Hezbollah in Syria irks Arab columnists
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Arabic media review

Hezbollah in Syria irks Arab columnists

The Shiite militia is fighting for its own life now, one observer claims

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Syrians participate in the funeral prayer for Youssef Ghazi al-Sarmani who was killed in fighting between rebel and government forces, Monday, May 27, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Shaam News Network)
Syrians participate in the funeral prayer for Youssef Ghazi al-Sarmani who was killed in fighting between rebel and government forces, Monday, May 27, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Shaam News Network)

Hezbollah’s participation in fighting alongside the Assad regime in the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border continues to occupy the top headlines of the Arabic press on Tuesday.

“‘Hezbollah participates in the battles of Damascus and French evidence on the use of ‘chemicals,'” reads the headline of London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, featuring an image of Free Syrian Army fighters atop a tank in the embattled town.

Deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov tells the daily that Russia welcomes the participation of Israel in the Geneva 2 conference scheduled to take place next month to discuss a political resolution of the Syrian crisis, while US Secretary of State John Kerry “does not reject” Iran’s participation in the same conference.

Gatilov told Al-Hayat that the US has taken back its precondition that Assad resign in order for the conference to take place.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on Senator John McCain’s surprising entry into Syrian territory Monday, making him “the most senior American official to visit Syria since the start of the conflict in it.”

Loay Miqdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, told the daily that during his meeting with FSA commanders, McCain “stressed the need to arm the Free Syrian Army in parallel to any political solution.”

Meanwhile, Qatari news station Al-Jazeera reports on a new strategy employed by Hezbollah in Qusair, of firing surface-to-surface missiles from within Lebanese territory. The station broadcasts images of injured children, reporting that the opposition fighters were forced to hurriedly bury some 160 casualties in home yards, with no access to the city’s cemetery. Eight hundred civilians are reportedly injured, some seriously, and 30,000 civilians remain besieged in the city, Al-Jazeera reports.

London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that the FSA has managed to kidnap the bodies of four Hezbollah fighters for which they are demanding the exchange of 63 prisoners held by Hezbollah, 50 held by the Syrian regime, and six bodies of FSA fighters.

Many Arab columnists dedicate their op-eds on Tuesday to Hezbollah’s newly declared intervention in Syria.

In an op-ed titled “Nasrallah fell, what about the others?” A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mushari Al-Thaidy writes that the only thing worse than Nasrallah’s televised call to transfer the war between Hezbollah and the Syrian rebels to Syrian territory, is the appeal by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Arakji of the others not to intervene in Syria.

“Nasrallah in his last speech was exposed naked of all the lies of Arab and Islamic resistance and ‘divine victory,'” writes Thaidy.

Hazem Saghiyeh, writing for Al-Hayat, argues that Hezbollah’s intervention in Lebanon is more about self-preservation than anything else.

“With the threat posed by the Syrian revolution to the [Assad] regime, Hezbollah takes upon itself to strengthen the regime in order to maintain its own regime in Lebanon. Nasrallah’s words come in this context, and are carefully calculated. They reflect an understanding of the danger Assad’s fall would pose to the [Lebanese] resistance and its future. As long as Assad remains, Hezbollah maintains the ability to direct its rifle at the Lebanese society.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, meanwhile places his eggs in the basket of the Geneva 2 conference.

“The Geneva conference is the last lifeline which can stop the prevent the slide into catastrophe through a political solution that will be imposed on all,” writes Atwan. “In short, either a political solution is reached or a sectarian war will erupt, turning into a destructive world war.”

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