Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—A surge in casualties and a lack of a clear regional policy are driving Hezbollah supporters and senior members to raise questions about the Shi’ite Lebanese group’s role in Syria where it is fighting rebels trying to topple the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, according to analysts and experts familiar with the inner circle of the militia.
Ali Al-Amin, a Lebanese political analyst and researcher, spoke of “major objections within the group over its performance in Syria” after it recently suffered great losses in lives at the hands of Syrian rebel groups.
The latest such episode came Monday when the Iran-affiliated group announced the deaths of eight fighters who fell during battles in Syria.
The growing state of restlessness with the “absence of prospects for victory [in Syria]” has exceeded the Lebanese group’s support base to its leadership, according to Amin.
“The debate has moved to the inner circle of the group represented by its jihad council, with voices starting to question how after all the sacrifices they made in Syria, the Russians came and took all of their achievements,” Amin said.
A key ally of Assad, Russia increased its military presence in Syria last month and launched a series of airstrikes which it said targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. However, analysts argue that the Russian buildup is meant to shore up Assad’s forces and their Hezbollah backers weakened by a series of gains by rebels.
Hezbollah’s dead in Syria were not limited to highly trained fighters but also included dozens of high-ranking commanders, the latest of whom was Hassan Hussein Al-Hajj, aka Hajj Maher, a founder of the pro-Assad militia.
Hajj was killed by Syrian rebels in the El-Ghab valley north of Hamah province earlier this month and was described by Hezbollah as “a senior commander” who was close to the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Amin said: “Hezbollah’s losses in Syria exceeded expectations … and its elite Al-Radwan battalion has been greatly exhausted to the extent of disintegration after the loss of its commanders and professional fighters in the Zabadani battle.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) source said: “The FSA’s information confirms that Hezbollah’s dead reached 1,263 until the end of last week, most of them from the elite forces, something which has greatly hit the group’s morale.”