Lebanese Journalist: Fiery Anti-Israel Rhetoric by Hezbollah Chiefs Aimed at Shiite Base (INTERVIEW)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s bellicose anti-Israel speech over the weekend was meant to bolster his organization’s standing among Lebanon’s “disillusioned” Shiite community, rather than signal an impending war with the Jewish state, a Lebanese journalist told The Algemeiner on Monday.
Hanin Ghaddar — the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank and former managing editor of Lebanon’s NOW news website — said that there is great dismay among Lebanese Shiites about the ongoing civil war in Syria, where Hezbollah has lost more than 1,000 fighters in its effort to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. That effort has suffered a “drastic” setback with the recent success of rebel forces in Aleppo, Ghaddar said.
By reminding Lebanese Shiites of Hezbollah’s “great victory” in its 2006 war with Israel, the 10th anniversary of which was marked over the past month, Nasrallah was seeking to restore the terrorist group’s image as a “resistance” organization, Ghaddar said. That image, she said, has taken a hit in the last several years, as more and more Lebanese Shiites have begun to question Hezbollah’s deep involvement in the fighting in Syria.
Lebanese Shiites have long viewed Hezbollah as their “protector,” and they still see no alternative to it, Ghaddar said. But they “are not happy” about the group’s activities in Syria, Ghaddar said, “where they are losing lots of their kids, with no victory or end in sight.”
Also, Ghaddar noted, Hezbollah’s social services budget has been drained due to the expenses of the group’s military operations in Syria, further harming its standing among its support base.
As things stand now, Hezbollah’s interest is to avoid a new war with Israel “at all costs,” Ghaddar said, to explain why the group has avoided large-scale responses to Israeli military strikes in Syria in recent years that have targeted the group’s assets.
“Hezbollah cannot afford a war with Israel,” Ghaddar said. “They know they might not win this time.”
Ghaddar also said that though Hezbollah does possess the weapons needed to fight such a war — and while the quantity of Hezbollah’s manpower has increased — the quality is not what it used to be. “Hezbollah fighters were once elite,” she said. “Now the organization recruits anyone and everyone.”
Ghaddar further said that Hezbollah has lost numerous experienced field commanders in Syria whom “it would not be easy” to replace.
In a recent television interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Hashem Safieddine, the head of the Hezbollah Executive Council, warned that Hezbollah fighters would be capable of entering the Galilee region or “even further” during a future conflict with Israel. Ghaddar dismissed such threats as bluster. “[Hezbollah officials] say a lot of things,” she concluded. “Maybe [Hezbollah fighters] can go [into northern Israel], but they won’t come back.”