This report–in part based on a two-week trip to Lebanon in April 2015–examines the role of Hizballah in the ongoing Syrian civil war, particularly its relation with the wider Shi'i jihadi militia efforts in support of the Assad regime. The article also examines "martyrdom" commemorations for Hizballah fighters killed in Syria, with a collection of tombstones and posters in a variety of locations throughout Lebanon examined in parallel with online evidence.
HIZBALLAH AND THE SHI'I MILITIAS IN SYRIA: CUI BONO?
The involvement of Hizballah in the Syrian civil war has become one of the most well-known basic facts about the conflict. The group's intervention inside Syria first gained widespread public attention in the battle for Qusayr in Homs province–bordering Lebanon–in late May 2013, clearly playing a leading role ahead of the regular Syrian armed forces. Though the battle eventually resulted in defeat for the rebels, it came with a great number of casualties for Hizballah. The most notable subsequent campaigns for Hizballah in Syria have included clearing out rebel strongholds in rural Damascus province, such as Nabk and Yabroud, fighting in East Ghouta areas like al-Mliha, clearing out the rebels from Homs city, and the long-standing attempt by the Assad regime to encircle Aleppo city and destroy rebel forces by siege. However, it is erroneous to presume that Hizballah had not been involved in Syria prior to Qusayr: Rather, it should be dated to at least one year before Qusayr. Already prior to that engagement, pro-Hizballah media sources had openly proclaimed "martyrs" who died during the "undertaking of [their] jihadi and religious obligation in defending the site of Sayyida Zaynab–peace be upon her–in confronting the terrorist takfiri gangs."
The phrasing here to describe deployment to Syria is not repeated word-for-word every time a new Hizballah "martyr" is announced, but more or less the same themes are used: Namely, (i) the Hizballah fighters are engaging in an obligatory defensive jihad, above all for the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus, and (ii) they are fighting "takfiri" forces–that is, Sunni extremists who denounce as disbelievers/apostates others who profess to be Muslim, particularly those of non-Sunni sects like the Shi'a. These forces are also portrayed as a threat to Lebanon itself, not wholly without justification, considering that in Sunni jihadi discourse Lebanon is regarded as a part of al-Sham (greater Syria) and the same battlefield as the Syrian jihad. Indeed, some Lebanese Sunni jihadists have taken the opportunity to expand into Syria, which could allow them to grow in strength and conduct more sophisticated operations inside Lebanon in the future.
As of the time of writing, the Hizballah involvement in Syria continues unabated (the most recent prominent front being the Qalamoun area and the town of Zabadani bordering Lebanon) and was reaffirmed in a speech in late May 2015 from Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is playing more than ever on an ostensibly non-sectarian narrative of the growth of the Islamic State [IS] as a threat to all: "This is not a danger to the resistance in Lebanon; this is not a danger to a specific sect or part of a specific sect; this is not a danger to the regime in Syria or the government in Iraq or a group in Yemen. No, this is a danger to all." Invoking the example of Sunni tribesmen and insurgent groups in Iraq who initially coordinated with the Islamic State (IS) last year but were then subjugated in the face of demands by IS, he warned that being silent about or ignoring the threat of IS and Jabhat al-Nusra would not save one from being targeted by them, claiming that Sa'ad Hariri's Future Movement would be "the first victim" of this jihadist threat. Nasrallah also spoke openly of Hizballah involvement throughout Syria in support of regime forces, even in areas one might not associate with the group's presence, such as Dayr al-Zur and Hasakah in the east of the country.
Beyond the direct role of supplying fighters to participate in combat operations, Hizballah has also had an important part in establishing and coordinating the wider Shi'i jihad in Syria, which has now expanded its recruitment pool to include a contingent of Pakistani Shi'a fighters known as Liwa Zaynibiyoun. Hizballah's role as coordinator and advisor in the wider jihad fits in with its status as the chief proxy of Iran in the region, necessitating the preservation of the Assad regime to keep together the core of the Iranian-led "resistance" bloc. Specifically, Hizballah has helped to cultivate some splinters from Shi'i factions and trends not ideologically aligned with Iran, lending apparent credence to the spectrum of Shi'i militia brands in Syria as a pan-Shi'i volunteer movement. Two cases in point are the Iraqi group Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar–which first emerged in 2013–and the very limited presence of Amal Movement members in Syria. Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar is led by an Iraqi called Haydar al-Juburi, and many of its Iraqi rank-and-file–in keeping with the official promotion of loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr–are veterans from Jaysh al-Mahdi. Hizballah, however, helped to establish the group in the first place and helps organize and advise the formation at the official level. An interesting link was also demonstrated with an offer arranged with Hizballah in Dahiya (south Beirut) for this author to go to Sayyida Zaynab for a day trip under Hizballah protection with a chance to meet with Juburi, at a price of $1500 to be paid up-front.
The Amal Movement–ideologically loyal to Imam Mousa al-Sadr rather than Iran–is the largest Shi'i political group in Lebanon alongside Hizballah, and the two movements are officially in the same coalition alliance in the parliament. Yet the Amal Movement does not send fighters to Syria as a policy. Rather, those who have gone come under Hizballah's wing and tend to play a logistical backline role, numbering no more than 200 individuals according to one estimate.
The name and brand of Hizballah have also attracted other Shi'i formations to Syria and given rise to native "Syrian Hizballah" brands. One example of the former is the Iraqi group Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba ("The Movement of the Party of God of the Outstanding"). Like Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar, it emerged in Syria in 2013, mainly in the form of its militia brand Liwa Ammar ibn Yasir, which continues to play a notable role in the fighting in Aleppo province and, like Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar, has more recently claimed a part in the Idlib province fighting amid regime losses of the key Idlib provincial towns of Idlib city and Jisr al-Shughur. As for "Syrian Hizballah," perhaps the most interesting case is the Jaysh al-Imam al-Mahdi: al-Muqawama al-Wataniya al-Aqa'idiya fi Souriya (The Imam Mahdi Army: The National Ideological Resistance in Syria), combining Syrian nationalism and Hizballah branding. It is primarily based in Tartous, Hama and Aleppo provinces, including some recruitment from the two Twelver Shi'a villages of Nubl and Zahara. As the leader of the group put it in an October 2014 interview with this author regarding relations with Hizballah, "On the question of our relations with the heroes and mujahidin of Hizballah, we say with total pride that they are our model, whose manners, commitment, faith, and power–which are from trust in God and Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah (may God protect him)–we imitate. Their cooperation with us gives us power, constancy and faith in the divine victory." Syrian Hizballah insignia–combining Hizballah imagery with the Syrian national emblem–was also found by Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib province recently and advertised on the group's social media.
Any notions of demoralization and doubts within Hizballah about the validity of the war effort are quite mistaken for the time being. This is so despite the regime's recent losses in Idlib province to the rebels and in eastern Homs province to IS–which have seen the regime lose control of its entire eastern border with Iraq, the historic city of Palmyra that has played a notable role in the attempt by some pro-regime factions to stress distinct Syrian identity, and vital oil and gas reserves that have allowed the regime to distribute cheap fuel and electricity in areas under its control. These losses have brought to light some unease on the regime side regarding the viability of a long war to reunite the country under its rule, as well as concerns about overreliance on foreign forces.
For Hizballah, the perspective is quite different. First, and perhaps most broadly, in having intervened and helped the regime secure several vital areas in western Syria, the tables have been turned. No longer is the Syrian regime a regional power projecting its influence into Lebanon through support for "resistance" factions, but instead Hizballah is projecting its influence onto the territories of a Syrian regime unable to support itself without foreign aid and manpower. The rise of the "Syrian Hizballah" phenomenon in particular could signal a brand that has the ability to influence significantly what will remain of the regime's political landscape over the coming years, being seen as the salvation of the regime-held areas from total collapse. In this regard Hizballah is not alone, as other actors fielding irregular forces seek to increase their political clout within regime-held Syria. For instance, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party has its own militia forces and is consolidating its influence among Christians in Homs and Wadi al-Nasara along the border with Lebanon.
Other perceived benefits for Hizballah include the potential to open up a new front against Israel in the Golan area in keeping with the group's projection of itself as a "resistance" force. In turn, Israel has recognized the threat through airstrikes targeting Hizballah in Syria–the most-well known incident taking out Imad Mughniyah's son Jihad in Quneitra in January 2015. Further, as an adherent of Iran's revolutionary ideology of absolute wilayat al-faqih ("guardianship of the jurist," devised by Ayatollah Khomeini), Hizballah is devoted to spreading these ideals among the Shi'a worldwide. One of the ways to accomplish this goal is to portray itself and Iran as the leaders and protectors of the Shi'a in the region. Though Shi'i clerical views on fighting in Syria have by no means been monolithic (with lack of support from both Ayatollah Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr), notions of shrine defense have an undeniable popular appeal; and with the rise of IS in both Syria and Iraq with its genocidal views towards the Shi'a, the idea that–like it or not–Shi'a must seek the help of Iran and aligned forces to combat the existential threat has gained increasing currency.
In a similar vein, on the home front in Lebanon, Hizballah has the ability to feed a narrative to minority populations in particular that only it can protect them from the threats over the border. Christians above all have been a key target of this Hizballah outreach, and emphasis on solidarity with Christians in Syria and Lebanon has been a strong theme of its discourse. The result is a degree of success in the appeal of the Hizballah-affiliated Saraya al-Muqawama ("Resistance Brigades") in Christian localities such as Ras Baalbek along the border with Syria. Lacking competition from its March 14 rivals to offer military protection to these communities, Hizballah finds many residents of these areas willing to turn to it for support, whatever the suspicions regarding Hizballah's relationship with the Syrian regime, the nature of its intervention in Syria, and past bitter memories of the Lebanese civil war.
In short, from Hizballah's standpoint of extending its influence at home and abroad, the intervention in the Syrian civil war should be seen as more of a net benefit, in spite of the casualties the group has sustained in the fighting. There is no sign of internal fragmentation here comparable to the growing (though by no means yet fatal) hints of trouble within the Assad regime's constituencies regarding the war as the defensive lines increasingly retreat from peripheries to consolidate the rump state. To consider the issue of Hizballah casualties in greater depth and its impact, it is necessary to examine the culture of "martyrdom" surrounding the fallen Hizballah fighters, both in the online realm and on the ground in Lebanon.
THE HIZBALLAH "MARTYRS" OF SYRIA: TOMBSTONES, POSTERS, AND ONLINE GLORIFICATION
The total number of Hizballah "martyrs" killed in Syria, like the question of the total number of Hizballah fighters in Syria at a given time, remains a controversial issue. Numbers could be inflated or minimized for a variety of reasons. For example, critics of Hizballah within Lebanon may overstate the number of fighters killed to make out that Syria is proving to be Hizballah's "Vietnam"–a lengthy campaign with numerous casualties but ultimately no strategic gains. In this case, estimates for slain Hizballah fighters are regularly given as at least 1,000. Conversely, Hizballah members and pro-Hizballah sources may understate the number of casualties, aware of some of the sensitivities regarding numbers of dead. Sources on both sides may overstate the number of Hizballah fighters in Syria too, exaggerating for their own polemical reasons the role of Hizballah in the war–the pro-Hizballah side to portray the group as the vital salvation for Syria in the face of the deemed takfiri threat, the anti-Hizballah side to lambast what is seen as the disproportionate attention given to Sunni foreign fighters.
To give examples of two contrasting estimates of "martyrs" and fighters in Syria from Hizballah sources, the Hizballah fighter from the southern village of Abba who has fought in Qalamoun claimed only 200 Hizballah fighters have been killed in Syria, with 3,000 wounded, while the total number of Hizballah fighters in Syria was claimed to be 10,000 with 1,700 deployed in the current Qalamoun offensive. A local with family connections involved in the Hizballah war effort in Aleppo and Damascus estimated 500 "martyrs" in Syria, and put the number of Hizballah fighters currently in Syria at 2,000-3,000. Though the following numbers may seem a little arbitrary, this author estimates 2,000-5,000 Hizballah fighters in Syria at present and 500-1,000 "martyrs." For the active fighters, periods of rotation between off-duty and call-up to the frontlines lasting up to 6 months are quite normal.
As mentioned above, commemoration of the "martyrs" takes place in the online realm and on the ground in Lebanon, naturally with considerable overlap between the two fields (e.g., uploading photos of the tombstones of individual fighters onto social media). What is striking, in contrast to the often patchy biographies and photographic records of Sunni jihadi "martyrs" (particularly the non-Westerners with sole identification by kunya or a nickname), is the level of individualization of coverage of the fallen fighters. For many of the faces and names photographed and recorded by this author, one can find a Facebook page dedicated to each individual, featuring a range of photos including combat engagements in Syria, earlier years of life, and portraits with family members. To reinforce the commemoration of the "martyrs," it is common for there to be remembrances at certain intervals of time from the date of the "martyrdom" of a fighter, most frequently an annual event.
Certain details regarding the "martyrdoms" though are generally kept obscure, foremost the location within Syria where the fighter was killed. This question seems to be widely considered a sensitive issue, and may have to do with the potential problem that location of death could challenge the key narrative of defending the Sayyida Zaynab shrine, if the fighter was killed in Aleppo, far removed from the Damascus area, for instance. Often, the place where a certain fighter was killed may only be known to the immediate family or fighters who have come from the same locality in Lebanon. In one case, when this author queried the mother grieving at the site of her son who was killed in Syria as to location of her son's "martyrdom," the query was readily answered but prompted a rebuke from the author's guide at the time (a local from Baalbek) on the grounds that one should not pose such a question. Thus, determining location of "martyrdom" must frequently rely on logical inference, which is not always a difficult task. For example, the spike in declared "martyrs" in mid to late May 2013 can reliably be attributed to the battle of Qusayr, and the spike in May 2015 can be attributed to the battle of Qalamoun. In the case of these engagements, located as they are on the border with Lebanon, Hizballah can justify the deaths more easily as part of the additional narrative of defending Lebanon's borders, which is not entirely divorced from reality.
Three main locations for Hizballah gravesites and posters commemorating the "martyrs" are to be found within Lebanon–the cemeteries of the southern villages, the men's section of the Sayyida Khawla bint Husayn shrine in Baalbek of the Beqaa Valley, and the Dahiya suburbs of southern Beirut–all areas of strong Hizballah influence. Of these places, the southern villages are the most reliable for determining a fighter's origin–if a fighter is buried in the cemetery of village X in the south, it is almost certain that he came from that village. In contrast, in the Dahiya cemeteries and the Sayyida Khawla shrine, many Hizballah "martyrs" who died in Syria are commemorated who did not come from these areas: in the case of the Dahiya cemeteries, the connection is usually that the "martyr" lived in the suburbs for employment or other reasons. In some cases in the Sayyida Khawla shrine, overlap exists with already existing local gravesites elsewhere for these fallen Hizballah fighters. Further, not all those commemorated with posters at Sayyida Khawla are Hizballah fighters killed in Syria. Nonetheless, given that the Beqaa Valley is where Hizballah influence is strongest in the country, estimates given for Hizballah fighters from the Baalbek area killed in Syria are particularly high. For example, one local guiding pilgrims at the Sayyida Khawla shrine estimated that 100-200 Hizballah fighters from the Baalbek area have been killed in Syria, the former number also given by the author's guide from Baalbek. For the southern villages, one normally counts in the single digits per village, and the "martyrs" often have distinguished decoration and pride of place at the local cemetery.
What follows in the appendix is a sample of photographs of grave sites and posters for Hizballah fighters killed in Syria, corroborated and supplemented with further information where appropriate with online information.
A glance at the rate and locations of Hizballah "martyrdoms" in Syria as well as an assessment of the group's wider role in the conflict illustrate that it remains the most important Iranian proxy actor in the pushback against the insurgency. The author's view is that this state of affairs will remain so for the foreseeable future, primarily because for Hizballah's ideological and expansion of influence purposes, the intervention is beneficial, as outlined above. Of course, that should come as no surprise–the group remains the best established, most enduring, and most experienced of Iran's proxies, and it has the strongest connections to the Assad regime. Even taking the lowest numbers for estimates of the number of fallen fighters and what can be accessed from open source data, the figures far exceed "martyrs" from other Iranian proxies in the Syrian civil war. For comparison, Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba–a major Iraqi supplier of fighters–officially claims a total of only 38 "martyrs" in Syria.
In this regard, the growing "internationalization" of the Shi'i jihad with the involvement of Afghan and Pakistani Shi'i fighters in Syria should not be taken as a sign of growing Hizballah war weariness, but if a form of compensation, it is actually making up for the withdrawal of large numbers of Iraqi fighters to their own home front. As for the reemergence and increasing presence of some of the Iraqi militia brands, that should primarily be seen in light of relative "stabilization" of the Iraqi front in the sense that IS is no longer considered to pose an immediate existential threat to Baghdad and Shi'i holy sites in the country, allowing space for many fighters to redeploy to Syria and for more coordination between units in the two countries. In short, Hizballah remains king of the Iranian proxies operating in Syria.
APPENDIX: SELECTION OF HIZBALLAH "MARTYRS' IN THE SOUTH, BEQAA VALLEY AND DAHIYA
Note: All photos here are the author's own unless otherwise stated.
Name: Mohsen Samir Beru
Date of death: May 19, 2013
Abba village is perhaps most well-known in Hizballah "martyrdom" circles for the Tarhini brothers: Abbas Ali Tarhini and Haydar Ali Tarhini. Apparently Hizballah had tried to prevent Haydar from joining the frontlines on account of his brother's death.
Name: Abbas Ali Tarhini
Date of death: May 25, 2013
Name: Haydar Ali Tarhini
Date of death: March 16, 2014
Location: Yabroud, Qalamoun
|Name||Date of Death||Location|
|Abbas Ibrahim Tarhini||June 24, 2013||Damascus|
|Muhammad Ibrahim Tarhini||April 8, 2014||Rankous, Qalamoun|
Name: Hassan Muhammad Mar'i
Date of death: November 15, 2013
Location: Qara, Qalamoun/Damascus
Name: Hassan Ali Fahas
Date of death (announced): December 7, 2014
Name: Muhammad Habib Mazeh
Date of death: March 8, 2014
Dayr Qanoun al-Nahr
Name: Muhammad Jawad Othman
Date of death: April 11, 2014
Location: Sarkha-Rankous hills, Qalamoun
Name: Hamza Wajih Zalzali
Date of death: September 24, 2014
Location: Qalamoun (?)
|Name||Date of death||Location|
|Abbas Samir Qutush||April 27, 2014||Aleppo|
|Haydar al-Haj Ali||April 15, 2013||N/A|
|Qasim Muhammad Sulayman||June 27, 2014 (announced)||Qalamoun (?)|
|Hassan Adnan Hamadi||June 26, 2014||Qalamoun (?)|
|Yusuf Naji||November 23, 2013||East Ghouta|
|Haydar Kalut||November 25, 2013 (announced)||N/A|
|Bilal Muhammad Kasirwani||July 14, 2014 (announced)||Qalamoun|
|Al-Haj Ahmad Salum||July 24, 2013 (announced)||N/A|
|Muhammad Ali al-Haj Ali||November 25, 2013 (announced)||N/A|
Name: Nadim Muhammad al-Maqdad
Date of death (announced): July 14, 2014
Location: Syria-Lebanon border areas (Qalamoun)
Name: Muhammad Fu'ad Rabah
Date of death: May 19, 2013
Name: Ali Abbas Houri
Date of death: March 15, 2014
Name: Hamza Ibrahim Haydar
Date of death: June 29, 2013
Location: al-Khalidiya, Homs
Sayyida Khawla Shrine (Baalbek) and Dahiya Cemeteries
One of the large placards on display at the shrine for a fighter killed in Syria, with testament on visiting Sayyida Zaynab shrine. This commemorates one Hassan Ahmad Kan'an (originally from the Baalbek district), who died on July 19, 2013, in the Aleppo area.
Some of the smaller posters for Hizballah "martyrs" on display at the shrine. The main one of interest here is Ali Muslim Wahbi (bottom right), whose tombstone is located in one of the Dahiya cemeteries. He was killed on July 19, 2013, in Aleppo area alongside Hassan Ahmad Kan'an. Originally from the south Lebanon locality of Mees al-Jabal, he was presumably buried in Dahiya because he had been living there.
Ali Muslim Wahbi's tomb in Dahiya.
One of the cemeteries in Dahiya, dedicated to Hizballah fighters killed in Syria.
 E.g., "Al-Duwair Has Buried the Mujahid Martyr Ibrahim Jawdat Qandu," Yasour, April 16, 2013, http://www.yasour.org/2012/list.php?go=fullnews&newsid=21278.
 It should be noted that new "martyrdom" notices posted on pro-Hizballah sites such as http://www.southlebanon.org continue to feature regularly the Sayyida Zaynab shrine, along with the slogan Labbayk ya Zaynab ("At your service, oh Zaynab"). E.g.,
"The Locality of Majdal Salm Presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Jihad Yusuf Maznir," South Lebanon, May 26, 2015, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/148654;
"The Locality of Rashaf Presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Ali Ahmad Yahya," South Lebanon, May 25, 2015, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/148485;
"The Islamic Resistance Presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Ali Yassin Hamid," South Lebanon, May 22, 2015, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/148245.
 Two notable cases are Jamaat Jund al-Sham and the Abdallah Azzam Brigades. The former is now defunct and was based in the Krak des Chevaliers in Homs province before being driven out by the regime in March 2014. The Abdallah Azzam Brigades has only advertised its involvement in unspecified locations in Syria.
 "Speech by Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah in Commemoration of Id al-Muqawama wa al-Tahrir," Mohamed Ouadi [Youtube channel], May 24, 2015,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr8oeY3qM7o.
 Ibid. Interestingly, the renewed offensives by the Islamic State to take Hasakah city from regime forces have also seen reports of Iraqi Shi'a militia involvement in the pushback: For example, the pro-Assad "Hasakah Now" news page on Facebook reported on June 27, 2015, coordination between the Syrian army, National Defense Forces, the "Islamic Resistance" (Hizballah), and the "Hashd Sha'abi" (Iraqi Shi'a militias): https://www.facebook.com/haske.alan/posts/967858533253785.
 "Liwa Zainebiyoun", Jihad-Intel Database, http://jihadintel.meforum.org/group/184/liwa-zainebiyoun.
 Conversation with Ali, a Hizballah fighter from Abba in south Lebanon who has fought in Qalamoun.
 "Victory and Constancy for al-Nujaba in Aleppo and Idlib Against the Criminal Terrorist Gangs," Nujaba official website, May 22, 2015, http://alnujaba.com/1171-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1%20%D9%88%D8%B5%D9%85%D9%88%D8%AF%20%D9%84%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AC%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A1%20%D9%81%D9%8A%20%D8%AD%D9%84%D8%A8%20%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%84%D8%A8%20%D8%B6%D8%AF%20%D8%B9%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%A8%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9.html; Ali Haydar (post on Facebook): "The secretary general for Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar Abu Shahid al-Juburi [Haydar al-Juburi] in the Jisr al-Shughur battles the national hospital to free the besieged members [of Assad's forces], and the secretary general for Liwa Dhu al-Fiqar confirmed to us that the military operations resulted in a success and that the members who were under siege were freed, confirming in his words: 'Our military operations will continue to liberate all areas in which armed men are present,' May 24, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006665737264&fref=ts. It should be noted more generally that the notion the Iraqi militias have completely/almost completely disappeared from Syria is erroneous. Other Iraqi militias such as Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (another Iranian proxy) and the Rapid Intervention Regiment continue to operate in Syria, though Hizballah is likely to have compensated for the withdrawal of many Iraqis back to the home front since summer 2014 by increasing its numbers in Syria.
 Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "The Return of Iraqi Shi'i Militias to Syria," Middle East Institute, March 16, 2015, http://www.mei.edu/content/at/return-iraqi-shi%E2%80%98i-militias-syria.
 Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Interview with Sayyid Hashim Muhammad Ali: Commander of the National Ideological Resistance in Syria," Syria Comment, October 15, 2014, http://www.aymennjawad.org/15499/interview-with-sayyid-hashim-muhammad-ali)n.
 Jabhat al-Nusra Idlib, "Some of the Slogans That Were Found in the Territory of the Village of Musibin," May 2015,https://twitter.com/ajaltamimi/status/598507851053568000. The insignia reads: "Hizballah: The Islamic Resistance in Syria. Labbayk ya Zaynab."
 The best example is the pro-Assad militia al-Muqawama al-Suriya ("The Syrian Resistance"), which portrays the Palmyran queen Zenobia who revolted against the Roman Empire as Antiquity's forbearer of Syrian resistance: e.g., Muqawama Suriya, "3000 Years of Resistance," April 2015,https://twitter.com/ajaltamimi/status/589098140717953024, featuring Zenobia on the far right.
 E.g., Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Muqawama Suriya Statement: Loss of Jisr al-Shughur: Translation and Analysis," April 26, 2015,http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/muqawama-suriya-statement-loss-of-jisr-al-shughur.
 E.g., SSNP celebration in Hwash, Wadi al-Nasara, for Re-election of Assad as president of Syria, June 6, 2014, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=777064835661221&id=204829632884747.
 Commemorated in a song from pro-Hizballah singer Ali Barakat, "I Am Jihad, Son of Imad," Youtube, January 20, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNGNEFIPiyM.
 This goes in parallel with a critical perception of the U.S. response to the crisis in Iraq. Whereas Iran is seen as having stepped in immediately to offer support without conditions, the United States is criticized for dallying and making support conditional on political changes in Baghdad.
 E.g., Sam Dagher, "Middle East Christians Trapped by Islamist Extremists Form Alliances with Former Foes," Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2015,http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-middle-easts-christians-are-trapped-by-extremists-1428978850; Anne Barnard, "Clashes on Syrian Border Split Lebanese Town," New York Times, November 1, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/world/clashes-on-syrian-border-split-lebanese-town.html.
 In Lebanon itself, the latest polling data suggest solid majority support among the Shi'a for the Syria intervention: in a July 2015 Hayya Bina poll of Lebanese Shi'a, 78.7 percent of respondents expressed strong support or support for the Hizballah war effort in Syria. Further, a majority of respondents (71 percent) say that the reason Hizballah is fighting in Syria is to protect Lebanon, and most say they feel more secure because of Hizballah's involvement in Syria: "15 Questions for the Lebanese Shia Community,"Hayabina.org, July 2015, http://www.shiawatch.com/public/uploads/files/15-Questions-Lebanese-Shia-Community%20[ShiaWatch%20Alert-38].pdf, pp. 83-6.
 E.g., Conversation with a Canadian diplomat based in Beirut, May 2015.
 Testimony of Ali the Hizballah fighter from Abba.
 Interestingly, this author observed pilgrims at the shrine from as far afield as Nigeria. Considering Hizballah's grip on Baalbek and influence on the shrine, one can reasonably deduce these pilgrimages as part of Hizballah networking and outreach in West Africa.
 Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Interview with the Leader of Harakat al-Nujaba: Translation and Analysis," April 28, 2015, http://www.aymennjawad.org/2015/04/interview-with-the-leader-of-harakat-al-nujaba.
 Photo of his tombstone from Facebook page dedicated to him: "Page for the Martyr Muhsin Samir Beru- Hasan al-Mujtaba," September 19, 2013,https://www.facebook.com/SfhtAlshhydMhsnBrwHsnAlmjtby/posts/162989500568551.
 "The Family of the Martyr Beru Celebrates the Victory over the Takfiris in Qusayr," al-Ahed News, June 5, 2013, http://www.alahednews.com.lb/fastnewsdetails.php?fstid=139955#.VWjz8s-qqkp.
 "Mothers of Hizballah Members Sign a Document Leasing Their Children," Orient News, March 29, 2014, http://www.orient-news.net/index.php?page=news_show&id=8390&%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AA_%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B5%D8%B1_%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87_%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%82%D8%B9%D9%86_%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%82%D8%A9_%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%84_%D8%B9%D9%86_%D8%A3%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87%D9%86.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "Page for the Blessed Martyr Abbas Ali Tarhini- Sayyid Yasir," May 25, 2015,https://www.facebook.com/sydyasser/photos/a.357138457760762.1073741829.316704505137491/538234752984464/?type=1&theater.
 Instagram post, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:QoMk4HJbQOgJ:pinsta.me/martyrs_hezbullah+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=jo @martyrs_hezbullah, February 26, 2015. Logically corroborated by the date of his death, which came at the time of a regime-Hizballah offensive on Yabroud, whose capture was confirmed by March 17, 2014: "Syrian Army Captures Strategic Border Town," Al-Jazeera English, March 17, 2014,http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/03/syrian-army-captures-strategic-border-town-20143167587954232.html.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Mujahid Martyr Abbas Ibrahim Tarhini," May 13, 2014,https://www.facebook.com/714462828595129/photos/pb.714462828595129.-2207520000.1432947527./739988252709253/?type=3&theater.
 "Abbas Tarhini and Nizar Beiruti: Killed in Damascus or Abra?" Middle East Transparent, June 26, 2013, http://www.middleeasttransparent.com/spip.php?article22625.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Mujahid Martyr Muhammad Ibrahim Tarhini," March 15, 2015,https://www.facebook.com/1483760961838260/photos/pb.1483760961838260.-2207520000.1432946074./1602082533339435/?type=3&theater.
 "A new person killed for Halish: The Rafidite criminal Muhammad Ibrahim Tarhini, from the locality of 'Abba in south Lebanon, he was trampled upon in Damascus countryside [Reef Damascus]," @syria_homs1, April 9, 2014, https://twitter.com/syria_homs1/status/453853206896836608. Note that "Halish" is based on the derogatory Arabic term for the Islamic State: Da'ish. The date of death suggests he died during the successful regime-Hizballah offensive on Rankous. A pro-Hizballah page on Facebook entitled "Martyrs Blog" reports just that: "From the last mission for the commanding martyr Muhammad Ibrahim Tarhini (Sayyid Amjad), during which he was martyred on the hills of Rankous," November 18, 2014,https://www.facebook.com/holymartyres/photos/a.1485849681699285.1073741828.1485844235033163/1508904729393780/?type=1&theater.
 "A new corpse for Hizballat [derogatory for Hizballah]: the Rafidite pig Hassan Muhammad Mari', from the southern locality of Jebchit. He was trampled upon in Reef Damascus. To hell," @syria_homs1, November 16, 2013, https://twitter.com/syria_homs1/status/401707906216648705. The time of his death suggests coincidence with the offensive on Qara in Qalamoun. Conversely, the site South Lebanon, taking the notification of his funeral literally, suggests he actually died in the Sayyida Zaynab area in Damascus, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/98148.
 From Facebook page: "The Martyr Husayn Ali al-Hillani: Revenge of God," December 7, 2014,https://www.facebook.com/Shahid.Hussein.Hillani/posts/367936843381066 cf. "The Locality of Jebchit Presents to You the Commander Martyr Sayyid Hassan Ali Fahas Abu al-Fadl," South Lebanon, December 7, 2014, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/134961.
 Ibid. The site Nabatieh News Network features an obituary to him mentioning that he fought in the battle for Qusayr and had been serving in Aleppo for a year prior to his death, December 9, 2014, http://nn-lb.com/news.php?go=fullnews&newsid=1702.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Mujahid Martyr Muhammad Jawad Othman- Dhu al-Fiqar," September 26, 2014, https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1478388832427548&theater.
 "A new person killed for Halish: the Rafidite criminal Hamza Wajih Zalzali, from the locality of Dayr Qanoun al-Nahr in Lebanon. He was trampled upon in Qalamoun, Reef Damascus," @syria_homs1, October 11, 2014, https://twitter.com/syria_homs1/status/521038485273067520. Otherwise unconfirmed.
 Conversation with Abbas Samir Qutush's mother, who was mourning at his gravesite.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Martyr Haydar al-Haj Ali," May 13, 2013,https://www.facebook.com/589498094407565/photos/pb.589498094407565.-2207520000.1433005530./600065033350871/?type=3&theater.
 "Al-Nabatiya presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Qasim Suleiman," South Lebanon, June 27, 2014, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/114775.
 Forum posting, muslm.org, June 29, 2014, http://www.muslm.org/vb/printthread.php?t=417612&pp=5&page=3247.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Heroic Martyr Hassan Adnan Hamadi," https://www.facebook.com/7ajhassanhamadi.
 Forum posting, Muntada al-Fitn, June 30, 2014, http://alfetn.123.st/t16898-topic.
 From a Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Knight of Karbala the Martyr Yusuf Naji- Husayn Hijazi," January 20, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=191609057712598&story_fbid=334289960111173.
 "The Islamic Resistance Presents to the Master of the Age and Era the Martyr of Zaynab Haydar Ali Kalut," South Lebanon, November 25, 2013,http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/99000.
 "Nabatiya Presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Bilal Muhammad Kaserwani," South Lebanon, July 14, 2014, http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/118052.
 "In photos, Hizballah Mourns 6 Mujahidin Who Fell While Resisting Nusra Attack on Beqaa Villages," Sham Times, July 14, 2014, https://www.shaamtimes.net/news-detailz.php?id=8311.
 "The Islamic Resistance Presents to You the Martyr of Zaynab the Commander al-Haj Ahmad Salum (Abu Ali Mahdi)," South Lebanon, July 24, 2013,http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/79071.
 "The Islamic Resistance Presents to the Master of the Age and Era the Martyr of Zaynab Muhammad Ali al-Haj Ali," South Lebanon, November 25, 2013,http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/99001.
 "The Locality of Muqna of the Beqaa Valley presents to You the Mujahid Martyr Nadim Muhammad al-Maqdad: Abu Muhammad," South Lebanon, July 14, 2014,http://www.southlebanon.org/archives/118054.
 "Lebanese Hizballah Mourns a Group of Its Fighters Who Were Martyred in Syria," AhlulBayt News Agency, July 15, 2014, http://ar.abna24.com/service/middle-east-lebonan-palestine/archive/2014/07/15/624171/story.html.
 From a Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Commander Martyr Muhammad Fu'ad Rabah,"https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%87%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D9%81%D8%A4%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%ADal-shahid-mohammad-rabah/471223189657018.
 From a Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Commander Martyr Ali Abbas Houri- Mahdi," November 15, 2014,https://www.facebook.com/Alihourimadi/photos/pb.1412265245699176.-2207520000.1432367790./1503168169942216/?type=3&theater.
 Implied by a post on ibid. declaring that "the Qalamoun battle has ended," with thanks offered to Ali Houri and a series of photos including his own portrait, April 16, 2014,https://www.facebook.com/Alihourimadi/photos/a.1412327469026287.1073741829.1412265245699176/1422169231375444/.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Mujahid Commander Martyr Hamza Ibrahim Haydar- al-Haj Abu Mustafa,"https://www.facebook.com/AlshhydAlmjahdAlqaydHmztAbrahymHydrAbwbas.
 "For the First Time in Video, Live Battles of Hizballah in al-Khalidiya Neighborhood in Homs," Al-Alam, September 14, 2014, http://www.alalam.ir/news/1631865.
 From Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Commander Martyr Hassan Ahmad Kan'an," February 19, 2015,https://www.facebook.com/241159386045853/photos/a.253320924829699.1073741829.241159386045853/404123243082799/?type=1&theater, tying the jihad effort there to saving the villages of Nubl and Zahara. For date of death: https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%87%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AF-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D9%83%D9%86%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%83/241159386045853. For origin: "The Mujahid Martyr Hassan Ahmad Kan'an," Martyrs of Baalbek, August 10, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9lmWrdgpVM.
 From a Facebook page dedicated to him: "The Mujahid Martyr Ali Muslim Wehbe- Jihad," February 20, 2015,https://www.facebook.com/317046885161451/photos/a.317069161825890.1073741828.317046885161451/343385229194283/?type=1&theater.
 "Burial of the Mujahid Martyr Ali Muslim Wehbe in His Last Abode in the Martyrs Garden in Beirut," Wadi Press, July 21, 2013, http://www.wadipress.com/2014/?p=3134.