Where is Al-Qusayr?

It appears Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is mainly in two areas. Hezbollah’s role in Damascus’ Zaynab Shrine area was discussed in an earlier post. The second place are the Shi’a villages adjacent to North-Lebanon located around Al-Qusayr.

Late April and early May saw an upsurge in Hezbollah involvement in Al-Qusayr as part of an offensive by the Syrian Army. The offensive apparently saw significant successes for the Shia powers, though heavy losses for Hezbollah were also reported (among which two senior leaders of Hezbollah’s elite Al Qods forces).

So what is the relevance of Al-Qusayr? Hezbollah has professed merely to be protecting the Shia villages in the area from Sunni incursion. But a look at the map provides a different answer. Al-Qusayr protects the road from Damascus to Assad’s Alawite coastal enclave north of Lebanon. In other words, Al-Qusayr is vital both to Assad’s ability to support Damascus from his core northern base of support, as well his ability to retreat from Damascus, should this be necessary.

But as commentators have noted, Hezbollah’s involvement in Al-Qusayr is not without significant risks. First there could be grinding losses against Jihadist forces. Second, and as a consequence, Hezbollah could lose Lebanese popular support for implicating it in a foreign conflict, particularly if Lebanon itself would be subjected to attacks. Finally a loss of popularity for Hezbollah could be detrimental to its place in Lebanese politics, where antagonized parties might become loath to accommodate Hezbollah in coalitions.

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5 thoughts on “Where is Al-Qusayr?

  1. That’s an area where the Lebanese-Syrian border is very much a political convention rather than a natural division. The people on both sides of the border are mostly Shia, they tend to support Hezbollah and be supported by them in turn. I’ve been there on holiday a couple of times, on the Lebanese side, here: http://www.kwakhecolodge.org/Component/Static/AreaInfo.asp It’s quite beautiful, and pretty much the only desert area in Lebanon. It may well be an area of strategic significance, but it’s also an area with a mainly Shia population who are, quite rightly, worried about falling victim to ethnic violence. If there are places where Hezbollah’s “we are just protecting the vulnerable” defence makes sense, this is one of them.

    • Great thanks. Yeah that makes sense: certainly the Hezbollah move into Al Qusayr doesn’t seem like a ‘foreign imposition’. But do you dissent from the interpretation that strategically it serves to protect the corridor from the North to Damascus?

  2. No, I don’t. It connects Damascus (where Shia and Alawite have a strong presence) with Syria’s coastal region (where Alawite’s are dominant): http://english.tau.ac.il/sites/default/files/JUDD/Syria_Ethnoreligious_Map.png. But it’s not a Risk board, it’s a place where people live. Al-Kwakh, for example. http://www.kwakhecolodge.org/Component/Main/Index.asp is an organization made up of and run by women which aims to use sustainable tourism and agricultural production to support the life of a small, rural community.

    • That Al-Kwakh looks great. It’s funny actually how similar it is to plenty of places you have in Israel. In a different world, one could visit both. And you’re obviously right it’s a mistake to look at these issues exclusively through the prism of strategy. At the same time, as far as military efforts go, clearly both the Sunnis and Shia are employing strategic considerations in where to devote their efforts (such as in the case of Qusayr offenseive recently). And if you don’t mind I’ll steal that map of ethnicities and put it up; that’s interesting to see.

  3. Pingback: Rebel Commander “Eats Heart”, Provides Best Possible Argument against Intervention | Levantoday.com

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