The scene is set for Hezbollah to be dragged into a sectarian war in the Levant, as the Sunni revolution against the Hezbollah- and Iran-allied Alawite regime is intensifying and radicalizing. Yet, Hezbollah is still successfully imposing an exemplary discipline to its popular base in a situation as tense, while it refuses, as a military organization, to fall into the trap of the Syrian conflict and more widely in a sectarian fitna, beyond Lebanon and Syria.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah, Amal, and most of the Shiite community, face verbal and on-the-field provocations, and still refuse a violent response. The political discourse of the Sunni camp, and more generally the anti-Assad March 14 movement, directly targets Hezbollah, its weapons and its external alliances (Iran, Syria), while a radical militant Sunnism (Salafi, al-Qaeda?) rises at the expense of the Shiite community, in addition to the hatred for the Syrian Alawite regime.
Hezbollah’s Sunni supporters are directly targeted by Future Movement activists, including in Beirut, while the Alawites allies of the Shiite organization in Tripoli and the north face intolerable pressure from the Sunni street. Sectarian tensions are also noticeable between Hezbollah and March 14 militants, both Christians (Kataëb) and Sunni (Future Movement), on university campuses and in some areas. In Aleppo (Syria), Lebanese pilgrims, close to Hezbollah and Amal, were kidnapped on 22/05 on their way back from Shiite holy sites, by parties identified, rather confusingly, as the Free Syrian Army. Other pilgrims, returning to Lebanon via Syria, were targeted on 23/05 by a deadly attack near Baghdad.
Hezbollah and Amal leaders still manage to contain the anger of their bases (while the Sunni base increasingly slips out of the control of political leaders). But how far will this restraint last? And how will this anger pour if the situation spirals out of control? And against whom? Hezbollah and Amal leaders are hoping for a rapid release of their supporters abducted in Syria, to avoid greater pressure on their bases during this phase, and avoid uncontrolled drifts. In its calculations, the patient and determined Hezbollah believes steering discreetly out of the regional storm best serves its interests, awaiting for clouds to part in Syria and Iran…