When pro-democracy protesters took on President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, watching from his perch in Lebanon, could hardly contain his glee. Arab demonstrators were taking on yet another Sunni dictator who was hostile to Hezbollah. At the time, the Arab Spring looked like good news to the Iran-backed Shiite militants. But the popular revolts did not stop with Hezbollah's foes. Now that an uprising next door threatens the rule of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, one of Hezbollah's principal patrons, Hezbollah is starting to look less steady. As the wave of popular unrest washes across the region, something unexpected has happened. Suddenly, the tide is soaking the ground beneath Hezbollah's feet. The Arab Spring has unexpectedly become a threat to Hezbollah.
When demonstrations started challenging Mubarak, Nasrallah eloquently expressed his support, describing Egyptians' struggle as a fight for "Arab dignity." The drama in Cairo unfolded just as Hezbollah's power was reaching new heights in Beirut, within days of the collapse of Lebanon's anti-Hezbollah government. Mubarak's demise added to the Shiite group's growing strength by removing a fierce foe, thereby solidifying its regional position.
But Nasrallah's own words in support of the Tahrir Square revolutionaries came back to haunt him when the Egyptian protests spread to Syria. Back in February, the Hezbollah leader had fulminated against Washington's earlier support of Mubarak, saying the U.S. was "backing the worst dictatorships." But when the Assad dictatorship in Damascus came under attack from its own citizens, Nasrallah voiced strong support for Assad and repeatedly urged the Syrian people to stand with the regime. As Assad's violent repression of the uprising intensified, Nasrallah's support for the tyrant became more difficult to ignore.