After weeks of shuttle diplomacy allegedly carried out by Russia and Israel, Iranian forces and allied militias — including the so-called “military wing” of the Lebanon-based organization Hezbollah, all of which has been designated as a terrorist group by the US — reportedly began to withdraw from parts of southern Syria, near Israel’s border. According to other reports, however, many Hezbollah fighters, disguised as members of the Syrian army, have simply remained on their bases to escape being targeted by the Israel Air Force. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel’s air force has carried out sporadic strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah bases and convoys across its neighbor on the north. After more than seven years of fighting alongside the Assad regime in Syria, the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is highly unlikely to make an easy exit from the war-torn territory, no matter what supposed agreements are reached or promises made.
In a televised speech on “Quds Day” — which Iran has marked every year since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 — Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah addressed his supporters as follows:
“We are in Syria because we should be there. The Syrian leadership has asked us to be present there based on developments in the ground…. Gulf states and Israel must know that we will be happy when we return our men to Lebanon… we will be happy and we will feel victorious to complete our mission. So what keeps us in Syria is our duty and the Syrian leadership, but at the same time I would like to tell you even if the entire world decided to remove us from Syria, we will not leave.”
Nor does it seem that the Syrian regime is in a rush to tell Hezbollah to leave the country. In a recent interview with an Iranian state-run news channel, Syrian President Bashar Assad said, “Hezbollah is an essential element in this war — the battle is long and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time.”