After Syria attack, Assad seeks Hezbollah support

Analysis: Syrian leader says he may pass more advanced weapons to Lebanese group – a move Nasrallah welcomes, and that could change the region’s strategic balance.

syria first strike 370  (photo credit: Screenshot)
syria first strike 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Israel’s alleged attack against Syria seems to have led President Bashar Assad to hunker down and more fully align his regime with the Iran-Hezbollah axis. As he fights for his regime’s survival, holding on to what some analysts say could become an Alawite ministate, he is publicly moving to a more hostile position vis-à-vis Israel and the West.
Assad told a local Lebanese paper that Syria was becoming a resistance state similar to the one Hezbollah has created in Lebanon.
“We have decided that we must advance toward them and turn into a resistance nation like Hezbollah [did in Lebanon], for the sake of Syria and future generations,” Assad told the Al-Akhbar daily on Thursday, according to the Lebanese Daily Star.
He added that Syria would be cooperating more closely with Hezbollah, stating, “That’s why we have decided to give them everything.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah echoed this sentiment, with the Now Lebanon website quoting him as stating on Thursday that Syria’s role in the resistance against Israel was important and strategic. He then moved to accept Syria’s offer for new arms, saying, “We are ready to receive any sort of physical weaponry, even if it is going to disturb the balance [in the region].”
Nasrallah seems to be referring to the transfer of more advanced conventional weapons and perhaps chemical arms, which Israel and the West worry could fall into the organization’s hands.
“With regards to the Israeli strikes on Syria, the Israeli enemy is seeking to achieve its aims, one of which is to exclude Syria from the equation and eliminate it as a factor within the ongoing conflict with Israel,” he said.
“Over the course of Arab history,” he added, “no regime offered as much to the Palestinian cause as Syria did.”
Such rhetoric aims to take advantage of the alleged Israeli strikes for public relations purposes and shift the focus from the Syrian civil war and sectarian conflict, to a conflict with Israel.
This is not good news for Israel, which may face a more hostile Assad than it has in the past; however, he knows well that any attacks launched against Israel from Syria would be met with a strong Israeli response.
The successful attacks against Syria also show that the Syrian/Hezbollah axis is not in any position to retaliate against Israel, thus exposing their harsh anti-Israel rhetoric as mostly hollow for now. However, it is well known that Hezbollah has been gathering intelligence against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, refraining from a direct confrontation with Israel since the last one in 2006.
Hezbollah finds indirect means of attack more effective, and these also add a layer of deniability, thus shielding the group from direct attack. Perhaps Syria will also move to coordinate with Hezbollah on such attacks in the future.
Joel Parker, a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University who is closely following developments in Syria, told The Jerusalem Post that the location of the attack against Syria was important, as it was in an area near many central government institutions – including a building of the Republican Guards and the presidential palace.
“My thinking is that Israel sent a message to Assad,” he said.
“The earthquake and the mushroom cloud were a message that [Israel] can strike at the heart of the regime if it wants,” he explained.
“Israel is saying, ‘We could destroy you, but we don’t want to right now.’” However, analysts believe that more attacks against Syria could put the country in a position where it would feel an obligation to respond, even though it is busy dealing with its own civil war. Reflecting such a mood was an editorial by Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in- chief of the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, who welcomed Syria’s statements in recent days that it was planning to open up a new front against Israel in the Golan.
“We say that opening this front, with or without a decision by Assad, will push hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians and Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan to take up arms again to face the occupation on any front that is opened for them,” stated Atwan.