It remains interesting to me which news stories spread between which news media cultures. Yesterday I found a news story about Hezbollah only picked up in English by Lebanese and Israeli news outlets after being run in Arabic only in London’s Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat (“The Middle East”), although today Asharq al-Awsat published the English translation of yesterday’s Arabic article.
It is especially surprising that this article received a limited run because it describes dissension within Hezbollah’s members over involvement in the Syrian Civil War. Evidently a certain number of rank-and-file Hezbollah members have petitioned the central Hezbollah command to bring their sons home from the war. It also reports unidentified Hezbollah estimates that they have sent 20 units of 100 men each into Syria, for a total Hezbollah force in Syria of 2000 men minus casualties. The report indicates that Hezbollah leaders are asking Iran to step up Iranian support for Assad, saying the Lebanese militant group cannot handle the task of supporting the Syrian regime alone. Although Hezbollah is suspected of having sent fighters to aid Assad earlier, it was only with the siege of al-Qusayr by loyalist forces in late May that Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, publicly announced Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria.
The Arabic article has additional details about Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah which are missing from the English translation, but which I am too busy to translate right now, although they may help explain the Israeli interest in the report. The Arabic also contains a short synopsis of the latest quarrel between Subhi al-Tufayli, former secretary-general of Hezbollah and since 1992 head of a more extreme splinter group off of Hezbollah, and the current leadership. Al-Tufayli, himself a Shi’ite cleric, apparently pronounced a fatwa saying any members of Hezbollah killed fighting for the Syrian Regime are in hell, a move sure to reduce popular support for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. Hezbollah apparently responded by getting an Iranian Shi’ite’s fatwa against al-Tufayli himself.
Followers of Lebanon’s intricate political dance will not be surprised, however, by the Maronite Michel Aoun‘s defense of Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Aoun’s “Free Patriotic Movement” party (التيار الوطني الحر) has been allied with Hezbollah since late 2006, and currently leads the “March 8 Alliance” of political parties in parliament, a coalition including Hezbollah.