Hezbollah in Syria: data and assumptions

Group of Hezbollah fighters take position in Sujoud village in south Lebanon

France says 3,000-4,000 Hezbollah are fighting in Syria

Reuters, May 29, 2013 – France said on Wednesday its intelligence services believed 3-4,000 guerillas from Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s army in Syria’s civil war.

“As far as Hezbollah militants present in the battlefield, the figures range from 3,000 to 10,000, our estimates are between 3,000 and 4,000,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers.

The United Nations‘ human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Wednesday a dramatic increase in the role of Iran-backed Hezbollah militants backing Syrian government forces was inflaming regional tensions, without giving numbers.

Fabius pointed the finger at Iran for pushing Hezbollah into the Syrian conflict.

“When you have fighters that are really well armed that are prepared to die and they are several thousand that makes a difference,” he said.

Fabius has dismissed any suggestion that Iran could be involved in resolving the Syrian crisis, because of its backing of Assad’s government.

“There has been a change on the ground. The involvement of Hezbollah and the fact the Russians have delivered weapons has changed things,” he said. “Even if many elements that are fighting are Syrian, they are being guided by Iranian officials.”

France said on May 23 it hoped an initiative could be agreed by the end of June to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, on the grounds the group is importing Syria’s war into Lebanon.

Paris has traditionally been cautious about backing steps to sanction Hezbollah, fearing it could destabilize Lebanon and put U.N. peacekeepers at risk, but in recent weeks has said it would consider all options.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Andrew Roche)

Iranian Forces on the Golan?

, May 29, 2013

On May 26, 2013, the Iranian regime officially began to recruit Basiji fighters to fight with Assad’s troops in Syria. The Basij are the popular militia of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and serve as a reserve formation. Known for their loyalty to the Iranian regime, they were used extensively for putting down anti-regime protests in Iranian cities during mid-2009.

The name of the operation for which these troops are being recruited is “Mudafean Harem 2″ (Defenders of the Holy Site 2), which mentions the Shiite Zeynab Sanctuary on the periphery of Damascus. Zeynab was the eldest daughter of Ali, the first Shiite Imam and a cousin of the Prophet Mohammad. Zeynab is the granddaughter of Mohammed and the sister of Hussein, son of Ali and the third Shiite Imam. Hussein was beheaded by a rival clan of another cousin of Mohammad, Yazid Bin Muawiyah, the sixth Caliph (680), during the battle of Karbala.

After the defeat, Zeynab was arrested with the rest of Hussein’s family and transferred to Damascus, where she died a few years later. Her sanctuary near Damascus is the object of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of Shiites from throughout the world.

The deployment of these Basij forces in Syria would provide greater flexibility for Assad’s army. For example, the Syrians could withdraw their front-line forces from the Golan Heights and replace them with Iranians. In the meantime the Syrian troops that were previously facing Israel could be used to fight Assad’s opposition. But such a change would be a regional “game-changer,” for it would place Iranian forces directly across from the Israel Defense Forces.