Beirut Bombings Unlikely To Keep Hezbollah Fighters Out Of Syrian Civil War

02/19/2014 10:30 am ET | Updated Feb 19, 2014

BEIRUT -- The twin bombings that killed at least five people outside of an Iranian cultural center here on Wednesday were a particularly pointed assault on the Shiite party Hezbollah and Iran, both key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"They're essentially going after [Hezbollah's] boss," said Phillip Smyth, who researches Hezbollah at the University of Maryland. "You don't get any more direct than that."

But if the attack was aimed at driving Hezbollah out of Syria's civil war, Smyth suggested that the Iranian-supported militia is unlikely to relinquish its role. "I seriously doubt that," he told The WorldPost, saying that Hezbollah leadership had recently "doubled down" on its statements in support of fighting in Syria.

The bombings Wednesday were the sixth such attack to hit Lebanon this year and the first since the country announced a new government on Saturday. Many of the attacks have targeted majority-Shiite areas in south Beirut and the town of Hermel near the Syrian border, in what is widely seen as an effort to pressure Hezbollah. The group has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to boost the Assad regime's military strength, and Iran has lent vital support to both Hezbollah and the Syrian government, including diplomatic backing and military aid.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda linked jihadi group that claimed responsibility on Twitter for the attacks, called the bombings a "response to the killings of the Iranian party [Hezbollah] alongside the criminal Syrian regime" and said it would continue launching attacks until Hezbollah withdraws. The group also claimed responsibility for an attack in November at the Iranian embassy, which sparked a string of increasingly frequent bombings in Lebanon.

At the scene of the bombings, Hezbollah politician Ali Ammar insisted that his party would stay in Syria regardless of the attacks, telling reporters that Hezbollah would "not withdraw from a strategic battle."

And in a speech in Beirut just three days earlier, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah expressed the same sentiment, saying the deaths and damage caused by recent bombings would not drive his party out of Syria.

"This blood and wounds and patience and perseverance are part of the battle," Nasrallah said. "And yes, it is worth it so that we do not lose our land, so that our children are not slaughtered and our property stolen."

Syria War In February
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