BEIRUT – In a signal of foreign powers’ inability to dictate terms to regional forces involved in the Syrian conflict, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin has made clear that Russia has no intention to press resistance movement Hezbollah or Iranian military advisors to vacate Syria.
The call to oust them from the country, along with reports about an alleged deal between Moscow and Tel Aviv that would see the Shia allies abandon the conflict as it winds to a close, constitutes an attempt by “the other camp” to drive a wedge between Russia and its partners, the diplomat reportedly said.
“It isn’t permissible and it isn’t allowed during these circumstances to discuss Hezbollah and Iran’s departure from Syria, especially since terrorism hasn’t been eliminated yet,” the diplomat was quoted as saying in a statement by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah allegedly stands fast against Russian commands
The news comes amid a report from the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) citing several unnamed “reliable sources” who claim that fighters from the Lebanese group flatly refused Russian commands that they withdraw from Syrian territory bordering Lebanon in the al-Qusayr region and Jussiyeh border crossing, as well as the area bordering the west and southwest of Homs.
As a result, the report claims, Russian troops have been repositioned away from the area to minimize the possibility of any further interactions between resistance forces and the Russian expeditionary force. In the meantime, Hezbollah fighters have continued to rotate units to and from the region despite the Israeli aggression late last month that allegedly struck sites aligned with Iran and the Lebanese resistance.
The war monitors of SOHR further alleged that the reported Hezbollah withdrawal from the area “is false news” and that “all what happened (sic) is a media withdrawal.”
Lebanese media claimed that Russian Military Police were stationed at the border prior to acquiring clearance from Hezbollah, which fought hard in 2013 alongside the Syrian Army to liberate the area from deeply-entrenched Salafi-jihadist forces that hoped to cleanse the border of its Shia population and extend the civil war into Lebanon.
The report also alleged that the Syrian Army had granted Russia permission to deploy in the area. The deployment led to a rise in tensions between the Lebanese group and Russian personnel for around 24 hours, yet no shots were fired nor was any blood spilled.
The “Axis of Resistance” defies Tel Aviv
As the Syrian civil war has drawn to a close with the government intact and foreign-backed forces on the ropes, Israeli officials claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin hard to force Iran, Hezbollah, and its Shia allies to withdraw from the whole of Syria.
The Syrian government, Iran and the Lebanese resistance have each dismissed the possibility out-of-hand. According to reports, Tehran and Hezbollah have also shrugged off demands by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that they withdraw from the southwestern region bordering the illegally-held, Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Faced with the defiance of Syria’s allies, Israeli occupation forces have grown increasingly desperate and attempted to not only whip up sectarian passions pitting Sunni Muslim Syrians against the Shia community, but have also blamed Iran for causing “millions” of refugees to flee to Europe.
On Thursday, Netanyahu admitted that Israel had been carrying out aggressive moves within Syrian borders, including attacks on Hezbollah and Iranian advisors, in order to prevent an alleged holy war from reigniting in the region. In so doing, he asserted, the Israelis were defending “the security of [European] countries, the security of the world.”
Netanyahu further alleged that 80,000 Shiite recruits, from countries including far-flung Pakistan and Afghanistan, were being recruited to wage “a theological war, a religious war” against the Israelis while trying to “convert” Syria’s Sunni Muslims.
Hezbollah’s leadership has taken Tel Aviv’s bluster in stride, with Sayyed Nasrallah stressing that the “Zionist regime” (of Israel) should stop denying the obvious and admit its abject failure in toppling the Damascus government. Last Friday, Nasrallah said:
Israel was betting on [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad’s ouster and it saw its interest in the militants, but today the Zionists have changed their objective in Syria and are saying that the battle’s objective in Syria has become to expel Iran and Hezbollah [from Syria].
You Zionists have to admit that you have been defeated in Syria and that you have failed to topple the pillar of the resistance.
We will celebrate victory when our young men return to their towns and homes… But should the entire world come together to force us to withdraw from Syria, they will not be able to do so. There is only one way: a request from the Syrian leadership.”
Top Photo | A Hezbollah fighters sits in a four-wheel motorcycle positioned at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaida-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, Saturday, July 29, 2017. Bilal Hussein | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.