June 10, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5331

Anger In Arab World Following Nasrallah's Admission That Hizbullah Is Involved In Syria Fighting

June 10, 2013
Syria, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 5331


The admission by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his May 25, 2013 speech[1] that his organization is fighting in Syria alongside the Assad regime sparked a wave of criticism in the Arab world. The enraged responses came mainly from the Gulf states – primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar,[2] and Bahrain – which are hostile to Hizbullah because it is part of the resistance axis, because it is a proxy of Iran and a backer of the Syrian regime, and because it is complicit in attempts to harm the Gulf state regimes, in particular Bahrain.

Following the address, the Gulf press argued that Hizbullah was a murderous and hostile organization even more dangerous than Al-Qaeda. There were calls for Hizbullah to be added to the list of terrorist organizations, as Bahrain has recently done,[3] and for measures to be taken against Hizbullah's vital economic interests in the Gulf states, and even against Lebanon for facilitating Hizbullah's activity in Syria. A step in this direction was the decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which convened in Jeddah on June 2, 2013, "to examine taking measures against Hizbullah's interests" in the GCC member states.[4]

Other articles argued that the organization had forfeited its legitimacy and that it was dragging both Lebanon and the region into sectarian war, as part of an Iranian-Russian plan to gain control of the region.

Criticism of Nasrallah's policy in the Syrian crisis was also heard from circles affiliated with Hamas, which, until the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, had itself been part of the resistance axis headed by Syria, Iran and Hizbullah. Following Nasrallah's address, Hamas-affiliated papers and websites posted a number of articles opposing Hizbullah and Iran's support for the Syrian regime. For example, it was argued that Hizbullah and Nasrallah "have fallen into the sectarian trap and become embroiled in sectarian complications and religious wars that will not avail them," and that the decision to support the Syrian regime would have fateful and negative repercussions for Hizbullah's future.[5]

In Jordan and Egypt, the responses were fewer and more moderate. Jordan is apparently apprehensive over a possible response by Hizbullah and the Syrian regime, while the Egyptian regime seeks to position itself as a broker in the Syrian crisis.

This report will review responses in the Arab world to Nasrallah's speech:

Calls In The Gulf: Declare Hizbullah A Terrorist Organization

A few hours after Nasrallah's speech, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Khalifa tweeted: "The terrorist Nasrallah is declaring war on his [own Muslim] nation. Halting him and rescuing Lebanon from his clutches is a national and religious obligation that rests upon us all."[6]

In a similar vein, articles in the Gulf press contended that Hizbullah was a terrorist organization and called for its inclusion in the list of such organizations. For example, Baina Al-Mulhim, a columnist for the official Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, wrote: "The moderate states in the Arab world, in the Gulf and in America are examining the issue of including Hizbullah on the list of terror [organizations]. This measure is mandatory in order to resolve the matter of this bloody organization that kills Syrians, functions as Iran's tool in both the East and the West, has attempted to intervene in Bahrain, and supports terrorist organizations in Yemen and elsewhere. This organization cannot continue to act unimpeded... There is no alternative but to declare Hizbullah a terrorist organization, since it is more dangerous than Al Qaeda. This is the most hostile and murderous organization in the Gulf and the Arab world... If Nasrallah has decided to fight those calling for takfir [i.e. the Salafi-jihadis], why is he fighting unarmed women and children? This is a sectarian war that Nasrallah has initiated. Hizbullah has made it clear that it is a militia and not a resistance [movement], as some would believe. The fig leaf has been removed from this criminal and violent party."[7]

Hussein Shobokshi, columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, also argued that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization and called for imposing economic sanctions upon it, as well as upon Lebanon as a state, which, in his opinion, should pay a price for Hizbullah's continued flagrant and blatant intervention in the Syrian issue: "...It is important and even mandatory to treat this group [Hizbullah] as what it is: a criminal terror organization similar to Al Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra. This, by its very nature, compels us to treat Hassan Nasrallah himself as a wanted criminal just like [Al-Qaeda leader] Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

"Hizbullah has become a cancer that is eating away at the body of an already fragile region by means of a sectarian civil war... and by means of its support for the criminal [Syrian] regime. The time for niceties has passed, and the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council states must pay heed to public opinion, which is demanding that they clearly and decisively adopt serious, important, and more vigorous measures against Hizbullah. It has become mandatory to initiate activities that will sever Hizbullah's economic arteries in the Gulf by [damaging] its sundry interests. Many companies in vital fields, such as contracting, retail trade, the restaurant business, heavy equipment, prayer rugs, food products and so on, are owned by people or elements directly linked to Hizbullah or its agent, or by someone who is covering up for it. Lebanon must pay the price for handing over its state to a government led by a terrorist militia...

"Hizbullah, as the majority party, has transformed Lebanon into [a force that works] against the Syrian revolution and supports a criminal regime and has thus taken a side in the conflict...

"[Lebanon] is [already] paying the price for this decision, in the form of a total halt to tourism from the Arab states [to Lebanon], a significant decline in trade with them, and a total absence of new [Gulf] investments [in it]. There is no alternative but to escalate these measures [against Lebanon]... Lebanon in its entirety must pay a price for letting a terrorist organization rule it... There's no alternative but to expel [from the Gulf states] influential Lebanese figures [who are affiliated with] Hizbullah... because they constitute a danger to the national security of the region..." [8]

Hizbullah's Activity In Syria Constitutes Occupation And An Indelible Mark of Shame

Another argument against Hizbullah's activity in Syria was that it constitutes occupation. An editorial in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq noted: "... We are confronting a campaign by Hizbullah's armed forces to occupy Syrian territory, which is accompanied by aggression against the [Syrian] people... The Hizbullah forces' entry into Syrian territory is occupation... Because the Syrians oppose it..."[9]

Jaber Al-Harami, editor of the government Qatari daily Al-Sharq, warned that "the Syrian people and the Arab peoples will never forgive Hizbullah for its actions in Syria, which will remain a mark of shame on its forehead despite all its attempts to renounce them or justify them with baseless arguments. Today's peoples have a sense of awareness and will not be deceived by pretty words." [10]

The weapons of the resistance drowning in the Syrian people's blood (Al-Rai, Jordan, May 28, 2013)

Nasrallah Is Exploiting The Palestinian Problem

In an article of unusual asperity in a Hamas-affiliated daily, Dr. 'Issam Shawer attacked Nasrallah for delivering an address while "his soldiers were surrounding and killing women and children in the city of Al-Qusayr in Syria." Rebutting Nasrallah's justifications for his forces' entry into Syria, Shawer noted, for example, that Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had been involved militarily in Syria even before the extremist Islamist movements appeared on the scene. In response to Nasrallah's argument that he was protecting the resistance, Shawer wrote that the resistance could not be limited to Hizbullah alone, and that it was unthinkable that Hizbullah's interests would supersede the interests of peoples and the Arab ummah. Shawer emphasized that "the period of 'ersatz bravery' [that does not involve] firing a single bullet at the enemy or liberating a centimeter of occupied territory has ended."

Shawer also attacked Nasrallah for urging the supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime within Lebanon to go fight in Syrian territory rather than in Lebanon, calling this the epitome of egoism and a direct call for foreign intervention in Syria. He also dismissed Nasrallah's statement that he was defending the Palestinian issue, and called upon him to stop exploiting the Palestinian cause and murdering Syrians in its name. He added: "Those whose hands are defiled with the blood of Muslims will not liberate Palestine. The majority of our people support the Syrian people and its revolution against the Assad regime and all its supporters."[11]

Hizbullah Is Dragging Lebanon And The Region Into A Sunni-Shi'ite Conflict

Some also accused Hizbullah of dragging Lebanon and the entire region into sectarian war, signs of which could already be discerned in Lebanon in the form of clashes between 'Alawites and Sunnis in the northern city of Tripoli and the launching of two Grad missiles at Hizbullah's Beirut stronghold, the Dahiya. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-'Arabi expressed such apprehension when he called upon Hizbullah to re-examine its positions and abstain from intervention in the Syrian fighting, and also urged the Lebanese leaders to maintain their policy of keeping their distance from the Syrian crisis, as they have done until now.[12] UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Anwar bin Muhammad Qarqash stated that Nasrallah's comments had exposed the true character of his organization, and said: "We have seen time and again that Hizbullah's weapons are sectarian weapons, targeted inwards into Syria or into Lebanon. These interventions by Hizbullah were known but had never been confirmed so explicitly. The last speech by Nasrallah has clarified the truth of this reality...[13]

The Saudi government daily Al-Watan held Hizbullah responsible for the security conditions in Lebanon, noting that Hizbullah "is continuing alone on its suicidal path, despite the objection of the parties, sects and the people in Lebanon. Had it not been for this organization, a sectarian conflict would not have erupted in Tripoli, scores of people would not have been killed, and missiles would not have fallen yesterday on one of Beirut's suburbs. One should remember that this organization is the regional arm of forces that are larger than it..."[14]

Many argued that Hizbullah's intervention in the Syrian fighting would have negative repercussions for the entire region. Thus, Reda Fahmi, chairman of the Arab Affairs, Defense and National Security Committee in the Egyptian Shura Council, said that Hizbullah's intervention in Syria constitutes a genuine threat to regional peace and security, and warned Hizbullah that it would pay a steep price for this.[15]

Image: Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 26, 2013

Saudi liberal Turki Al-Dakhil wrote: "Currently, Hizbullah is not fighting the Israelis, but rather 'Alawite and Sunni Arabs. It kills all its opponents, and thus drags Lebanon into the unknown... Hizbullah is a big lie that we believed from 2006 until 2013. Is there any Arab who remains bewitched by this outrageous lie?!"[16]

Tariq Alhomayed, former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, argued that Nasrallah's address represented "a total coup against the Lebanese state and the regional political balance." He added: "In this address, he informed all the Lebanese that he is the state and the state is he, and declared Lebanon to be a Shi'ite protectorate. He divided the region into two camps, just as bin Laden had done, when he said that there is an axis of the Rule of the Jurisprudent [as practiced in Iran] – [the axis that] he purports to lead – and there is the axis of those who whom he dubbed takfiri [those who accuse others of heresy], who are the allies of Israel and the U.S., which obviously refers to the Sunnis in Syria, Lebanon and the other Sunni states in the region, especially Saudi Arabia... All this could naturally provoke a sectarian war in the region, irrespective of whether Assad remains or goes..."[17]

Mamoun Fandy wrote in a similar vein: "...Nasrallah's address outlined the nature of the next regional struggle: [it will be] a Sunni-Shi'ite struggle, although he denied this in his address. This struggle found its first expression on the ground in the battle of Al-Qusayr, where Nasrallah promised victory to his men – a triumph over the Sunnis, undoubtedly... The clash will be transformed from a clash between the regimes and the opposition into a Sunni-Shi'ite clash with the objective of defining the strategic contours of the Arab region in the coming years..." Fandy argued that one of the main objectives behind Hizbullah's and Iran's intervention in Syria is to remedy deficiencies that have surfaced in the Syrian army's performance during the uprising and to establish "a Shi'ite army with common principles and sustains a regional ideological struggle..."[18]

Hizbullah Is Carrying Out Directives Of Iran And Russia

Many articles accuse Nasrallah of serving Iran and Russia at the expense of Lebanon and the entire region. The government Saudi daily Al-Madina argued that Hizbullah's collaboration with the Syrian regime in the killing and expulsion of the Syrian people "reflects fealty to Iran first and foremost. And this, as part of the 'Shi'ite Crescent plan' that is intended, at this stage, to prevent the fall of the Assad regime, threaten the neighboring states, pour oil on the fire, and transform Lebanon once again into an arena for settling accounts by plunging it into anarchy and disorder and thus provide Hizbullah with a suitable environment for supporting and implementing the Iranian plan..."[19]

Yazid bin Mohammad, columnist for the official Saudi daily Al-Watan, wrote that Nasrallah had undoubtedly received a green light from Russia before declaring that his forces were fighting alongside the regime in Syria. This, because "he knows that entering [the fray] on Assad's behalf without Russian cover is political suicide. Hizbullah does not have a will of its own, because its heart is in the grip of by Tehran, from where it receives its support and strength. [Following the lead of Syria and Tehran, Nasrallah] has returned to the bosom of Moscow, which has sought for five years to restore its historic role..."

Bin Mohammad argued further that the timing of Nasrallah's speech, precisely during the preparations for the Geneva international conference to find a political solution for the Syrian crisis, is not fortuitous: "This is another card [played by] the Moscow-Baghdad-Tehran-Damascus-Dahiya axis, which is intended to blow up the situation before [they can be forced] into a nonviolent solution. In this manner, the focus of the negotiations between the superpowers and the regional countries will shift from [the issue of] Assad's removal to the withdrawal of the foreign armed movements from Syria. This will reduce the benefit from [Assad's] ouster, should he be ousted, and will maximize the benefit to those who assisted him in the field..."[20]

Iran aims the Hizbullah weapon at Syria (Al-Dustour, Jordan, May 27, 2013)


[2] Qatar, which until the outbreak of the Arab Spring was part of the resistance axis, has shifted its stance towards this axis and currently it bitterly assails the Assad regime and Hizbullah.

[3] On this topic, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 965, Arab World Precedent: Bahrain Adds Hizbullah To List Of Terrorist Organizations, May 7, 2013.

[4] Al-Watan, (Saudi Arabia), June 3, 2013.

[5] Al-Risalah (Gaza), May 27, 2013.

[6], May 25, 2013.

[7] Al-Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), June 2, 2013.

[8] Al-Sharq-Awsat (London), June 7, 2013.

[9] Al-Sharq (Qatar), May 27, 2013.

[10] Al-Sharq (Qatar), May 26, 2013.

[11] Filastin )Gaza), May 27. 2013.

[12] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 26, 2013.

[13] BNA news agency (Bahrain) 28, 2013.

[14] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 27, 2013.

[15] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), May 29, 2013.

[16] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 28, 2013.

[17] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), May 27, 2013.

[18] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 27, 2013.

[19] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), May 27, 2013.

[20] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 28, 2013.

Share this Report: