Hard Times for Hizbullah

Some good news, for those of you who find Hizbullah a particularly egregious terror organization (I certainly do): From Shimon Shapira:

Five years after the Second Lebanon War, a war whose results Nasrallah considers both a "veritable miracle" and a "divine victory" that God bestowed on his party, Hizbullah has currently reached one of its lowest points. Nasrallah is confronting a genuine crisis that poses a significant challenge to Hizbullah's status in Lebanon.

Two major reasons account for this strategic reversal:

  • The endangered survival of the Assad regime in Syria.
  • The international tribunal in The Hague has demanded the extradition of four Hizbullah members suspected of murdering Prime Minister Hariri. Heading the group is Mustafa Badr al-Din, who replaced Imad Mughniyeh as head of the military and security wing and is part of the Hizbullah leadership.

The threat to the Assad regime's survival is having a direct impact on Hizbullah's strategic position in both the internal Lebanese arena and vis-à-vis Israel. It is true that Iran gave birth to Hizbullah as a small militia during the era of Hafez Assad, but during the reign of Bashar Assad it matured and attained the dimensions of a state in social, economic, and military terms, one that threatens the very existence of the Lebanese state. Syria represents the womb in which Hizbullah was born and it served as the militia's adoptive mother that suckled and nurtured it, together with Iran, since its establishment.

Damascus functions as the primary bridge between Iran and Hizbullah in terms of all military and other assistance arriving from Tehran. This comes on top of the direct transfer of rocket and missile weaponry from the Syrian army's arms depots to Hizbullah's fighting units. Hizbullah has adopted a clear-cut stand in support of Bashar Assad, and therefore Hizbullah flags are being burned in the streets of Syria together with Nasrallah's portrait. The images of Saladin and Gamal Abd el-Nasser that were once displayed together with that of Nasrallah have been replaced by derogatory slogans against the Shiite leader who is offering support to the Alawite leader in the mass slaughter in Syria. It is now clear to Hizbullah that without Syrian backing it will find it hard to continue dictating political moves in Lebanon. The removal of Hizbullah missiles from the Syrian interior and their recent transfer to the Bekaa Valley provides the most tangible sign that Hizbullah is apprehensive about the Assad regime's future.

At the same time, Hizbullah is being forced to contend with the demands of the International Tribunal at The Hague (STL) to extradite the murderers of Prime Minister Hariri, a demand that enjoys the support of the international community. Nasrallah's blatant refusal to extradite the "patriotic mujahedin," "neither in 30 days nor in 30 years," carries with it the potential of touching off an internal Lebanese conflagration. Powerful parties in Lebanon are just itching for Hizbullah to weaken as a result of the Assad regime's fall in Syria and intensified international pressures on Nasrallah in order to erode Hizbullah's political standing and subsequently Hizbullah's military power as well.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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