Hizbullah's Declaration of War in Syria: Military Implications

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Jeffrey White - On May 25, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah committed his group to defeating the Syrian revolution and preserving the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Hizbullah is not only involved in the current fighting around Qusayr in Homs province, but also in Damascus, purportedly to defend the Sayyeda Zainab Shiite shrine in cooperation with local Shiite militiamen. In addition, Hizbullah members have joined regime offensives in Deraa province as well as in East Ghouta in the Damascus countryside. Hizbullah plays a key role in the Syrian regime's development of effective irregular forces, providing training and advice to local militia groups, Popular Committee elements, and the National Defense Army. To be sure, Hizbullah's forces, even elite units, are not supermen - even when backed with regime air, armor, artillery, and missile forces, their performance against the Syrian rebels has been less than spectacular. Hizbullah elements fighting around Qusayr have paid a heavy price, making slow progress on the ground but failing to dominate rebel forces. Direct and significant military intervention by Hizbullah gives the regime new capabilities and restores its ability to conduct significant offensive operations. Hizbullah's commitment will also boost morale among the regime's forces and supporters, encouraging Assad to stay the course and crush the rebellion. As a result, the regime will be even less likely to negotiate a true transition of power, deflating hopes for a diplomatic solution. A regime that has shown no inclination to negotiate while losing the war will hardly be moved to compromise if it believes its prospects have improved. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute and a former senior defense intelligence officer.

2013-05-31 00:00:00

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