Uprising in Syria puts Hezbollah on the defensive
Published July 19, 2012
SIDON, Lebanon – On a main road connecting the Lebanese capital with the south, Sheik Ahmad Assir kneels under a blazing sun to pray and then sits down with supporters at his anti-Hezbollah protest camp and launches into a new tirade against Lebanon's most powerful and well-armed force.
"By God, Nasrallah, I will not let you sleep at night," he vows in a fiery speech, addressing Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Few in Lebanon have dared take on the Shiite militant group in such a public way, but Assir, a hardline Sunni cleric, senses weakness. He sees a chance to push back against Hezbollah's domination of the country's politics.
The growing popularity among some Sunnis of the previously little known local cleric is a sign of how vulnerable Hezbollah has become as it faces the possibility of the downfall of its crucial ally, President Bashar Assad in Syria. Its reputation as a popular resistance movement has already taken a severe beating for siding with Syria against the anti-Assad uprising even after it supported Arab revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Bahrain.