Hizbullah, Jabhat al-Nusra Set for Showdown in Syria

(Daily Beast) Jamie Dettmer - A new development could bring sectarian conflict that much closer to Lebanon and have wider repercussions for the entire Arab region: the likelihood of a confrontation between Lebanon's Shiite Hizbullah and Sunni fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra, the jihadist militia that has evolved into the most effective rebel formation fighting to oust Assad in Syria. In recent weeks, al-Nusra fighters drawn from across the Middle East have been moving into Shiite villages on the Syrian side of the border in the mountainous al-Nabk area about 50 miles north of Damascus, say Lebanese intelligence sources. Syrian army units have vacated the villages, presumably leaving them to be policed by the pro-Assad Hizbullah, whose heartland is just across the border in the Lebanese part of the Bekaa Valley. Hizbullah has argued recently that its militiamen have been fighting in Aleppo as a forward defensive move to prevent them having to fight al-Nusra on Lebanese territory. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said: "If Hizbullah is forced to retreat into the Bekaa Valley, will al-Nusra and other Syrian rebel factions pursue them into Lebanon? It is a key question and was always the risk Hizbullah courted by fighting for Assad."

2013-03-15 00:00:00

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