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Friday, January 13, 2017

Russia is Learning About Hezbollah

Russia is Learning About Hezbollah

Hezbollah has been a useful non-state partner to Russian forces in Syria. The Lebanese Shia militia and Iranian proxy currently fields between 6,000 and 8,000 fighters in that country’s civil war, with some estimates as high as 10,000. Having suffered roughly 2,000 deaths and over 5,000 injured since their involvement in the conflict, Hezbollah has continued to be a stalwart ally of the Assad regime, fighting as far away as Deir ez-Zor. Since September 2015 this has included working closely with the Russian military, which intervened in an apparently effective attempt to save the Assad regime. Hezbollah’s success on the ground in Syria has been noted by Moscow, which views it as a capable ally that has strongly contributed to the survival of the Syrian government. But as the regime’s fortunes improve, Russia is signaling its willingness to rebels and their foreign backers to find a negotiated solution to the conflict, calculating that the regime’s current ascendancy will give it more leverage at the negotiating table to secure a favorable deal. Yet in the long term this solution may also limit Hezbollah’s influence in a post-conflict Syria.

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