Hezbollah has for decades justified its military and political domination of Lebanon by insisting that it had to maintain its arsenal in order to defend Lebanese territory from Israel. That brand has been shattered, however, by the organization’s critical fighting in Syria on behalf of the Iran-allied Bashar al-Assad regime. Blowback from that involvement – including jihadist attacks on Hezbollah strongholds and cross-border attacks on Lebanese territory – has also contributed to to criticism of the group.
Now a top Shiite cleric in Lebanon on Tuesday called for groups within the country to completely disarm. Higher Shiite Council deputy head Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan is certainly not the first high-ranking Lebanese official to have criticized Hezbollah’s militarized state-within-a-state in recent months. But his status as a Shiite religious leader makes his criticism particularly relevant:
“We call on the Lebanese state to strip all the people of arms and not give [weapons] licenses and be strict and harsh because the land is protected by the good work and not by a rifle, a pistol or bombing,” he said in his sermon on the second day of Eid al-Adha. “Will this reach a conclusion?”
“We call on everyone to return to their conscience and their religion and to the right path,” he pleaded.
Hezbollah has nonetheless refused to untangle itself from the conflict. Hezbollah-backed Syrian forces today reportedly seized the town of Bweida, after nearly a week of fighting. The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed today that it killed 50 foreign fighters in Syria, among them members of Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite groups.
[Photo: VOA / Wiki Commons]