domestic support for the March 14 coalition. In the meantime, my fear is that as Nasrallah watches his patron in Damascus lose control, he may seek out mischief elsewhere to divert attention, as when he ordered the 2006 cross-border raid that killed the Israeli soldiers.

  5. Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

    Strange bedfellows, indeed.

    Too bad it’s the best humans can do.

  6. Since Syria is indeed a major patron of Hizbullah, is Nazrullah condemning the opposition really news?

    I thought Hizbullah’s central ideology was the destruction of Israel, not defense against Israeli agression. Actually, I would be supportive of Hizbullah if it really did drop its goal of destroying Israeli, instead replacing that goal with a principle of defending Lebanese sovereignity from aggression from Israel or anyone else. And perhaps the loss of Syrian support will cause Hizbullah to derive its support more from Lebanese citizens.


    I with the Obama administration really would use leverage on Israel, to oblige Israel to return the Golan Heights the moment the Baathists are ousted.

  7. It seems to me that it is counter productive for Ghalioun to pledge to cut ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. At this very early stage, when his movement is, arguably, a million miles away from taking power, what would be the purpose of being so polemical?
    I, like many others, desperately want him to succeed and I find it disappointing that he feels the need to make such unnecessary pronouncements.
    Wise-up Ghalioun, I say. You need to sharpen your political antennae.

  8. Nasrallah condemns the SNC!! that is the right title. because through Ghalioun, it pledged acceptance of western demands. Nasrallah has NEVER tried to justify violence against protesters, as others have done. some have targeted Hezbollah, even saying that bearded people firing at protesters are Hezbollah. yet, they are syrian “Shabiha”. in fact, Hezbollah’s ONLY “involvemnt” is through al Manar TV channel

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