Assad's dilemma is complicated by the fact that the Hezbollah guerrillas who have made occupation of south Lebanon untenable for Israel, far from content to be seen as pawns of Damascus, have their own agenda at odds with Syria's. "While Syria wants to negotiate Israeli withdrawal as part of a package that includes the Golan Heights, Hezbollah would prefer a unilateral withdrawal that would allow them to proclaim themselves the first army ever to have liberated Arab territory from Israeli control," says MacLeod. "But despite a potential conflict with Syria, Hezbollah's enjoying a surge of support throughout the Arab world Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdallah recently rushed to Beirut to meet with the movement's leaders, suggesting there's strong grassroots support for the guerrillas throughout the Middle East."
Even if Israel is making moves toward realizing Hezbollah's prime demand, its air strikes on the guerrilla movement's positions Monday highlighted the fact that it's not retreating with its tail between its legs, and will extract fearsome retribution for any attacks across its northern border. But such attacks may be unlikely even without Syria leaning on the guerrillas, since Hezbollah would lose much of its Lebanese public support if it attacks the Israelis after they've withdrawn. And the realization that peace in Lebanon may be possible without it may yet spur Damascus back to the negotiating table with Israel.