Toby Matthiesen is a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. His book Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t will be published by Stanford University Press in July 2013.
Pictures of Hezbollah militants standing amid the ruins of al-Qusayr, the former Syrian rebel stronghold, have offered dramatic evidence of the extent to which foreign Shia fighters are shifting the course of the Syrian war. But Bashar al-Assad is head of an ostensibly secular regime and many Shia think that Alawites are heretics. Why exactly is Hezbollah getting involved, and is this conflict really rooted in religion?