BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s latest televised appearance brought about a noteworthy development after he indicated that “his party's involvement in Syria is approaching the end".
This, however, should not be construed as Nasrallah declaring victory in Syria but is merely indicative of the inner workings of the party and their re-evaluation of the Syrian arena and their progress thus far.
Although Nasrallah had discussed on more than one occasion his party’s military involvement in Syria and its broad objectives – to regain territory lost to numerous opposing groups – these statements illustrate Hezbollah’s strategy post-Syrian conflict.
Discussions from within the party’s establishment, which form the basis of Nasrallah’s remarks, are focusing on establishing the party’s upcoming action plan both in Lebanon and the region while taking into consideration the current volatile geopolitical landscape.
These are based on different factors, circumstances, and considerations.
First and foremost, the main reasons that pushed Hezbollah to intervene militarily in Syria, sending its elite units to the frontlines more than five years ago, seem to have dwindled.
This goes hand in hand with recent reports indicating the withdrawal of different units from numerous Syrian fronts, immediately stationing them along Lebanon’s southern border and the Bekaa Valley, in a move aimed as a show of force toward Israel.
Although Nasrallah had previously stressed that maintaining parity with Israel is aimed at deterring the latter from attacking Lebanon, while distancing from the prospect of a renewed war, he remains cognizant of that scenario actually unfolding once again as it did in 2006.
This move is also aimed at establishing Hezbollah’s blueprint for future operations and setting its framework. By efficiently mobilizing its units both in Syria and Lebanon, Hezbollah aims to establish itself in a sustainable manner along both fronts, further consolidating its position vis a vis Israel. In essence, the party is wary of the need to disperse its forces, resources and capabilities.
It also important to note, that the threat that the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Al-Nusra once posed to Hezbollah is now a thing of the past. Although these terrorist organizations represent the underlying reasons for Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, capturing half of its land and almost reaching Damascus at one point in time, their near total eradication from Syrian territories have paved the way for Hezbollah to revaluate its allocation of resources.
Hezbollah is also of the belief that matters will soon be settled in both Idlib and Raqqa with Kurdish forces establishing strongholds in both regions with the backing of the United States.
Also, Hezbollah’s leadership has been able to reach settlements with some of the different dispersing militant groups, minimizing potential risks of counter-offensives; while the deployment of Iran’s revolutionary guard across Syria in a defensive formation seeks to further cement the party’s gained positions.
In essence, certain media reports suggesting Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria are not entirely accurate. After five grueling years, during which the party exhausted many of its resources and capabilities, Hezbollah is re-engineering its strategy, taking into account the different challenges it faces, from the threat of Israel to its incursion in Yemen and the broader regional Sunni-Shiite conflict.
A version of this article appeared in Annahar's Arabic print issue on November 15, 2017. The article was adapted into English by Georgi Azar.
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