Hizballah Is Gaining Support from Christians, Sunnis, and Druze

Aug. 14 2019

Created by Iran in the 1980s as a Shiite fundamentalist militia, Hizballah has in the past decade strengthened its popularity with other Lebanese religious groups. To this end, it has recruited a significant number of Sunni fighters and formed an alliance with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Michal Kranz explains:

As Hizballah has set its sights on cross-sectarian, national-level power as a political party as well as a militant group, support from non-Shiite communities has become an ever more important part of its calculus. It has been able to capitalize on feelings of popular discontent among all of Lebanon’s sects and today enjoys more influence among Christians, Sunnis, and Druze than ever before. . .

[After] the May 2018 parliamentary elections, Hizballah was able to increase significantly its influence among non-Shiite sects in parliament. Not only did the elections that year see Hizballah’s bloc gain seats, but the FPM, still its ally, became the most powerful Lebanese Christian party. In addition, a group of six pro-Hizballah Sunni deputies were elected to parliament, and the traditionally dominant anti-Hizballah Sunni party, the Future Movement led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, lost a third of its seats. . . .

Hizballah’s outreach to Sunnis may still have a way to go, but . . . Lebanese Christians have embraced and accepted Hizballah to a much greater degree. With FPM founder Michel Aoun’s ascension to the presidency in 2016 and the party’s large gains in 2018, Hizballah’s outreach to the Christian community has yielded real political dividends. . . . Since 2018, Hizballah’s primary Druze ally, the Lebanese Democratic party led by Talal Arslan, has [likewise] been steadily asserting itself in the Druze community, which remains dominated politically by the anti-Hizballah Progressive Socialist party.

Both the cause and the effect of these developments is a situation where Hizballah is not simply a powerful terrorist militia operating within Lebanon but the country’s main source of both power and authority.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Druze, Hizballah, Lebanon, Middle East Christianity, Sunnis

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war