Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hezbollah is debating over not supporting Bashar regime

(via Foreign Policy in Focus)

An article published Sunday in British newspaper the Telegraph claims that Hezbollah is debating over whether or not to drop support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The article's basis is the cancellation of a forthcoming party convention, usually held every three years, due to infighting over how to handle the situation in Syria. 

While the article is accurate in pointing out that Hezbollah Security General Hassan Nasrallah's speeches have toned down the support of Assad's regime (his last speech failed to mention Assad once), the lack of named sources has left uncertainty over whether the article reflects reality.

The fact that members of Hezbollah are splitting opinion on Assad's leadership comes from 'one Lebanese with connections to senior Hezbollah circles', while 'a Shia politician from an important political family' gave the reporters information that civilian supporters of Hezbollah are more likely to want a split from supporting Assad than the military wing.

Getting a source 'with connections to senior Hezbollah circles' to speak might be possible thought it would certainly be difficult. However, 'a Shia politician from an important political family' is all too vague as there is no indication of who the politician might be aligned with.

Another source that said 'Nasrallah is anxious', is quoted as an 'observer of the South Beirut political scene', again a vague reference that could refer to anyone, from a professor of political science to a taxi driver with a radio. 

In fact, in the entire article the only two people directly quoted are Ahmad Suleiman, a 'burly Hezbollah loyalist' who supports Assad, and Abdel-Halim Qandil, the co-founder of Egyptian political party Kefaya (Enough), who tells the Telegraph that it would have been wiser for Hezbollah to 'stay silent' in regards to the Syria crisis.

The lack of named sources has led to criticism of the article from journalists, bloggers and political analysts. Below are a few:

Ezzedine Said, the AFP Middle East chief editor, wrote on Twitter yesterday that, "People who talk of divisions within Hezbollah over #Syria simply have no clue."

Emile Hokayem of think-tank, IISS agreed, "I don't doubt there are dissenting voices within Hezbollah on Syria but I don't think debate is anywhere as intense as Telegraph says it is".

Prominent Syrian blogger Mayasaloon wrote, "The story by the Telegraph about "divisions" in Hezbullah is very weak. Those who matter in the Hezb are with Assad to the hilt. Period".

Lebanese blogger & contributor to Huffington Post Zaher Yahya, who Tweets @TheZako also had to say in reference to the Telegraph article, "Most articles who claim to have insight knowledge of Hezbollah have weak sources, if none. No one has this access except Hezbollah itself." 

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