Can Hezbollah survive Nasrallah

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Iran recently released an interesting photo. It shows the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Qasem Soleimani sitting with one of his deputies, named Mohammed Hejazi, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Soleimani was killed by the US in 2020. Hejazi died in April. Nasrallah appears to be sick now. Rumors have suggested he could die. Even if he doesn’t it leads to questions about a post-Nasrallah Hezbollah.

Men like Nasrallah are key to Iran’s role in the region. These men, along with Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah leader who was killed in 2008 and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, head of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, were key to Iran’s dominance of the region. Muhandis was killed in 2020 alongside Soleimani. Hejazi was a key to Iran’s precision guided munitions project and building up Iran’s network in the region by moving those missiles to Hezbollah.

Nasrallah likes to give speeches, usually in his bunker where he has been hiding since the 2006 war on Israel. Even in the bunker though he has appeared impressive and he articulates a growing command of the region and Hezbollah’s role in Iran’s worldview. Hezbollah is a powerful terror organization with some 150,000 missiles and a parallel state-within-a-state in Lebanon. It has networks from West Africa to South America, from Lebanon to Iran and beyond. It plays a role in Syria and Iraq and works now with the Houthis in Yemen.

But Nasrallah’s appearance suggests he may be declining in health. Hezbollah supporters say he just as a cold or maybe pneumonia. Other rumors say he got Covid. Nasrallah’s impressive speeches were key to how he is perceived. Professor Eyal Zisser writing at Israel HaYom says that “this entire perception crumbled, however, with the sound of his first cough and the many more that followed. Thus Nasrallah’s victory speech became his ‘coughing speech,’ and instead of focusing on his threats and bombastic declarations, his health situation drew most of the headlines.” Zisser makes an important point: “Contrary to Hamas, which has replaced its leaders numerous times, not in the least due to several assassinations attributed to Israel, Nasrallah been the sole, dominant leader of Hezbollah for close to three decades now. As with any typical Middle Eastern dictator, he made sure a possible successor never emerged, which brings us to the questions currently arising in Lebanon about the day after Nasrallah, which even if delayed is still inevitable.”

This is important because Hezbollah grew into its own under Nasrallah. It became a phenomenally powerful organization, more powerful than Lebanon and more powerful than many small states. It helped to save the Syrian regime during the Syrian civil war, intervening in 2012 and helping the Assad regime hold the line until the Russian intervention in 2015. Despite the fact Hezbollah can only recruit from a relatively small Shi’ite population in Lebanon of several hundred thousand military age men, Hezbollah has been able to recruit thousands, many of whom became casualties in the recent war in Syria. Many others became veterans, increasing their abilities. Nasrallah played a key role in this and he is in many ways on the last of the key Iranian axis members in the region. With Mughniyeh dad, Hejazi dead, Soleimani dead, Muhandis dead, Nasrallah is the proverbial last of the Mohicans.

This issue is complicated. Iran’s proxies do not rely on any one man. Unlike a regime like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Iranian octopus network is not based just on big men and small people. Because the Iranian system replicates itself like an amoeba across the region, it is fundamentally rooted in the abilities of the people it recruits, mostly among Shi’ites. It relies on engineers and operators and often trains relatively small units of elite groups, such as Kataib Hezbollah, to carry out extensive operations. For instance, Kataib was involved in drone attacks on Saudi Arabia. Pro-Iran militias use 107mm and 122mm rockets to target US forces. They do this with such clandestine alacrity that they can set up rockets and disappear into the night and no amount of CIA and NSA and US SOCOM can find them, apparently. Of course they make mistakes sometimes, Soleimani and Muhandis were killed by the US and Mughniyah died at the hands of professionals, but in general these men build upon intelligent and strong structures.

Hezbollah will need such a structure if it is to survive Nasrallah and thrive. What is known about his health. Not much except rumors. One article says he underwent a direct examination by a specialist doctor, and there was no need to use a hospital. Supposedly a doctor who had been in the US was also consulted as were experts in local medicine. He may be taking folk remedies such as “eucalyptus leaves, which are famous in the field of relieving coughs, infections, seasonal allergies and improving lung health,” according to an article at Al-Jumhuriya. “According to the information, Nasrallah continues to work and keeps up with the files concerned, at a measured pace via the internal phone, and he communicates whenever needed with party officials who fall within the circle around him.” This is also what people said about Stalin even when he was incapacitated. Hezbollah says Nasrallah has some allergies. He will be fine. The region waits to find out.

Source » jpost

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