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Syria’s Sect-coded Conflict: From Hezbollah’s Top-down Instrumentalization of Sectarian Identity to Its Candid Geopolitical Confrontation

Hadi Wahab


This article surveys Hezbollah’s sectarian mobilization to justify its early engagement in Syria’s civil war for what was an intervention in a geopolitical confrontation to implement its agenda in coordination with its regional allies. Generally speaking, sectarian relations can be driven from both above as well as below. The article first argues that Hezbollah is a sectarian party whose timing of emergence paralleled with the rise of the Shia in Lebanon and the adjoining region. It contends that Hezbollah instrumentalized its sectarian identity and adopted a sectarian mobilization policy ahead of its engagement in Syria’s conflict. However, as its fighters were expanding across the country, Hezbollah’s sectarian discourse altered to a more politics-centric discourse. Therefore, this article concludes that the falsely framed sectarian conflict in Syria is sect-coded, Hezbollah adopted a top-down politicization of sectarian identity, and its primary aim was to prevent the regime’s collapse, which would have tilted the regional balance of power in favor of its rivals rather than seeking religious truths on Syria’s soil.

Keywords: Hezbollah, Syria, Sectarianism, Identity, Geopolitics, Shia

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pp. 149-167