from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Hamas Deserts Iran, and Lebanese Stand Up Against Syria

March 7, 2012

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"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.

 

 

 

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