Hezbollah: We won’t allow a military overthrow of Assad

posted at 10:01 am on May 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

As Barack Obama prepares to send lethal arms to a Syria opposition that the New York Times reports has no secular armed forces within it, another terrorist group made their plans to get involved explicit.  Hezbollah had been quietly assisting their sponsor, Bashar al-Assad, in reasserting control in areas adjacent to their Lebanon positions.  Last night, their commander issued a public statement that Hezbollah would enter the Syrian civil war to prevent Assad from being removed in a military coup:

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group said Tuesday that Syrian rebels will not be able to defeat President Bashar Assad’s regime militarily, warning that Syria’s “real friends,” including his Iranian-backed militant group, were ready to intervene on the government’s side. …

Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite Muslim group, is known to back Syrian regime fighters in Shiite villages near the Lebanon border against the mostly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad. The comments by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah were the strongest indication yet that his group was ready to get far more involved to rescue Assad’s embattled regime.

“You will not be able to take Damascus by force and you will not be able to topple the regime militarily. This is a long battle,” Nasrallah said, addressing the Syrian opposition.

“Syria has real friends in the region and in the world who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel.”

Hezbollah and Iran are close allies of Assad. Rebels have accused them of sending fighters to assist Syrian troops trying to crush the 2-year-old anti-Assad uprising, which the U.N. says has killed more than 70,000 people.

Meanwhile, the rise of radical Sunni Islamist fighters has another American ally alarmed:

The growing power of Islamist fighters in southern Syria is causing alarm in neighboring Jordan, which backs rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad but fears those linked to al Qaeda.

Similar concerns among Syria’s other neighbors, including Turkey andIsrael, are complicating an already disjointed world response to the bloody turmoil at the heart of the Middle East.

Jordan has allowed limited U.S. military training of rebels on its territory. Some other fighters have crossed from the kingdom into Syria, although others, especially Islamists, have been intercepted and even put on trial.

Eighteen months ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah was the first Arab leader to urge Assad to step aside, but he used a visit to Washington last week to voice Jordan’s concern over “militant terrorist organizations” gaining ground along Syria’s southern frontier with the kingdom.

His comments in the Oval Office alongside U.S. President Barack Obamaunderline fears that Jordan’s national security is now threatened by Islamists in Syria whose hatred of Assad is matched only by their hostility to the pro-Western monarchy.

It’s almost impossible to overstate how foolish and destructive it will be for the US to replicate what it did in Libya by assisting the rebels in Syria.  Let’s try to game this out by looking at the possible arguments for American interest in this conflict.

  1. We need to protect the civilians of Syria. The “R2P” argument was the rationalization behind the Libyan intervention, but it makes even less sense in Syria than it did in Libya.  Where the rebellion has taken control, they have imposed brutal shari’a law. The only difference in oppression and brutality is the identities of the oppressors.  The fact that the White House can’t definitively determine which side used chemical weapons is rather telling in this case, too.
  2. We need to contain the fighting to Syria. This one makes no sense at all.  If al-Qaeda affiliates like Jabhat al-Nusra end up in control in Syria, their next step won’t be to hold elections and guarantee diversity and tolerance.  After consolidating a Talibanish theocracy, their next two projects will be Jordan and Iraq.  Nouri al-Maliki wrote in April that he was “mystified” by the notion that any replacement of Assad would be an improvement on the status quo, and expressed amazement that the US would assist AQ affiliates in Syria while trying to fight them in Iraq.  They are the same enemy in both places.  Our experience with Libya and Mali should make this clear as glass to anyone bothering to look.
  3. We need to show that international prohibitions on chemical/biological weapons carry consequences.  At what cost?  As Micah Zenko writes in Foreign Policy, it will take 75,000 troops to take Assad’s chemical weapons away from him, more than we have in Afghanistan now, and that the success of that mission would be iffy at best.  Does anyone think that the radical Islamists among the rebels will welcome those troops as liberators? They’ll be shot at from both sides.  And is this goal so important that we’re willing to arm the very  terrorists with whom we are at war ourselves as a means to achieve it?
  4. We need to end Iran’s influence in Syria and undercut Hezbollah. Well, those are two worthy goals — but turning Syria into a failed state is a bad way to do it, and putting Sunni Islamist terror networks in charge is the worst possible way to do it.  Do we want to allow al-Qaeda access to Mediterranean ports? Give them a staging area to attack the Suez Canal? Even beyond giving AQ a safe haven (another safe haven, now that they have eastern Libya), one look at the map shows the suicidal effects of such a policy.
  5. America has a vital strategic interest in toppling Assad that trumps the rest of these concerns. Really?  It can’t be Iran, which would be delighted to see the US spend the next few years fighting all of the al-Qaeda spinoffs that would find homes on the Mediterranean with Syria under Jabhat al-Nusra control.  It can’t be Iraq, where that environment would create a civil war that would cripple any hopes of rational self-government and give Iran even greater influence than it has now with the majority-Shi’ite population.  It can’t be Israel, either, which has quietly suggested that the West should stay out of the Syrian civil war.  That argument worked at the end of the Cold War, when a Soviet humiliation in Afghanistan eventually resulted in the liberation of hundreds of millions in eastern Europe and the end of an existential threat to the US.  There is no corresponding interest that would justify assisting AQ-affiliated terrorists in a civil war against a Ba’athist dictator.

Frankly, there isn’t any American interest for intervention, and the possible alternatives to Assad look much worse than the status quo.  We need to stay out of the civil war, quit making threats that undermine our credibility, and focus instead on bolstering our allies bordering on the fight to keep them from being next on the list.


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Frankly, there isn’t any American interest for intervention

Obama and McCain both seem itching for it, so that’s reason enough for the Administration. Bipartisanship, folks!

Liam on May 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Frankly, there isn’t any American interest for intervention, and the possible alternatives to Assad look much worse than the status quo. We need to stay out of the civil war, quit making threats that undermine our credibility, and focus instead on bolstering our allies bordering on the fight to keep them from being next on the list.

Seems fairly obvious. Wonder why the Obama administration can’t seem to grasp that?

Cleombrotus on May 1, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Heh, “allow”.

This is all Hezbollah bluster. They know from Obama’s speech that he has no appetite for Syrian intervention. So they jump in as “saviors” to take credit, target audience is all middle eastern.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 1, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Nice going, Mr. President.

thebrokenrattle on May 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM

“Wonder why the Obama administration can’t seem to grasp that?”

Becasue he’s up for any excuse to arm as many of his Islamist brothers as possible?

tommyboy on May 1, 2013 at 10:16 AM

#FastnFurious2 Yeah, but……Chuck Todd says the Obama has been supplying weapons to Syrian Rebels covertly thru other nations.

Rovin on May 1, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Seems fairly obvious. Wonder why the Obama administration can’t seem to grasp that?

Cleombrotus on May 1, 2013 at 10:07 AM

What makes you think he doesn’t grasp that? America’s interests are irrelevant to Obama, so judging his actions based on that is mistaken.

Fenris on May 1, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Hezbollah: We won’t allow a military overthrow of Assad

.
They may not be able to stop that, but they could make the country ungovernable.
Like Detroit, but with more sand, and fewer liquor stores.

LincolntheHun on May 1, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Frankly, there isn’t any American interest for intervention

Not sure I agree with you there, Ed. If Hezbollah jumps in on Assad’s side, and more AQ come in to fight against Assad, then there could be, in the end, a significant reduction in the total head count of Muslim extremist nutballs in the region. Let ‘em all kill each other. The only thing we would need to do is support the surrounding (friendly) countries in containing the fighting within Syria.

iurockhead on May 1, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Like Detroit, but with more sand, and fewer liquor stores.

LincolntheHun on May 1, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Heh. Good ‘un.

iurockhead on May 1, 2013 at 10:22 AM

So effin what? Jordan is useless too.

abobo on May 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Trade conventional weapons to Assad for his chemical weapons. Then give just enough weapons to the rebels so that the civil war continues. I don’t want any winners here.

rbj on May 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Not sure I agree with you there, Ed. If Hezbollah jumps in on Assad’s side, and more AQ come in to fight against Assad, then there could be, in the end, a significant reduction in the total head count of Muslim extremist nutballs in the region. Let ‘em all kill each other. The only thing we would need to do is support the surrounding (friendly) countries in containing the fighting within Syria.

iurockhead on May 1, 2013 at 10:21 AM

I agree with you — which is another reason why we shouldn’t get in the middle of that fight. Let’s just stick with bolstering Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

Ed Morrissey on May 1, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Obama is arming al Qaeda in Syria:

Russia delivers new al-Qaida warning to U.S.

TEL AVIV – Russia delivered to the Obama administration a list of the names of al-Qaida members among the Syrian rebels, who are receiving arms shipments coordinated by the U.S., according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The list, the officials added, demonstrates the U.S. is failing to vet the rebels being supported by the West for ties to al-Qaida and other jihad groups.

petefrt on May 1, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Wasn’t Totten claiming Hezbollah was dead just last week?

Blake on May 1, 2013 at 10:27 AM

We need to contain the fighting to Syria and let as many Shiites and Sunnis kill each other as possible.

Aren’t we better off if they spend their time fighting each other and not us?

Tater Salad on May 1, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Iran is a tiny little country, right Zero?

stvnscott on May 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Arm everybody, light the fuse and run like hell.

rhombus on May 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM

should take out Hezbollah instead…

equanimous on May 1, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Obama’s response should be, “There isn’t one American life worth giving if these nutjobs want to kill each other; so have at it and we will be watching with popcorn in hand for a winner”.

Tater Salad on May 1, 2013 at 10:32 AM

should take out Hezbollah instead…

equanimous on May 1, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Carpet bombing? Or are you proposing BOTG (boots on the ground).

rhombus on May 1, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Sunni vs Shia.

Forget all the bs about dictators, rebels, groups and countries. Don’t concern yourself with borders, allies or intervention.

When you boil all that cr@p out, you’re left with this :

SUNNI vs SHIA.

They have been fighting for over 1,000 years. Modern terms are only fodder for the fight.

Jabberwock on May 1, 2013 at 10:33 AM

If Hezbollah is in Syria isn’t that a good thing? They won’t have time to bomb Israel.

Tater Salad on May 1, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Nouri al-Maliki wrote in April that he was “mystified” by the notion that any replacement of Assad would be an improvement on the status quo, and expressed amazement that the US would assist AQ affiliates in Syria while trying to fight them in Iraq.  They are the same enemy in both places.  Our experience with Libya and Mali should make this clear as glass to anyone bothering to look.

Got that? “..amazement that the US would assist AQ affiliates in Syria while fighting them in Iraq.”

Stupid on steroids.

marybel on May 1, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Sunni vs Shia.

Forget all the bs about dictators, rebels, groups and countries. Don’t concern yourself with borders, allies or intervention.

When you boil all that cr@p out, you’re left with this :

SUNNI vs SHIA.

They have been fighting for over 1,000 years. Modern terms are only fodder for the fight.

Jabberwock on May 1, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Christians caught in the middle.

workingclass artist on May 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Can we send McCain to Syria with a one-way ticket? He seems to have figured all of this out.

Tater Salad on May 1, 2013 at 10:36 AM

What also galls me is that sequester brought an end to White House tours for American school children, but there’s plenty of money to send arms to Syria to kill their school children.

Liam on May 1, 2013 at 10:39 AM

But didn’t the Iraq Study Group say we should negotiate with Assad and have direct talks with Syria and Iran? Bwahahaha!

rhombus on May 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Christians caught in the middle.

workingclass artist on May 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Unfortunately, yes. But in that neck of the woods, not many.

The West AND the Church should just sit this one out. We’ve no dog in the fight.
AQ and Hezb are just proxies for SA and Iran, repectfully. If they want to use Syria as a boxing ring, let ‘em.

Jabberwock on May 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Hezbollah: We won’t allow a military overthrow of Assad

Won’t allow? Hezbollah thinks they can “not allow” us?

Either they’ve decided we’re not doing anything anyway and are just posturing, or they’re actually trying to bait us into doing something.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM

If we ramp up our drilling and flood the world with oil – these regimes will collapse. Including Russia and Iran.

America can then hold the rest of the world as hostage to our cheap oil…..

Of course this won’t happen until our tinstar dictator is gone.
You see – Obama thinks America is evil and needs to be cut down to size.

redguy on May 1, 2013 at 10:59 AM

We won’t allow a military overthrow of Assad

Like nobody on Team Obama expected that…

Think Iran is gonna sit on the sidelines?

Obama doesn’t care how many he kills or gets killed…so long as he can grab a point of two in the polls…in some demographic…or strut his stuff, be representin’, in front of Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Putz.

coldwarrior on May 1, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Obama’spolicies will end in nuclear war. make no mistake about it.

unseen on May 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

In one corner we have Hezlbollah and Iran. In the other corner we have al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Just remember guys, there are no rules. Anything goes. Let the fight begin. Ding!

“Pity they can’t both lose” – Henry Kissinger.

farsighted on May 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Christians caught in the middle.

workingclass artist on May 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Unfortunately, yes. But in that neck of the woods, not many.

The West AND the Church should just sit this one out. We’ve no dog in the fight.
AQ and Hezb are just proxies for SA and Iran, repectfully. If they want to use Syria as a boxing ring, let ‘em.

Jabberwock on May 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM

10% of the overall population is Christian from Ancient Churches.

Most of the heavy fighting are in areas with sizable Christian populations.

As to the Church sitting this one out…Don’t think that will happen.

There are a lot of orders from both the Latin Rite and the Orthodox/Oriental Churches that have been there since apostolic times….Many of the orders established during the Byzantine – Medieval eras.

workingclass artist on May 1, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I agree with you — which is another reason why we shouldn’t get in the middle of that fight. Let’s just stick with bolstering Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

Ed Morrissey on May 1, 2013 at 10:25 AM

This is our only winning strategy.

What are the odds Dear Leader will screw it up?

farsighted on May 1, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Hezbollah: We won’t allow a military overthrow of Assad

Won’t allow? Hezbollah thinks they can “not allow” us?

Either they’ve decided we’re not doing anything anyway and are just posturing, or they’re actually trying to bait us into doing something.

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I’ll take a red-line from hezblahblah a lot more seriously than one from the REB.

slickwillie2001 on May 1, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Syria is shaping up to become exactly what post-Saddam Iraq became within a year after he was toppled.

Only this time we are not in the middle of it. Hope it stays that way.

Hope Comrade O isn’t too stupid to remember his own anti-Iraq intervention rhetoric and his continuing harsh criticism. Or was that all just BS shoveled in front of war weary sheeple voters who wanted to hear it?

farsighted on May 1, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Anyone in Syria would be better than Assad. I’m not saying this lightly as I have family in Israel and Assad being replaced by other groups technically increases the risk of confrontation on that border. While Assad’s replacements will not be peace-loving monks, their best feature is that they are not Assad. The logistical hub for Hizballah and Hamas will be broken. Hamas and Hizballah will be destabilized and severely weakened. With Iran’s strategic partner gone, they will have much less leverage in their nuclear negotiations or their bullying tactics of pro-Western Sunni Muslim Arab states. There could be a hug significant breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli peace talks.

Hizballah needs to get involved in Syria and have its reputation all over the Arab world take even further beating. They will slowly bleed out and be exposed as the Iranian agents and Arab killers that they are, rather than the heroic defenders of the “Palestinians”, which they are not.

I was apprehensive about the US sending in weapons to the Syrian rebels until this morning when I saw the former IDF chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi being interviewed on CNN, supporting this position. He also said there are other options available, such as a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria. In that context, by all means, arm away.

AlexB on May 1, 2013 at 12:05 PM

I posted many times that as soon as the jihadis are done with Syria they are heading straight for Jordan. I sure hope there are people in government smart enough to know this. We don’t want to lose our ally King Abdullah. The jihadis goal is Jerusalem.

OxyCon on May 1, 2013 at 12:06 PM

So effin what? Jordan is useless too.

abobo on May 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM

My primary physician is Jordanian. He took his family back to Jordan this year for Christmas. (He and his whole tribe back in Jordan are Christian.) I asked him about Jordan when he got back, and he claimed that Jordan was the most stable country aside from Israel in the Middle East.

I don’t know if he was sticking up for Jordan because he is Jordanian or if he genuinely believed his own words, but he was very emphatic about Jordan’s short-term and long-term stability.

catsandbooks on May 1, 2013 at 12:06 PM

We need to end Iran’s influence in Syria and undercut Hezbollah. Well, those are two worthy goals — but turning Syria into a failed state is a bad way to do it,

It’s the least worst way to do it.

and putting Sunni Islamist terror networks in charge is the worst possible way to do it.

Who said they’ll be in charge? They’ll form some sort of rag-tag insurgency which will be put down within a year. This is not Libya or Somalia. The make up and uniqueness of Syria would make it easier to do.

Do we want to allow al-Qaeda access to Mediterranean ports? Give them a staging area to attack the Suez Canal? Even beyond giving AQ a safe haven (another safe haven, now that they have eastern Libya), one look at the map shows the suicidal effects of such a policy.

Al-Qaeda has access to naval ports already. And Air ports as well. They’re individual people who don’t wear uniforms, remember?

—————

One thing that people don’t talk about is what do the countries neighbouring Syria want. We all know Israel would love to have Assad deposed, even via sending weapons to the rebels. What about the Arab states? Well, they’ve been sending weapons to the rebels from the very beginning.

The US should have sent weapons to the Syrian rebels from the very beginning as well. That would’ve gained much favour with them, saved tens of thousands of lives, enabled a quicker success and prevented AQ infiltration. There is still time to salvage those potential gains.

AlexB on May 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Just for the record…while the United States is nearly $17 TRILLION in debt, while our Preident/Congress inflicts self-inflicted Sequestration hardship on us, while we cut funding for our military/vets, while we don’t take care of our own homeless/hungry/abuse/elderly….This administration/Government continues to dole out tax-payer dollars to the following in the designated amounts:

Hamas – $351 M
Libya – $1.45 B
Egypt – $397 M (+$2 B for 24 F-16 fighters & 200 Tanks)
Mexico – $622 M
Russia – $380 M
Haiti – $1.4 B
Jordan – $463 M
Kenya – $816 M
Sudan – $870 M
Nigeria – $456 M
Uganda – $451 M
Congo – $359 M
Ethiopia – $981 M
Pakistan – $2 B
South Africa – $566 M
Senegal – $698 M
Mozambique – $404 M
Zambia – $331 M
Kazakhstan – $304 M
Iraq – $1.08 B
Tanzania – $554 M

(* M = Million // B = Billion)

easyt65 on May 1, 2013 at 1:01 PM

The numbers I provided are what is listed on the government’s own reports as having already given to or has been promised to be given to these nations in the future….

That total cost is a reported $15,165,000,000….which is OVER $15 TRILLION…

easyt65 on May 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

That total cost is a reported $15,165,000,000….which is OVER $15 TRILLION…

easyt65 on May 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

So we could cut off aid to every single one of those places, most of which are utter cr@pholes, continue giving aid to the NeoCon’s favorite nation and STILL save enough money to pay off the national debt???

Ho. Lee. Crap.

MelonCollie on May 1, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Obama is arming al Qaeda in Syria:

Russia delivers new al-Qaida warning to U.S.

TEL AVIV – Russia delivered to the Obama administration a list of the names of al-Qaida members among the Syrian rebels, who are receiving arms shipments coordinated by the U.S., according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The list, the officials added, demonstrates the U.S. is failing to vet the rebels being supported by the West for ties to al-Qaida and other jihad groups.

petefrt on May 1, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Can you say Benghazi?

riddick on May 1, 2013 at 3:28 PM

I don’t know if he was sticking up for Jordan because he is Jordanian or if he genuinely believed his own words, but he was very emphatic about Jordan’s short-term and long-term stability.

catsandbooks on May 1, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Your physician is right. Although all bets may be off if Syria falls and religion of peace starts looking for another country to conquer.

riddick on May 1, 2013 at 3:44 PM

I can’t hear you Mr. Kerry.

diogenes on May 5, 2013 at 10:08 PM