Iran was behind the Hezbollah terrorist group’s decision to back Syrian President Bashar Assad in his war against rebel groups, a former senior Hezbollah leader has revealed.
Sheikh Subhi Al-Tufaili, a former secretary-general of Hezbollah, told the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mustaqbal, “Generally speaking, Hezbollah is firmly opposed to the war, but a decisive Iranian decision [forced] it to participate in it.”
Tufaili’s revelation was included in a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on growing criticism of Hezbollah from within.
Hezbollah has attempted to project an image of internal unity, but media reports over the past several months indicate a growing trend of public criticism of the group’s leaders over Hezbollah’s heavy losses in Syria.
According to MEMRI, even Hezbollah-friendly media outlets have begun criticizing the group. A June 11 column in the pro-Hezbollah paper Al-Akhbar stated, “It is no longer a secret that there have been many debates within internal [Hezbollah] circles.”
A second column stated, “Hezbollah’s involvement [in Syria] is unacceptable to a substantial number of its supporters in Lebanon.”
The daily Al-Mustaqbal, which generally takes an anti-Hezbollah line, has reportedly printed multiple interviews with Hezbollah members who fought in Syria, and with the survivors of those killed in fighting. One young woman whose brother was killed in Syria was quoted as saying that Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims have “nothing to do with” Syria’s internal conflict, while a woman whose son died fighting for Hezbollah was quoting as having “incessantly cursed [Hezbollah’s] leadership” and having questioned whether Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah would send his own son to fight in Syria.
A Hezbollah member who was injured in the fighting in Syria told Al-Mustaqbal, “I will not go back to Syria… The Syrians can defend their own land.” He declared that, contrary to what some Hezbollah leaders have said, Shi’ite Muslims have no duty to fight in Syria.
His mother reportedly backed him, telling the paper, “I will not send him there again, and they can do what they want to us.”
Hezbollah has been heavily involved in assisting Assad for some time, and intelligence reports even indicated that the group would form an essential part of any Syrian response to Israeli strikes in the country.
However, the group appears to have given in to pressure from at home with a recent decision to withdraw 1,200 troops from the country.