(Photo of Hasssan Nasrallah, via Kabobfest.com)
In his first televised speech after the Israeli strikes on Syria, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, made two interesting remarks. First that Syria will supply Israeli arch enemy, Hezbollah, with “game changing arms.” Second, “the resistance is ready to assist and cooperate to liberate Golan Heights.”
Nasrallah’s speech met with mixed response; some dismissed it as far-fetched, implausible rhetoric while others urge caution, and recommend taking Nasrallah’s word seriously.
Followers of Lebanon and Hezbollah leaders know that Nasrallah is known for his loud rhetoric; however, he is also known to be precise, calibrating his speeches carefully, and is usually accurate in his threats. Hence, a legitimate question is: What Nasrallah is truly after? Although it is not easy to read the true intentions of Hezbollah’s leaders, however, we can read in-between the lines, and draw some conclusions, and potential possibilties:
First, Nasrallah had to say something. All the leaks suggest that the Israel strike was meant to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced Iranian weapons; therefore, a defiant message from Nasrallah is the least he can do to keep Israel on edge and paint the perception that he is unfazed by Israel’s aggression.
Second, It is crucial to view Nasrallah’s speech within the context of the unfolding dynamics in the Syrian crisis. The U.S. and Russia have pledged to work together for a Syrian transitional government. Speaking at a joint news conference Tuesday in Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that he and Lavrov agreed, “as soon as is practicable, possibly and hopefully, by the end of this month” to “seek to convene an international conference.” Nasrallah’s message is aimed mainly to raise the stakes and clinch a better deal for Assad. In today’s statement, Kerry reaffirmed the U.S.’s position that Assad will not be a component of a transitional government. This is a stance that Nasrallah will want to challenge. Assad did not fight this bloody, dirty battle to leave at the end because Kerry thinks that it is ultimate solution.
Third, Nasrallah want to deter Israel from launching more attacks on Syria. The Druze population of the occupied Golan Heights is not as loyal to the Jewish state as are the Druze of Carmel Mountain. Any tension in Golan could trigger unpredictable response from local residents, could prove costly for Israel.
Fourth, Nasrallah also probably has a plan B scenario. This far, Nasrallah has clearly preferred to focus his energy to save his ally, Assad; however, if he senses any military intervention in any form, either by properly arming the Rebels or imposing a no Fly zone, he may revert to his plan B, which could mean dragging more Israelis directly into the fighting. This option is favorable to Nasrallah for two reason
- It will revive the concept of resistance by directly fighting the Israelis rather than fighting other Islamic group
- It will shift the confrontation with Israel into another front in Syria, thus, will limit the Israeli retaliation option inside Lebanon. Nasrallah will create his own proxy war by using Palestinian groups inside Syria in his quest to confront Israel.
I doubt that Nasrallah has finalized a cohesive plan, rather he just testing the water and waiting to see the response. I also doubt that he will rely on the aging, incompetent Palestinian groups as he claims. They will be just puppets in the war.
It is also worth noting that Golan is not south Lebanon; it took Hezbollah years to build his underground bunkers in the south of Lebanon; therefore, fighting in Golan could prove to be harder and trickier. However, if Nasrallah manages to drag the Israelis into the fight, the rest of his job would be a lot easier. Any deeper Israeli involvement would force the international community to favor a less-than-favorable settlement that could help Assad survive in one way or another.
Nothing is certain about Syria, but it is highly probable that we might listen to and hear from Nasrallah in the near future, and I doubt that what we will witness or hear will be pretty or peaceful. The fight in Syria has more to do with the selfish interests of each player involved, and less to do with the real interest of Syria or the Syrian people.