Hezbollah’s new strength leaves Israeli border tense

Image: Hezbollah

Hezbollah fighter near the group’s base in Hermel, on the northern Lebanese border with Syria. Sulome Anderson

“The Resistance didn’t leave us, not even for a minute, and it was by our side during the worst situations,” he said, referring to Hezbollah. “And whatever we asked from the Resistance, they were ready to oblige.”

Referring to ISIS fighters as “monsters,” he added: “They exist only to harm. Six years were enough of the black flags that were on our mountains. Today there are good flags; the Resistance flag and the military flags will bring good fortune to us. We’ve had enough of black flags.”

Exum says Nasrallah’s view of the conflict makes sense, given the drastic options left to Lebanese living with ISIS at their doors.

“The choice before the international community and before Syrians can appear right now to be a choice between Hezbollah and the regime or groups like the Islamic State,” he says. “That binary choice really benefits Hezbollah within Lebanon, because if you are Lebanon’s Christian community, and you have to make a choice between the guys with the short beards and the guys with the long beards, you’re going to choose the guys with the short beards.”

Whatever the group’s ultimate objective, it’s clear that Hezbollah members are feeling confident about their popularity at home and their expanding influence. A field commander in his 30s, smoking a cigarette and drinking a small cup of thick, dark coffee at a house in Dahieh, gave a wide, boyish grin when talking about his group’s recent military victories. He grabbed a pen and drew a crude map of the Middle East on a piece of newspaper, pointing to what was supposed to be Iran.

“Tehran is there,” he said. His finger moved onto the next ink-scrawled country. “This is Iraq, and next to it is Syria. Before, Saddam was in Iraq, and then the Americans came, so that path was closed. Now we’re with the Hashd al-Shaabi [Shiite militias in Iraq], and we practically control Syria. The Shia Crescent they were so afraid of — we stepped on their noses and created it. There is now an open road from Tehran to Dahieh.”

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