One of the foremost authorities on the nation of Syria is University of Oklahoma Professor Joshua Landis. In his view, Syria’s primary foreign policy objective is to regain the Golan Heights, territory lost to Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Syria’s desire to regain the Golan could effect its approach to possible peace with Israel.
“A state within a state” is how journalists and commentators often refer to Hezbollah, the Shiite party in Lebanon that effectively controls parts of that nation. Author Thanassis Cambanis, who chronicles the story of Hezbollah in “A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel,” maintains Hezbollah could be better described as a state surrounded by the remnants of the failed state of Lebanon.
This “state” was founded in 1982. Cambanis details how it literally exploded into world consciousness with the suicide bombing of the American barracks in Lebanon in 1983.
Hezbollah, which translates into English as “Party of God,” began a series of guerilla attacks against the Israeli presence in Southern Lebanon which eventually resulted in the Israeli Defense Force’s withdrawal from the area.
Hezbollah, with status as the first Arab entity to force Israel into such a tactical retreat, enjoys popularity through out the Arab and Muslim world.
Cambanis makes clear that Hezbollah maintains its hold over the Shiite Muslims of Lebanon with an ideology of Islamist opposition to Israel, as well as providing services such as health care, education and municipal services to adherents.
The party is led by Hassan Nasrallah, a charismatic Imam who studied theology in a Shiite seminary in Iran and who remains closely allied with the leaders of that Shiite-majority state. The author makes clear that one of the Party’s most potent weapons is “Al Mannar,” a television station it operates in southern Lebanon that broadcasts its message against the Jewish State throughout the Middle East and to other parts of the world. Many view the station’s programming as a way of determining what Hezbollah’s next move will be.
In 2006, Nasrallah ordered the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, and that action resulted in an Israeli bombardment of areas of Lebanon, including part of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah.
After that conflict ended Iran poured millions of dollars into those regions to fund their reconstruction.
In the early 1960s, an American academic named Henry Kissinger traveled to South Vietnam and concluded that if a nation that is fighting guerillas does not defeat them, it has in effect been defeated by the guerillas. A similar observation is made by Cambaniss who writes that after Hezbollah survived the Israeli attacks its leaders are preparing for another military confrontation with the Jewish State by stockpiling missiles that it receives from Iran.
The author writes about how those armaments make their way to Hezbollah’s soldiers through Syria, and that without Syria’s role as a conduit Hezbollah would not be a military threat to Israel.
According to OU Prof. Landis, Syria’s secular rulers support Hezbollah for strategic reasons and would be willing to stop supporting it and recognize Israel – if Israel would return the Golan Heights to Syria.
In one of those difficult choices ever present in the region, the Jewish state may wish to consider reaching such an agreement with Syria as a way to neutralize the threat that Hezbollah poses to its well being.