Although many Lebanese officials expressed caution at the recent developments in Syria, many took it as an opportunity to re-affirm their support to the Syrian regime, even as it struggles for survival. With thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing to Lebanon, the Lebanese are alarmed by the rapid escalation in violence and wary of the potential repercussions on their country. Indeed, the UN Security Council this week expressed "grave concern" about cross-border attacks on Lebanon from Syria, but the events have not yet shaken the years-long political alliances in Lebanon.
Although both the government and opposition have expressed the importance of sidelining Lebanon from regional conflict, the dominating March 8 and March 14 camps hold two opposing views. Hezbollah, its Christian allies the Free Patriotic Movement, and Syrian poxy groups, condemned the attack and declared the three Syrian officials "martyrs." Nasrallah took the opportunity of the sixth commemoration of the Israeli war in 2006 to reaffirm strong relations with Damascus and remind the Lebanese that Israel was the enemy, and Syria was the anchor of resistance against aggression. He added that the relationship with Christian leader Michel Aoun was still strong.
Hezbollah's Shiite ally Amal, led by Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, also condemned the "terrorist bombing," claiming Syria was being targeted for its historic anti-Israeli stance. Perhaps the most surprising element in the speech was the seeming lack of political calculus, especially now that observers predict Syrian President Bashar Assad's days to be numbered. This has squeezed Syria's allies into a tight spot but has not completely alienated them just yet.
Hezbollah has found itself in an increasingly precarious position lately, attracting local criticism for its inability to deliver in government on one hand, and its lacking performance in its own districts south of Beirut, on the other. Additionally, the bombing in Bulgaria which resulted in the death of seven Israeli tourists turned the international community's eyes to Hezbollah and its patron Iran. The Israeli leaders are vigilant and have warned that they would attack Iran when the time is right.
Instead of assuming a low profile, Hezbollah's leader Nasrallah's position went on the offensive, claiming yet again that the revolution in Syria is but a Western fabrication targeting the Assad regime and the resistance. Nasrallah also spoke of Iran's ability to counter Israel, invoking the very fear among its local political opponents that the group continues to monopolize the decision on peace and war.
Given the nature of allegiances in Lebanon, it is unlikely for Hezbollah's supporters to completely abandon the Party for its political choices. However, with the rising violence and the imminence of change in Syria, politicians ought to use more caution in their stances. If the status quo changes in the upcoming weeks, Syria's allies will have to struggle with devising a new, more moderate political rhetoric for its supporters. The longer Syria's allies hold on to the regime, the harder it will be for them to distance themselves. With parliamentary elections around the corner, this strategy may come at a cost.