By Hanin Ghaddat – June 14, 2013 – NOWMEDIA –  It indicates a whole new Iranian approach in the region. Before Qusayr, Hezbollah had always tried to mask its military involvement in Syria. It had also tried everything to keep the Sunni-Shiite tension under the lid by either ignoring it, or claiming their irresponsibility for tensions or clashes. Something changed drastically after Qusayr.

Hezbollah decided to lose its resistance mask and jump fearlessly into the sectarian game. The main goal for Iran now is to maintain and strengthen its regional influence spreading through Syria to neighboring countries, mainly Lebanon and Iraq. It is indeed a battle of influence in order to gain credibility as the regional power. Hezbollah, being Iran’s army in the region, moved to this front.

Hezbollah is done with making excuses for its involvement in Syria, not because they’re not credible anymore. On the contrary, many Shiites believe Hezbollah’s religious and political excuses. Many genuinely believe in the ‘Armageddon’ narrative, and they think this is the battle for the appearance of Imam al Mahdi. Others are just afraid of the Salafists who are “coming to Lebanon to launch a war against the Shiites,” as Hezbollah has warned them.

But Hezbollah has bigger plans. They have reached other areas deeper in Syria, and the battles have started in Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus. This level of engagement could not be justified by the old rhetoric of protecting the Al-Sayyeda Zeinab shrine in Damascus, or the Shiite villages along the borders.

The new battle now requires an aggressive and assertive approach – one that does not tolerate opposition or any hindrances. In fact, Iran has decided to take over Syria without hiding behind the Assad regime’s forces. Iran is openly fighting the battle in Syria and has actually fulfilled its promises, unlike the Syrian opposition and rebel “friends” who have only been inconsistent in their support.

The result is the current shift of balance in favor of Assad – or more precisely, Iran. The West has been wasting time on a negotiated settlement that is not going to work after so much bloodshed. Geneva 2.0 has failed before it even started. Meanwhile, Iran has been sending money, arms, and fighters – and Russia has been playing everyone and delaying any peaceful initiative until the balance of power shifts on the ground. Today all eyes are cast on Aleppo which will probably be the site of a very decisive battle. Aleppo is a crossroads for Syria, and the outcome will draw the new map of influence in the region. Of course, Aleppo is not Qusayr, and Jabhat al-Nusra has made Aleppo its headquarters and center of influence. They won’t give it up without a fierce battle, yet Hezbollah is also determined to win.

It might take several brutal months and much more bloodshed. Even more, the violence and Sunni-Shiite tension will increase and spread in neighboring counties. Lebanon is already part of this. The Beqaa region has already been outside the Lebanese state’s authority. The Syrian regime bombs Lebanese villages and towns in the Beqaaanytime they please, while Hezbollah kills or kidnaps whoever they want and no one interferes or even condemns it.

Lebanon’s Beqaa and north has already been abandoned by the Lebanese state. The Beqaa has been handed over to Hezbollah while the north is just left to fight its own battles of poverty, refugees, and border security.

What we will probably see in a few months is a more powerful Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, and a more influential Iran in the region. This cannot be the United States’ preferred scenario. If the US thinks that by not intervening, Hezbollah and al-Nusra (their two worst terrorist groups) are going to fight each other until they’re both weakened – well, its time policy-makers think again. This scenario is not realistic because Iran will eventually win. And the price will be heavy on all of us, including the US.

Meanwhile, radical Islam will flourish in the region as most Sunnis in the Gulf countries will be charged with sectarian hatred. What we watched in Kuwait yesterday is probably just a small example of what’s ahead. A charged and Islamicized Gulf is also not what the US needs. An American military interference of some sort has become necessary; if not for moral and humanitarian reasons, then for mere political interests. The battle for Aleppo is about to start and Iran is more than ready. It is time to face reality.

Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW. She tweets @haningdr