October 11, 2012

by Avi Melamed

Nasrallah made a speech tonight (Israel time) in which he claimed responsibility for the launching of the unmanned drone that was intercepted by the Israeli Air Force after infiltrating Israel on October 6th. This speech was clearly an attempt to repair Hezbollah’s damaged image and to regain popularity in the Arab world by using the “defying Israel card.”

First and foremost, Nasrallah’s speech reflects the deepening crisis Hezbollah is mired in as the organization sinks in the Syrian mud.

Hezbollah’s active involvement in the war in Syria is no longer a secret. Hezbollah militants openly fight side by side with Assad’s troops against the Free Syrian Army.

Hezbollah’s troubles are accumulating.
Since May 2012 a group of senior Hezbollah militants has been held in captivity by one of the Syrian rebel groups.

On October 9, an official spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army announced that thirteen Hezbollah fighters were captured during a firefight by the Free Syrian Army.

Over the past few days (according to multiple sources) somewhere between thirty and forty Hezbollah militants were killed in fierce battles next to the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr located about ten miles from the Syrian–Lebanese “border” (the two states do not have formal borders).

Accumulating reports indicate that tens of dozens – if not more – of Hezbollah’s militants have been killed in the war in Syria.

Yet, until now Hezbollah has consistently denied its involvement in the war in Syria.

They secretly buried their slain militants and discreetly published brief messages saying they were killed “in mission.” On some occasions posters of the dead militants with a photo were printed.

Now it seems that Hezbollah is changing its public relations policy.

The turning point was a public funeral they held for Muhammad Hussein Al Haj Nasif, the senior commander of Hezbollah’s military operation in Syria that was killed on October 2nd.

Similar funerals for other Hezbollah militants killed in Syria were held over the course of the next few days.

Hezbollah now claims its militants were killed while “protecting Lebanese civilians in Syria.”

However, neither using the “Israeli Card”, nor changing their “marketing” regarding their involvement in the war in Syria will restore Hezbollah’s ruined image in the Arab world. In the Arab world the anger and criticism of Hezbollah and its leader is only escalating.

Most recently, an official spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army publically threatened to take the war in Syria into Lebanon. More specifically, he warned that if Hezbollah continues to support the Assad regime he will bring the war directly into Al Dahya Al Janobiya, Hezbollah’s major stronghold in south Beirut. According to some sources, Hezbollah is very concerned that it may face a scenario of a series of attacks – including suicide bombers – that would target Hezbollah’s infrastructure and personnel in Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s concern is not groundless. On October 3rd a series of major blasts rocked the Lebanese town of Al Nabi Shit, a well-known Hezbollah stronghold, located in the Lebanese Valley. The blasts were caused by the explosion of ammunition that was stored in one of Hezbollah’s many weapons and ammunition warehouses scattered throughout Lebanon. According to reliable sources, at least ten Hezbollah personnel and one at least Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer were killed in the blast. There are good reasons to assume that explosion was not an accident. According to a reliable source, it was caused by a bomb planted in a car that was loaded with weapons and ammunition which was supposed to be sent to the Hezbollah militants in Syria. Some may attribute that operation to Israel. It’s possible that the operation was executed by Free Syrian Army groups that operate inside Lebanon against Hezbollah. It is reasonable to expect other operations down the road.

For the past five or six years, both in my articles as well as in my briefings and tours, I have been talking a lot about the growing tension between Hezbollah and the Sunnis that would eventually lead to an all-out conflict between the two sides. As Hezbollah is drowning deeper in the Syrian mud and experiencing increasing stress, the odds for the realization of that scenario are significantly increasing

Please read my related articles:

October 2, 2012 Most Senior Hezbollah Figure in Syria killed
August 23, 2012 Nasrallah is Sending a Message…but to whom?
July 15, 2012 Hezbollah Sunni Tension Rises
June 21, 2012 Nasrallah Gets a Taste of his Own Bitter Medicine
February 25, 2012 Is War in the Middle East Inevitable?
February 14, 2012 Inside Hezbollah’s Private Dominion

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