Hezbollah steers Lebanon closer to Syria, straining efforts to stay neutral

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri holds a cabinet meeting at the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2017. Picture taken August 9, 2017. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hezbollah and its allies are pressing the Lebanese state to normalize relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, testing Lebanon’s policy of “dissociation” from the Syrian conflict and igniting a political row.

Calls for closer ties with the Syrian government, including on refugee returns and military operations on the Lebanon-Syria border, come as Assad regains control of more territory from insurgents and seeks to recover his international standing.

The Lebanese policy of “dissociation”, agreed in 2012, has aimed to keep the deeply divided state out of regional conflicts such as Syria even as Iran-backed Hezbollah became heavily involved there, sending fighters to help Assad, who is also allied to Iran.

The policy has helped rival groups to coexist in governments bringing together Hezbollah, classified as a terrorist group by the United States, with politicians allied to Iran’s foe Saudi Arabia, underpinning a degree of political entente amid the regional turmoil.

While Lebanon never severed diplomatic or trade ties with Syria, the government has avoided dealing with the Syrian government in an official capacity and the collapse of the policy would be a boost a political boost to Assad.

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Source:  News Now/Reuters

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About Cholo Brooks 4750 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists.