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.