The American troops will reportedly be based on the Lebanese side of the border and will only provide training and back-end assistance to their national counterparts, while Hezbollah will take the helm in working alongside the Syrian Arab Army on the Syrian side. There have been conflicting reports about whether the Lebanese military will coordinate its operations with Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, but nothing has been officially announced as of yet so it’s uncertain what’s really true or not. There are, however, indications that Beirut will not coordinate with Hezbollah or Damascus due to the idiosyncrasies of the country’s political situation.
Hezbollah is a powerful political party in Lebanon and an ally of recently inaugurated President Michel Aoun, but the Shiite group is at odds with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is a rich dual-Saudi citizen that’s serving in his position for the second time after returning to power as part of a compromise deal with Aoun. In most cases, the Lebanese Prime Minister is legally more powerful and influential than the President, so Hariri’s anti-Hezbollah bias needs to be taken into account when considering whether the country’s military will coordinate with Hezbollah. In addition, Hariri’s familial ties with self-appointed Sunni leader Saudi Arabia add a strategic sectarian angle to all of this, since it’s unfathomable that the Prime Minister’s allies in Riyadh would approve of him ordering the military to work alongside Hezbollah, which the Kingdom accuses of being an Iranian proxy.
Moreover, there’s also the fact that the US officially designates Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization”, and its Israeli ally probably wouldn’t take too kindly to the national military of its northern neighbor cooperating with a group that it too believes is a “terrorist” one. These factors work against the prospects of the Lebanese Armed Forces coordinating operations with Hezbollah, even though the latter has been proven over the years to be a very effective anti-terrorist force against al-Nusra, Daesh, and others. There’s always the chance that the military will put aside politics and apply pragmatism in waging its War on Daesh, but in any case, the discussion about Hezbollah’s participation in anti-terrorist operations on the Lebanese-Syrian border highlights the group’s powerful regional role and the polarized reaction that it’s generating.
Navid Nasr, an independent geopolitical analyst (based out of Zagreb) and Bashar Murtada, Syrian expatriate commented on the issue.
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