Hezbollah’s Future Hinges on the Outcome of Syria’s War

Hezbollah’s Future Hinges on the Outcome of Syria’s War
Hezbollah supporters carry the coffin of slain commander Mustafa Badreddine during his funeral procession, southern Beirut, Lebanon, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

For all its current brutality and intractability, the war in Syria, like all wars, will one day come to an end. In pondering over what the Middle East will look like when that day comes, it is worth considering how the war will have changed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political organization.

Last week Hezbollah’sMustafa Badreddine was killed in Syria.Badreddine was not just an ordinary fighter for the group. He was responsible for some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular attacks over the years, including the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, along with other hotel, embassy and airline bombings. His death was one more sign that Hezbollah is being changed by Syria.

When Hezbollah started sending fighters into Syria in 2012, it did so quietly, without acknowledging it—and for good reason. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah knew his group had much to lose by admitting it was siding with a reviled dictator facing a popular uprising. But that dictator, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was losing the war, and Hezbollah had to help save him in order to save itself.

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