Yesterday I argued, in response to Nicholas Noe and Thanassis Cambanis’ respective eulogies of Hezbollah, that the group’s (perhaps) unwise support of the Assad regime in the face of popular protests would not bring about the group’s destruction. The sectarian divisions in Lebanon (and the weaker, secular Shi’ite party Amal) means that Hezbollah will be able to maintain enough domestic support to remain a player in Lebanese politics and the group’s raison d’être – resistance against Israel – will ensure continued support throughout the region. Support for Hezbollah will inevitably fall if the group is seen as supporting dictators over the will of the people, but the group’s ideological stance against Israel and the US will ensure that the group will remain at the center of the resistance.
Moreover, a new poll conducted by the Arab American Institute in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE reveals a rapidly declining opinion of America’s role in the Middle East. The poll suggests that the most important reasons for the increasingly unfavorable view of the United States is American support for Israel and unwise interference by the United States in the region:
A review of the poll’s other results makes it clear that the continuing occupation of Palestinian land is seen by most Arabs as both the main “obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East” and “the most important issue for the U.S. to address in order to improve its ties with the Arab World”. That Palestine trumps all of the other issues measured in the survey throws cold water on the wishful thinking of some analysts in the U.S. and Israel who want to imagine that, in the context of this “Arab Spring”, Arabs now feel “that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not as central to their lives as they were led to believe.”
What our respondents tell us is the second highest ranking “obstacle to peace and stability” is “U.S. interference in the Arab World”, which explains why the U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya is neither viewed favorably in most countries, nor is it seen as improving Arab attitudes toward America. In fact, when presented with several countries (e.g. Turkey, Iran, France, China, the U.S. etc.) and asked to evaluate whether or not each of them play a constructive role “in promoting peace and stability in the Arab World” eight in 10 Arabs give a negative assessment to the U.S. role — rating it significantly lower than France, Turkey, China, and, in four of six Arab countries, even lower than Iran!
Of course, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah have always stood against both the occupation of Palestine and American interference in the region. Hezbollah is one of the few groups in the Middle East that is trusted to oppose both American imperialism and the occupation. Thus, while Hezbollah will be seen supporting dictators (though it did support the revolutionaries in Egypt and Tunisia) if it does not change its stance on Syria, the rest of the region will begrudgingly continue to view Hezbollah as part of the resistance against the top two fundamental problems facing the region.
If Hezbollah continues to support Assad (and Nasrallah will until Assad’s fall becomes inevitable), the Lebanese group will lose support throughout a region intensely focused on the Arab Spring. However, just as some opine that “[w]ith region in turmoil, most Arabs discover Israeli-Palestinian conflict irrelevant,” arguing that Hezbollah will soon lose support is foolish. Nasrallah’s group has steadfastly stood for exactly what most concerns Arabs across the region. Backing Assad will not undo all of that support.
Photo from ZombieTime