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Hezbollah Popularity Crumbles Across Middle East, Risk of Regional Sunni-Shiite War Spikes

Hezbollah’s critical role in bolstering the Bashar al-Assad regime is costing the Shiite organization support across the Arab world. The Iran backed group has been critical in helping the Syrian government reverse months of Sunni rebel gains.

An Al-Jazeera online survey that drew almost half a million votes saw 72% of respondents naming Hezbollah “an enemy of Arabs and Muslims.” Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel and one of the most influential media figures in the Middle East, described the group today as “hated, perhaps more than Israel.”

The deepening sectarian strife has heightened fears that Hezbollah’s involvement could trigger a regional Sunni-Shiite conflagration. Late last week Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most important theologian in Sunni Islam, attacked the group as the “party of Satan” and called for Sunnis to wage jihad against it:

“Every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that (must) make himself available” to support the Syrian rebels, the cleric said at a rally in Doha late Friday. “Iran is pushing forward arms and men (to back the Syrian regime), so why do we stand idle?” he said, branding Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which means the party of God in Arabic, as the “party of Satan.”… “The leader of the party of the Satan comes to fight the Sunnis… Now we know what the Iranians want… They want continued massacres to kill Sunnis,” Qaradawi said.

Hezbollah has poured its Lebanese fighters into Syria, and the violence has rebounded back into Lebanon. On Saturday, more than a dozen rockets were fired from Syria into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold. In Tripoli at least five people have been killed in sectarian clashes since Sunday.

Lebanon’s Interior Minister warned this morning that the fighting in Tripoli has escalated beyong the government’s control:

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that the infighting in the northern city of Tripoli was out of the control of the country’s politicians. “What is happening in Tripoli is a disaster. I feel that the fighters are not under the control of some politicians anymore,” Charbel said in a press conference ahead of the meeting of the Central Security Council on Tuesday.

[Photo: Nassif.seif / Wiki Commons]