One of the pro-Iranian actors involved in the Syrian civil war is Hezbollah. The organization has been involved in the Syrian war since the very beginning.
Whereas previously Hezbollah could gain favor with a particular part of the non-Shiite population of Lebanon through confrontation with Israel, now the participation of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict was ambiguously interpreted in Lebanon and affected the sympathies of the Lebanese.
Many Lebanese politicians and public persons condemned Hezbollah and encouraged not to fight against the Syrian people. It is noteworthy that Hezbollah has long ceased to be a marginal pro-Iranian group and right now it has serious control over Lebanon’s domestic and foreign policy.
On the one hand, the war in Syria is a tribute to Iran’s loyalty; on the other hand, it is a guarantee of their survival. If Assad’s regime falls in Syria, Hezbollah will be cut off the weapon supplies from Iran.
Together with the Iranian forces, Hezbollah is also involved in the development and training of militarized groups, consisting mostly of Shiites and Alawites. One of such groups is Jayshal-Sha’bi. Although the military capacity of these groups remains in doubt, Assad’s regime uses them mainly for security and patrolling.
In the Syrian battles, Hezbollah suffers significant losses. Hezbollah’s commanders, such as Abdel Hamid Mahmoud Shri, Ali al-Hadi al-Ashiq, Mustafa Badreddine were killed during the war.
It is noteworthy that Hezbollah’s losses in Syria far exceed its losses during the war with Israel. So if during the 2006 war Hezbollah lost 250-500 fighters, in Syria their losses are already about 2,000 fighters.
In general, Hezbollah fighters’ discipline and level of preparation are higher and better than the Shiite militants from Iraq, or certain military units of the Syrian army have. In certain cases, Hezbollah’s commanders also obtained tactical control over small units of Syrian military forces during offensive operations.
For example, as it happened in Homs. The American side is of the view that Hezbollah has deployed up to 7,000 fighters in Syria.
Taking into account Hezbollah’s relatively modest mobilization resources, it is a massive figure for this organization. Besides participation in the military actions on the regime’s side and organization of ethnic cleanings in favor of the regime, Hezbollah took part in a series of systematic abuse of Sunnis, in particular, when they were passing through checkpoints.
Notwithstanding all success of Hezbollah and the fact that Bashar Assad and Iran are favorable to them, the organization has quite strain relations with certain Iraqi militants, close to the Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada-al-Sadr. Although, at first sight, all Shiite groups are under the patronage of Iran and bow to its will, in fact, sometimes, it is not so straightforward.
Sadr’s supporters not only refused to join Hezbollah, but they also started to act like the Hezbollah’s opponents on a number of issues. Muqtada-al-Sadr has its position and point of view different from the position of other Shiite groups and Iran, regarding the Syrian conflict and he has spoken publicly about it.
Sadr is, in fact, the only major Shiite leader, who called upon Bashar Assad to step down and end the bloodshed. For Sadr it also an opportunity to show Tehran that he has no intention to become a puppet in the hands of puppeteers from Tehran.
It is also possible that competing with Hezbollah, Sadr tries to reclaim a unique role in the post-war architecture of Syria. However, the positions of Hezbollah in Syria are strong so far. Using the Syrian civil war and many factors, Hezbollah, which had been fighting only Israel before, could increase its influence in the region.
Recently, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said that “no one can force them to leave Syria.” It can suggest Hezbollah is intended to take root in Syria and subsequently apply in certain Syrian districts the same scenario as in southern Lebanon.
However, like a coin, Hezbollah’s success has an opposite side. Getting distracted by Syria, Hezbollah risks being taken by surprise in case of the Israeli military operation.