Everyone Wants A Piece of Syria

The assassination of Hezbullah's operative Samir Kantar in Syria last week has sparked a heated debate about the circumstances surrounding his presence in Syria.

However, what is more important than the questions about what roles were assigned to Kantar, is the bigger geostrategic picture that is a key motive for the assassination.

Kantar had enjoyed a revered status despite never having been a major operational figure within Hezbullah ranks or the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon prior to that. 

He was only 16 when he was captured by Israel in 1979, before Hezbullah even existed.

His status was squarely the result of him being the longest serving Lebanese detainee in an Israeli prison, before his release through a prisoners' swap deal between Hezbullah and Israel.

The length of his imprisonment provided Hezbollah with an opportunity to paint him as a hero. 

The group capitalised on this symbolic status following the success of the swap deal in 2008.

Overnight, Kantar came to personify Hezbollah's message of resistance and resilience. 

It is this image that the group invoked when Kantar was sent to Syria following Hezbullah's military involvement in the country's civil war.

Hezbullah created what it viewed as a legitimate framework for its presence in Syria, by painting this intervention as part of its anti-Israeli resistance operation. 

Kantar was subsequently given the title of leader of the "Syrian resistance for the liberation of the Golan brigades".

According to this framework, Kantar's presence in Syria was part of Hezbullah's efforts 'to liberate' the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.

A closer inspection, however, would clearly show that Hezbullah’s actions in the Golan Heights have mainly targeted the Syrian opposition groups, not Israel.

Another argument suggested that Kantar, being Druze by birth, was playing a leading role in Hezbullah's attempts to reach out to the Druze community in the Golan Heights in order to gain a strategic foothold from which to attack Israel, but this argument does not hold much water.

Kantar was not necessarily the key figure in Hezbollah's outreach attempt. 

Courting the Druze community involves more than offering a symbolic religious token by a movement well known for its Iranian-inspired ideology.

A third scenario, behind the assassination of Kantar, as reported by local Lebanese media, does not absolve the Syrian regime from responsibility. 

Kantar, according to the Lebanese daily Annahar newspaper, might have been masterminding a large-scale operation against Israel that would have brought it into direct confrontation with the Syrian regime.

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