Hizballah began secretly pulling its troops out of Syria Saturday Sept. 28. To avoid attracting attention, they are being hustled across the border in small groups.
By Friday, Oct. 4, 1,200 combatants out of a total of 3,500 who fought alongside Bashar Assad’s troops, had shaken the dust of Syria off their boots, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and military sources report exclusively. By the end of October or early November, all Hizballah forces will be gone.
Hizballah’s hurried flight from Syria is the outcome of at least seven developments in the region and beyond:
1. It signifies the close interdependence of the US-Russian understanding for Syria’s chemical disarmament and the deal unfolding between the US, Russia and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Progress in negotiations with Iran is clearly interwoven with progress on Syria.
2. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime have been strengthened to the point that they can afford to dispense with Hizballah’s military assistance.
3. Tehran is celebrating the success of its first venture in the use of non-Iranian surrogates in arenas of strategic importance to the Islamic Republic.
4. Not a single Middle East military power, whether Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, proved able to thwart Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Tehran fosters smiles in Beirut as well as Syria
5. Hizballah is rushing to remove its militiamen from Syria before the inspectors of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-OPCW, who arrived in Damascus Tuesday, Oct. 1, fan out and get down to work. The Lebanese Shiite group closely guards the secrets of the makeup of its Syrian expeditionary force and its modes of operation, and whisking it out of sight of the international CW experts.
6. At Tehran’s behest, Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah is turning his attention inward to Beirut. His assignment is to promote a political set-up that will support future accords on Syria between the US, Russia and Iran.
7. Nasrallah obediently experienced an abrupt change of heart on a Lebanese national unity government. His former fierce opposition has made way for an endeavor to establish in Beirut a broad administration encompassing all the country’s parties and blocs.
It is to be based on the historic Baabde Declaration unanimously adopted in June 2012 in a national dialogue session, which called for Lebanon to be disassociated from regional crises, notably the conflict in Syria.
By removing his fighting units from Syria, Nasrallah is reverting to this national compact in deference to Tehran’s current drive to bring stability and an end of sectarian strife to Lebanon and present the world with a smiling face from Beirut as well as Tehran.