Today is a big day. A banner day. A red-letter day. It is a day when all the clichés can be pulled out of the cupboard.
Celebrating the day is Qasem Suleimani, who is Iran’s governor-general for its Arab protectorates. One of his clients, Hizballah, a non-governmental organisation which specialises in violence, has succeeded in winkling a combination of rebels and mujaheddin out of the town of al-Qusayr on the Syria-Lebanon border. This was a stroke against the enemies of another of his clients, Bashar ‘Ducky’ Assad.
Celebrating with him is Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah is celebrating because at his success will help him climb out from under the rubble of his injudicious provocation of Israel in 2006 and the embarrassing loss of his operations director Imad Mughniye in 2008. Hizballah, which Nasrallah runs on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader, has succeeded in conducting a major military operation outside Lebanon.
Ducky Assad is not celebrating as much. He has continued in power without losing a significant chunk of his armed forces, without losing senior people from within his inner circle, and with no clear indications that his regime is tottering. Russia has continued to support him, and has checkmated moves by any but Assad’s boldest enemies to intervene with air forces in the Syrian civil war. For him, watching Nasrallah promote himself from client to partner is not good news. Further debt to Russia is bad enough, but further debt to Iran is worse.
For Israel this is a rough day. For years Hizballah has been a caged beast, kept under control by the Assad regime. When Assad has wanted to remind Israel of his power he has been able to unleash the Hizballah beast. When the Hizballah beast has got loose, Assad has been able to stand aside as Israel has given Hizballah a kicking. Now that Nasrallah has promoted himself from client to partner, will there be anyone to squeeze the beast back into its cage?