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Will Qusayr be Hezbollah’s Stalingrad?

Will Qusayr be Hezbollah’s Stalingrad?

One of the key battles in Syria is for control of Qusayr, currently under rebel control.  Via NY Times, Syrian Forces and Hezbollah Fighters Press Assault on Key City:

Official Syrian and Hezbollah news outlets said the government offensive was making rapid headway in retaking Qusayr, a strategically situated city in Homs Province, near the Lebanese border. The Syrian state news agency, SANA, said government troops had expanded their control from the eastern part of the city into the center and the north, destroying tunnels, weapons and explosive devices. The agency said a commander of Al Nusra Front, an extremist rebel group that the United States says is a terrorist organization, was killed in the fighting.

But the rebels, though outgunned, said they were holding their ground against the onslaught, had destroyed several armored vehicles and had inflicted heavy casualties on the army. They said they would fight on.

It’s hard to know what really is going on, but there are reliable reports of heavy Hezbollah casualties.  While each side boasts huge victories, it appears to be turning into a war of attrition, with rebels dug in and receiving at least some reinforcements.

NOW Lebanon, which I’ve found to be one of the more reasoned sources, says that Hezbollah is not meeting it’s vaunted reputation in the fighting, and may be stalled, Hezbollah slips in Qusayr:

As it became clear that the Syrian opposition was putting up fierce resistance, Hezbollah began adjusting its story about the battle for al-Qusayr. The group was now making it known that it was sending in reinforcements from its elite units, and that the fighting might last at least another week. More troublesome for Hezbollah, however, was the news about the severe losses its units were sustaining, with casualty numbers ranging from 30 to 40 dead after the first day of fighting alone. By Tuesday, Syrian activists in al-Qusayr were claiming another 25 dead Hezbollah fighters. This, of course, is not counting those who had been killed prior to the latest assault, going back to last year. The number and make-up of the casualties raise some interesting questions about Hezbollah’s fighting force post-2006….

If the casualty rate stays this high even for another week, it could prove devastating. For instance, according to a party official who spoke to the Kuwaiti al-Rai, many of those killed on the first day in al-Qusayr were cut down by landmines and IED’s prepared by the Syrian rebels. A Lebanese source who follows the group closely says that a company of 200 Hezbollah fighters attempted the initial assault but ran into the hidden explosive devices, resulting in the high death toll. The source reveals that the Syrians received assistance from certain Palestinian factions in planning the defense of the town.

Already, prior to the latest onslaught on al-Qusayr, Hezbollah’s former secretary general, Subhi Tofeyli, stated that the group had lost 138 members in Syria. Shapira believes that “from the hundreds” they have deployed, “they have lost over 200. Some are commanders, over 30-35 years of age.” As many as 65 – ten percent of the total lost in the 2006 war – were killed in just two days of fighting.

There’s another key issue to consider: Even if in the end Hezbollah manages to take the town, it remains unclear who would hold it….

By publicly taking the lead in the assault operations in Syria, Hezbollah was to show its military capability to decisively and swiftly win battles – first in al-Qusayr, then on other fronts in the country. The problem for Iran, however, is that, regardless what happens next in al-Qusayr, the performance of Hezbollah’s elite forces is signaling the opposite of the message Iran sought to communicate.

The Hezbollah role in Syria also is causing spillover sectarian violence in Tripoli, Lebanon, with the threat to spread more generally.  There are numerous reports of dissent even within the Lebanese Shiite community about Hezbollah’s role in Syria and its service of Iranian interests, and that is being exploited by Hezbollah’s political enemies.

If sectarian terror in the form of car bombs and suicide bombings comes to Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah’s actions in Syria, who knows what will happen.  It could set Lebanon on fire.

Hezbollah has thrown its military, reputation, and goodwill into Qusayr, but unless something changes very quickly, Qusayr may turn into Hezbollah’s Stalingrad.

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Comments

Thanks for the first feel-good story of the day. Ollie Ouwkbar!

To be a true Stalingrad Assad will need an encirclement, der Kessel, which like the actions of the constrictor snake squeezes tighter and tighter until the encirclement, significantly smaller than initially, contains only enemy.

I think it is interesting to note that in Gaza, Iran will fight to the last Palestinian against Israel and in Syria, Iran will defend Assad to the last Lebanese.

Has anyone in the region pointed out to the people there how cowardly Iran’s tactics are?

    Juba Doobai! in reply to crosspatch. | May 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    That is the Iranian way. They love to use cat’s paws and then claim innocence. That way, nothing comes back on them, no direct attack because it wasn’t them. Cowardly, indeed.

Midwest Rhino | May 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm

it appears to be turning into a war of attribution”

“Attrition”? Or am I missing some subtlety? 🙂

    William A. Jacobson in reply to Midwest Rhino. | May 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    that would be a t.y.p.o.

      Midwest Rhino in reply to William A. Jacobson. | May 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      “attribution” might work … Hezbollah … Hamas … or an advance Obama distraction team … it’s all so confusing. The war on truth, is largely about wrong attribution. Ever since Palin flew her plane into that IRS building, it’s been hard to convince the low info voter that the Tea party is not the greatest threat.

BannedbytheGuardian | May 23, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Stalingrad was absolute. This is merely a skirmish.

One of the more evocative tales to come out oStalingrad was on the Russian side of the Volga. The first wave of Germans had taken hold of the other bank where most of Stalingrad stands .

Those that ha encountered them & escaped across. The river exclaimed ( conversationally translated) OMG – they look like f**king movie stars!

Being all. & blonde & (then ) immaculately outfitted -no doubt they stunned the short stocky Rissians eking out an existence in Stalingrad.

This will at best belong in some obscure list – stupid f**king – Muslim shit . No way am I ever going to go there & stand in the very town square & just be thankful.

Ps -I am sorry to hear about land mines anywhere .40 people per week are still kiLled / injured by Vietnam Lear la ndmiNes in Laos.

BannedbytheGuardian | May 23, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Vietnam era landmines . Auto correct is politically correct – it also just changed that to landlines !

BannedbytheGuardian | May 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Re Hizbollah I agree they have joined the Effiminate Squad . It is a Leb thing.

So…..how is Hezbollah going to blame this one on teh evil Jooooos?

(Sorry, couldn’t resist that one…..)

Richard Aubrey | May 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Been said that the Russians at Stalingrad didn’t deploy all they eventually had on scene. They let the Germans think they still had a chance, if only more men were put in.
IOW, a woodchipper.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Richard Aubrey. | May 24, 2013 at 3:32 am

    They were pretty stretched but they were set up to never allow them to cross The Volga.

    Prisoners were sent in & if they survived they could be freed. Now there is a method. I was fortunate enough to meet fighters & it was grim . But wow – just heroes . Russians had nothing but admiration for the German soldiers.

I would rather call it ‘Hezbollah’s Last Stand” if I could… sadly not going to be near that.

A more fitting example seems to be “Napoleans march on Moscow”. After that failed a number of puppet States rebelled and helped in a later battle knpwn as Waterloo

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