Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Hamas Deserts Iran, and Lebanese Stand Up Against Syria

by Elliott Abrams
March 7, 2012


“Hamas rules out military support for Iran in any war with Israel,” reads a headline in London’s Guardian newspaper.

The statements by Hamas leaders that they “would not get involved” and are “not part of military alliances in the region” are significant. They show that Hamas wants to be on the winning side and has concluded that the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis is no longer on the ascendent. Only two weeks ago, Hamas started backing the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime that has so long been its host in Damascus.

It had been conventional wisdom in past years that if Israel hit the Iranian nuclear sites, retaliation would come not only from Iran but from Hamas and Hezbollah. This move by Hamas raises the issue of whether Hezbollah might also give this one a pass. After all, Hezbollah’s chief, Sheikh Nasrallah, knows that Israeli retaliation if he starts a war will be even greater than it was in 2006 (when Hezbollah’s capture and killing of several Israeli soldiers started the conflict). After that war, he stated that “We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely no.” Nasrallah must realize that if he fires missiles into Israel’s cities, as he did in 2006, the reaction this time will hurt Hezbollah more because Israel’s lessons from 2006 include the need to hit harder and more quickly. And this time the Assad regime may not be around to rebuild Hezbollah. A weakened Hezbollah would face a Lebanese public furious that they had been dragged into a conflict they did not want and that did not involve their country and its interests.

Hezbollah must also take account of stronger Lebanese protests against the slaughter in Syria. Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader who has changed sides often over the decades as he calculated which was the winning side, has denounced Assad in strong terms and even urged Syrian Druze not to fight for the regime. He has called what is happening in Syria “genocide.” Now Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon’s Sunni community and son of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, has flatly called Assad a murderer. In a speech, Hariri said “There is a murderer called Bashar al-Assad’s regime, who commits daily, red-handed, dozens of killings, documented in video and audio all over Syria.” In an obvious reference to Hezbollah, he added “What kind of religion, ethics and Constitution allows all these crimes? Where is the interest of Lebanon in betting on a regime drowning in the death fields that it created? This is an unethical bet and justification, and no Lebanese is honored to have among his leaders someone involved in covering the slaughtering of the Syrian people.”

The murderous alliance among Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, one that has brought war and death to Syria and Lebanon, is coming apart. The only thing that could stop this is an Assad victory in Syria–a complete crushing of the opposition.  So far, the “international community” is simply watching Syrians be killed in the thousands by the Assad regime, month after month after month. Secretary Clinton said “world opinion is not going to stand idly by” but “world opinion” is not going to defeat Assad’s tanks. If we want Assad to fall, if we want to see the further demise of what has truly been an axis of evil, the United States will have to do more than provide speeches.




Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Redah

    On Hezbollah’s possible hostile reaction in case of Israeli strikes against Iran, I agree that the stakes are much higher this time for the party of god: Israeli response would be more resolute and consequences could prove devastating for the party of God in terms of Lebanese politics and in terms of armament and alliance with Damascus.

    But you forgot to mention an important parameter: that, between 2006 and now, Hizballah’s arsenal has grown considerably: the movement would launch much more rockets (and more sophisticated ones) and farther inside Israeli territory. Most of IAF planes would be busy over Iran and wouldn’t be able to quickly wipe out all the rockets-launching infrastructure, forcing a very costly ground war.

    At any rate, this debate is largely hypothetical because it is not sure at all that Hizballh would move against Israel if it strikes Iran (terrorism maybe, but full-scale aggression by Hizballah infrastructure unlikely).

  • Posted by David

    It amazes me that anyone thinks Hezbollah would not fight and attack Israel. An Iranian or Syrian regime change would lead to immediate destruction of Hezbollah and is the main reason the West started the revolution in Syria. Hezbollah did not loose to Israel in the previous war but rather one and gained power. Israel was waiting for the tiniest reason to completely destroy Hezbollah but could not. The reason for Israel’s failure was: Hezbollah is really organized, their fighters are highly trained in Guerrilla warfare on their land, loved by their civilians, and most importantly had secure land routes to keep importing supplies, because with out those routes all the prior reasons would have been a moot point and is why they have no choice but to fight for Syria and Iran.

    Israel bombed the airport and ports to stop Lebanon from resupplying in hopes that Lebanon would be forced to attack Hezbollah as well. The Lebanese army took of their uniforms and ran away from their tanks. The Lebanese army can be best compared to a small cities police department. Syria always previously policed Lebanon. The only way to continue receiving supplies from Iran was through routes running thru and protected by Syria. Hezbollah is the new Lebanon and gained support for successfully ending both Israeli occupations of Lebanon. They rebuilt everything and Hezbollah is continuing to gain land in Lebanon since the war. Hezbollah has made it absolutely clear that under no circumstance will they disarm.

    These guerrilla groups will never tell anyone they are going to attack because of the way they are structured to fight. Hezbollah’s success and the style in which they fight was shown in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Assad regime falls to the Sunni majority in Syria or the Iranian extremist Shiite regime falls it would make cause Hezbollah to disarm (unlikely) or easily beaten in a fairly short war. Of course they are going to say no and build up arms and fight altogether because it’s their best chance. Suicide bombers don’t don’t give u date, time, or location of when they are going to ignite.

    The west’s lack of success in Iraq and Afghanistan is why they have again recruited Al Qaeda to name one to use in Libya and now were flown in to start a war with Syria against Elowete Muslim Regime with a western education and the best man for real reform in Syria is Bashar Assad a Alawite Muslim who are tolerate other religions and protected Christians like my self from the “the free Syrian army” before when his father Hafez bombed these same people who tried to eradicate all Religions in Syria but Sunni’s. America is know condemning his son for that action after the father passes and was Allies with America and part of the coalition in Iraq.

    Believe when I say Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinians, and civilians from almost every Arab nation will fight Israel if they Attack Iran, Syria will fight. These countries leaders may have made peace with Israel but the people still absolutely hate Israel. Russia will sell and give them weapons and the middle east will be in turmoil like no-one has ever seen before. Which i believe the West as well as Russia wants is to cut the Muslim population to zero if possible because their numbers were going to surpass Christians in world population and they vote and govern according to religion. Scary and inhumane way. Democracy is Bs, cause a Hams politician won by a land slide in Gaza and was removed by America and Israel. Divide and conquer while getting rich of death is a bad Omen for humanity.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    In the mean time Hamas and Hezbollah will simply look for another monied ally in their on-going campaign against Israel .

  • Posted by Jason

    I can see Hamas sitting it out … mostly. Even they can’t control all the rockets down to the single launcher but a full scale assault may be out of the picture this time around. Not because they see a winning side in this, its because of the MB in Egypt. They’ll have a new partner once Assad’s regime is removed and Iran’s is severely threatened.

    Egypt does not want a border war or any possibility of being dragged into this one under real or imagined reasons. Hamas will simply trade orders from Iran/Syria to the MB.

  • Posted by Jaws7

    Hezbollah has to side with Iran. There is no alternative. Next after Iran would be Hezbollah. It would be best to stand and fight with a country prepared to defend itself and capable of striking at the weaknesses of the US which I am sure would join in to help Israel. Syria would also have to join in because it would be next after Lebanon. Just as Iran will not let Syria fall in its current fight against terrorist funded by the West, Syria and Hezbollah cannot let Iran fall.

    Then there are the interests of Russia, China, India and Pakistan. They can make war with Iran an extremely expensive by blocking air and ground routes to supply its NATO force in Afagnistan. The Taliban can be better armed. Going to war with Iran is a no win situation. Israel by itself cannot go to war with Iran it just does not have the resources. The US has to much to lose in Afagnistan and another war is something the US cannot afford to engage in. War is a serious matter, and war with Iran would be stupid.

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