The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is
By Walid Phares, Ph.D.
In the next days a major battle in the War of Ideas will be unfolding worldwide and particularly through the international media. We are now witnessing a massive campaign by Hezbollah's strategic communication machine (as our Western jargon likes to describe it) to frame the outcome of the battle for Lebanon, significantly lost by the United States, the West and the forces of Democracies in the region. The main issue at hand in the Iranian funded war room is not about convincing the international community and the Arab and Muslim world that Hezbollah has defeated its opponents in that small but strategically located republic, but that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese are now firmly standing behind Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his vision for the future of the Eastern Mediterranean and probably the Greater Middle East.
The propaganda machine, living off Khomeinist Petrodollars, enlists not only the traditional Hezbollah outlets such as al Manar but also an networks of friends in the multi-layered world of the foreign press and active pens in a plethora of news rooms around the world. The power of the Iranian Oil lobbies is almost as influential as the power of the Wahabi Petro pressures group. We'll come back to revisit this world later.
In his more than significant speech today, secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah uncovered the bulk of his agenda for Lebanon, the region and perhaps his international open alignment with Tehran's ambitions. This speech, delivered after the invasion of West Beirut and southern Mount Lebanon and collapse of the Seniora Government is indeed a declaration of victory. Usually, Hezbollah's commander produces these benchmark-speeches when a new era is already underway. The first lesson thus is that the Tehran-backed militia in Lebanon has already scored its victory on the ground, in the institutions and diplomatically. What the political architects of the "axis" are working on as we write is a push to present the situation in Lebanon as marching towards stability and reconciliation. This is not unusual to "coups" aftermath. The winners always try to set the agenda of the debate and later on their pens will try to rewrite history. But one has to admit that Western public is hardly absorbing the too many sudden Lebanon-related events that took place over the last few weeks. Strategic realities were that Hezbollah and its allies overran Beirut and crumbled the foundations of the democratically elected Government of Fuad Seniora; the Lebanese Army headed by the now President of Lebanon, General Michel Sleiman did not confront Hezbollah then nor after; the March 14 coalition backing the Government couldn't resist Hezbollah without the protection by the Lebanese Army or a Western intervention; both needed moves didn't happen; hence the March 14 accepted to participate in conference in Doha to cut a deal with Hezbollah under the auspices of the Qatar regime, a friend of all, including more importantly of Tehran and Syria.
Now the reader can understand the rest of the story. In Qatar, it wasn't a national reconciliation that took place, but a crushing defeat to the March 14 coalition, which � rightly or wrongly � felt abandoned by Washington and by Arab moderates. Details will be reviewed later. The Qatari regime brokered a deal, saving the face of the anti-Syrian politicians and providing them with enough oxygen for a year or so. But the lion's share was granted to the Syro-Iranian forces in Lebanon. Hezbollah emerged as the main real power in Lebanon, with a veto power inside the Government, eleven ministers, the sanctity of its Iranian weapons and enough legitimacy to shield it from being disarmed at any time under UNSCR 1559. If this is not a astounding victory, I don't know how to describe it accurately.
And on top of it, Hezbollah welcomed � in fact hurried � the election of General Suleiman as the new President of the Republic. You don't need to be a political genius to figure out that Tehran would have shaken the Earth under Lebanon if the candidate was not who it wanted at this particular conjuncture. The rest is an amazing cooking of the story by the "axis kitchen." The version � available via the international news agencies and the networks it feeds � is a celestial tale: The Lebanese opposition (read Hezbollah) finally pressured the Government into making concessions; the Lebanese Army stood neutral between the "opposition" and the "loyalists;" a brotherly Arab initiative convinced "both parties" to come solve the problems calmly in Doha; hence both sides decided to make concessions and come up with a national reconciliation document. This version of the events would have needed an entire process of analysis but another rapid volley of events followed and shifted attention to the current stage of affairs.
As analysts were still evaluating the Hezbollah offensive, the March 14 weakening and the real attitudes of Washington and Paris leading to the Qatar meetings world attention was suddenly hijacked to Beirut were a Presidential election took place under the eyes of many diplomatic representatives from the Arab world and the West. How did the international community shift from supporting the Cedars Revolution to backing a renewed influence by Iran and Syria in Lebanon in few days? Well, the "story" rapidly moved to the rosy painting that, now Lebanon has a President and we shouldn't be looking back, meaning at how Hezbollah began the operations on May 7 leading to the crumbling of the Seniora Government and the coming of General Sleiman. Now "Peace" has come to Lebanon after assassinations and a summer war, so let's not look back at an era where Lebanon was a battlefield with Terrorism and its Iranian and Syrian backers.
The media coverage of these blitz-stories has moved even faster to re-baptize Hezbollah as a force of stability. Indeed, a respectable international English-broadcasting network, based out of Europe said today "Hezbollah head urges co-existence." A reminder of the Munich media coverage in the 1930s, today's depicting that the Doha declaration "saved the Peace of Lebanon," and that "Hezbollah got all what it wanted, it won't ask for more, is chilling. And who best than the Secretary General of the victorious organization to confirm our fears that the world is being duped on Lebanon, but public opinion is not being informed about it.
As carried live by Hezbollah-owned al Manar TV, and posted on its web site later, the speech by Sayyed Nasrallah today says it clearly:
We have won that war in Lebanon.
We have defeated the Democracy movement in this country and the Government it has produced.
The United States and its allies knows that they cannot defeat us in Lebanon or in Iran by military means.
We showed Washington that it cannot move forward with its freedom strategy, particularly from Lebanon.
We have now seized power in this country (Lebanon) but we don't have to make it formal.
The Lebanese Army will never be used to disarm us. Its commander, our ally, is now the President of the Republic.v
We will fight any international move to disarm us.
We will grow militarily in Lebanon with the backing of Iran, in parallel to the Lebanese Army.
We have offered a successful model of military confrontation, thus we won't accept diplomatic solutions.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue their Terror operations against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We support the armed insurrection against the political process in Iraq.
We are proud of being under the Vilayet e-Faqih of Iran, in other words, Jihadi-Khomeinist.
Obviously, these assertions are not well reported by the international media. Nasrallah said in his speech that "his wars" are "insuring peace." Probably many ears wants to hear the second part of his statement and certainly the oil-funded media consulting of the axis wants the West to hear that portion as well. We've seen this in Munich before.
Now to the main points of the speech:
1. Hezbollah "offers its Strategy" to all Arabs
Nasrallah said Hezbollah is as ready to fight in Lebanon as it was during the July 2006 war with Israel. He called on the "Arab Peoples and Governments to study the seriousness of the defense and liberation strategies of the organization and the new balance of power in Lebanon." In other words, the victory achieved in Lebanon against the democratically elected Government and the deterrence against the United Nations and the West is a strategic option to follow for all other radicals in the region. He predicted that because of these strategies, Hezbollah's prisoners in Israel will be returned soon.
2. Hezbollah's weapons are untouchable
He said: For what use were the other weapons in Lebanon? He meant the light weapons owned by Lebanese citizens not supporting Hezbollah. In other words Hezbollah cannot accept that any other citizen resistance to terror could form in Lebanon. The only "resistance" is Hezbollah and no other Lebanese group can arm itself against the Iranian-backed force. In addition, Nasrallah threatened that the Lebanese Government should not use its regular forces to settle scores with its opposition. In reality he meant that no Lebanese Government will be allowed to use the Army and the Security Forces to disarm Hezbollah. Explicitly he said: "The Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces cannot be used against Hezbollah (the so-called resistance)."
3. Hezbollah's friends
Nasrallah particularly thanked the Qatar's regime for the diplomatic help it extended. In fact Doha's representatives at the Security Council have indeed blocked every single attempt to take the Lebanese crisis to the Security Council and implement the various resolutions under Chapter 7 of the Charter. Qatar was the fastest regime to oppose the internationalization of the crisis when Hezbollah invaded Beirut. It stated that the crisis is exclusively internal, read Iran and Syria are not behind the offensive. So it was natural that Nasrallah would gratify Qatar, in addition to the warm thank you to the Iranian and Syrian regimes who "helped in producing Doha's agreement."
4. Sleiman in Hezbollah's eyes
Nasrallah said the election of General Sleiman as President "renews hopes among Lebanese for a new beginning. He added that Sleiman's inauguration speech "expresses the spirit of consensus." How to translate this Hezbollah admiration for the new President? It is simple: The General committed to protect the "resistance's" weapons, practically, the military power of Hezbollah. Better, the new President didn't even mention UNSCR 1559 which expressly calls for the disarming of militias, that is Hezbollah. Hence Nasrallah's satisfaction is understandable. Since September 2004, the Iranian funded militia lived in the uncertainty of a UN backed decommission of their arms. Now and for the next six years (Lebanon's Presidential term) the 30,000 missiles and rockets and the 300 millions Petrodollars (plus) will be under the protection of a new President and of perhaps a Hezbollah even more dominated cabinet as of 2009.
5. America's "dream" has been shattered
The conqueror of West Beirut and of Mount Lebanon in 2008 and the champion of the 2006 regional war, said his dream is to provide Lebanon with a "peaceful and calm summer" (sic) but "America's dream is for a summer war." He called all to "cooperate against the dreams of the enemy," hence assimilating the United States to an "enemy."
6. "Reconstruction and Violence" at the same time
Moving swiftly in an attempt to reconcile with the Hariri legacy, Nasrallah offered the supporters of the slain Prime Minister (mostly Sunnis who were attacked by Hezbollah few weeks ago), an opportunity to go back to the better era of the 1990s. "Rafiq Hariri," remarked the head of Hezbollah,"had a strategic thinking. His great mind was able to support the projects of "resistance" and "reconstruction". What Mr Nasrallah is hoping for is a change of policy by the Future Movement of his son Saad Hariri from opposing Syria and Iran to a new deal with the axis, whereby a Hariri Government would conduct business at will while the business of military force would be left exclusively to the pro-Iranian militia. For in the mind of Nasrallah, his forces would conduct wars -with all the subsequent destructions- and Beirut entrepreneurs would rebuild afterwards.
7. Hezbollah's sectarian clones
Uncovering the next stage of Hezbollah's agenda inside Lebanon, the master of the Party of Allah declared that not all 11 members of his bloc inside the next Lebanese Government will necessarily be from his organization or even Shiites. This statement is among the most important points made in the speech. To use his impressive quota in the forthcoming cabinet so that Hezbollah allies from the Sunni, Druze and Christian communities emerge in Government is a Machiavellian move. What better than non-Shia cabinet members promoting the Iranian group inside the country and worldwide?
8. Hezbollah will re-open the wounds later
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah paused long before he informed his audience that he will not open the wound now. He meant by "wound" the reasons for why he launched his attack on Beirut on May 7. He argued that reopening it now may inflame passions. He promised to address the matter in the era following the election of General Michel Sleiman "who obtained such a national, Arab and international support." An expert reading of Nasrallah's calibrated words tells us that he doesn't want to criticize further his enemies (most Sunnis, Druze and Christian leaders) at this particular time, but in fact he will come back to denounce them, and maybe more, later. Why? Because of a delicate calculation. Indeed, Hezbollah won a short military battle but was about top lose the long term one has events resumed. His battlefield surge was instantly transformed into a political victory in Doha by his friends in Qatar and his allies in Damascus and Tehran. He came back to Beirut to collect enormous dividends: 11 ministries in the Government, veto power, a friendly President and an insulted America. What else he could dream of at this stage? Hence, Nasrallah doesn't want to jeopardize this. If he reopen these "wounds" now, he will force his foes to re-engage in battle again, and this time Hezbollah may not keep all its credibility intact. Thus he will settle scores with his opponents at his discretion, later.
9. The real fear of Hezbollah: Lebanon's Army
In this speech, Nasrallah revealed the deepest secret his organization has kept for years from public debate: The fear that a confrontation between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah could take place. In contrast with most analysis on the subject, I have argued for years that if the Lebanese Army begins the process of disarming Hezbollah, unlike what most commentators and analysts have advanced, on a medium range the national Army will gradually isolate the radical group. That of course if this Army is backed by its commanders, its Government and the international community. Hezbollah intimidates Lebanon's politicians, Arab leaders, and has been successful in relatively defeating Israel psychologically. The suicide bombers of this organization have created a myth of invincibility since the massacre of the US Marines and French fusiliers in 1983. But ironically, in every time the heavily armed and hugely funded militia by Iran face off with other Lebanese, they weren't exactly a superpower. During Hezbollah's war against Israel's occupation in southern Lebanon, the group was not as successful against the local SLA militia then against Israeli media. In the recent incidents, Hezbollah might was repelled by Druze peasants and Nasrallah hesitated before he gave the orders to assault the Christian areas. A long occupation of Sunni neighborhood may not be very healthy for the Khomeinist militia. Regarding the Lebanese Army, surely Hezbollah can influence about 25% of the personnel to quit the institution if the Army is asked to contain the militia. But what about the remaining 75% of the officers and soldiers. It is not about the weapons it is about the emotions. It would be almost impossible for Tehran's militia in Lebanon to fight a core of the Lebanese Army in addition of a majority of the population, and win, despite the 30,000 rockets and their suicide bombers. Nasrallah knows it well, perhaps better than his enemies inside the country. Hence, his nightmare scenario isn't an Israel offensive or a US landing but simply a clash between the Lebanese Army and his forces. Thus this one single short sentence: "we want to save Lebanon (i.e. his own militia) from a fight between the Army and the Resistance (Hezbollah). In fact Nasrallah's real mega-victory was to neutralize the Lebanese Army by co-opting the election of its commander as the new President. Under this new equation, the Iranian militia in Lebanon won't fear a move by the Army.
10. Hezbollah, member in Iran's regime
Perhaps one of the most noticed statements made by Sayyed Nasrallah was his unequivocal admittance that he -and thus his party- are proud members of Iran's regime. "I am proud of being a member in the Vilayet e Faqih Party" declared the Hezbollah Secretary General in front of the international media, shattering every bit of questioning about his affiliation with the Khomeinist regime in Tehran. Observers may ask why would Nasrallah state in public -in an astounding way- that he is part of the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: Because he believe he won the war irreversibly and that the Cedars Revolution was crushed and the United States humiliated. Thus this is a victory speech where he can tell the world where his real affiliation is.
11. Hezbollah's road to power
In his speech Nasrallah also explained his road map to power in Lebanon. He said: "all victorious resistance movements in history either seized power or claimed it." But in a magnanimous gesture, the head of Hezbollah added "we are not interested in power and we don't want it. Now, how would experienced experts read this statement with enough background on the group? Just the opposite. Hezbollah is extremely interested in power and definitely wants it. If it is not surrendering one inch of the power it already has to the Lebanese Government, not decreasing its weaponry system and invading parts of Lebanon to expand, this definitely is the evidence that Nasrallah aim at supreme power in the country. But why is he not stating so? Because these types of totalitarian Jihadist forces won't declare their ultimate goals before they have reached them. If they do prematurely they will lose allies and unite their enemies. If anything, Nasrallah's statement about his disinterest in power indicates that the final victory was not achieved yet. This also indicates that there are enough forces inside Lebanon which still have the potential of countering and eventually reversing his group's grip on power.
12. Hezbollah losses
Interestingly, Nasrallah minimized the losses of his militia during the fights against fellow Lebanese, particularly in Mount Lebanon against the Druzes. he said his organization lost 14 "martyrs" and his allies from the Amal Movement, the Syrian National-Social Party, and others also lost fighters. Obviously, Sayyed Hassan is not being candid here. There were way more burial services in several villages and neighborhoods controlled by Hezbollah. According to Druze and Sunni sources and other observers, more than 70 armed elements from that militia were killed as they stormed the opponents positions. More than 14 were lost by Hezbollah on the unfamous "888 Hill," as sources said weeks ago. It is then to believe that the "Secretary General" doesn't want to reveal to the world, and his followers that -in a three days period- Hezbollah lost more fighters in battles against lightly armed citizens than against the mighty Israeli forces. Minimizing the losses to the extreme is indicative of a discovery made by the Iranian War room in Lebanon. Attacking Lebanon's civil society head on with sheer military power can be an unsustainable expedition.
13. Hezbollah doesn't need consensus on its weapons
Not only he asserted that he is part of Iran's regime (Wilayat al Faqih) but Nasrallah dismissed any Lebanese consensus on his organizations weapons. "The Resistance � i.e. Hezbollah � doesn't wait for national and political consensus but it carries weapons and march to implement the goals of liberation with arms and blood." This powerful statement is very clear: Hezbollah will not accept in any form or shape surrendering its weapons to any Lebanese Government until, of course, it becomes the Government. No democratic majority, no national consensus will remove Hezbollah weapons, as we understand Nasrallah's speech. Hence how many question marks must we put on the so-called "Doha Agreement" and on the statements made here and there by Western and Arab voices hoping Lebanon's dialogue and the newly elected President can convince the Iranian militia of Lebanon to ay down its weapons. I'd say too may.
14. No to US intervention, yes to Iran's
Going on the defensive, Nasrallah denied that his allies Iran and Syria are "imposing any decisions" on the organization. Then leaping on the offensive, he criticized his critics for not addressing the American and Western interference in the country. Such an assertion shows that Hezbollah wasn't so comfortable for being attacked as stooge of the Mullahs. The Party felt a growing discontent by a majority of Lebanese because of the collaboration with Tehran and Damascus regimes. Under the previous Syrian occupation of Lebanon 1976-2005 this "privileged" relationship with the axis was part of the de facto situation in the country. But Hezbollah abhorred the accusation, which since the departure of the "brotherly forces" was leveled against his leadership. In other words Nasrallah is attempting to bring the country back to a status quo ante. In his book, collaboration with the Syrian-Iranian axis is part of a needed strategy. But the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and their initiators, Washington and Paris, are to be considered as foes and unacceptable.
15. After Hezbollah, Gaza
After he asserted the victory of Hezbollah in Lebanon, against both his adversaries and Iran's opponents, Nasrallah underlined that his "strategy" in Lebanon has also been working in Gaza. In addition to fighting with Israel -which is the norm for radicals- it is in fact the crumbling of sitting authorities that constitute the "defense strategy" of Iran's allies. As in Gaza will be in Lebanon, meaning a coup, and as in Lebanon will be in Gaza, meaning future wars. More than ever the long range apparatus of Iran's regime on the Eastern Mediterranean seem to be centered on Hezbollah and Hamas and the basis for Tehran's forthcoming expansion are the rest of Lebanon and the West Bank.
16. Hezbollah's Iraq strategy
After Palestine, Nasrallah moved to Iraq to reveal clearly that Hezbollah is part of the insurgency against the Iraqi Government and the Coalition forces. In an unprecedented manner, the man who dealt a blow to the Cedars Revolution in Lebanon declared his unmitigated support to Jihadi Terror in Mesopotamia. "In the name of the Arab and Muslim world I am calling on the Iraqi people to support the resistance and adopt the "strategy of liberation." He added: "We in Hezbollah naturally side with the Resistance in Iraq." In other words Nasrallah is backing the Terror insurgency in Iraq, both against the Iraqi Government and the US-led Coalition. This by itself is as clear as one would investigate the real regional role of Hezbollah: Seizing power in Lebanon, crumbling the Peace Process between Palestinians and Israelis and fueling Terror against the political process in Iraq. If you couple this statement with intelligence reports accusing Hezbollah of training insurgents in Iraq, Nasrallah's Iraq strategy cannot be clearer: strike in Iraq in the same way you strike in Lebanon and Gaza; bring down the Iraqi Government in the same manner the (first) Seniora Government and the Mahmoud Abbas Authority were brought down in Beirut and Gaza.
17. Bush and the "axis"
One day after pro-Syrian speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri blasted the United States and predicted that its dream of spreading Democracy from Lebanon is now shattered, Nasrallah escalated the attack. "The Contemporary Pharaoh George Bush, who is departing by God will, poured his anger against the 'resistance movements' in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq and against the countries (regimes) that support and supply the 'resistance.' What do we take from here? In a sum, Hezbollah shows that it is indeed part of a regional axis aimed at defeating the United States efforts against Terrorism (with my reservation as to the name of that war) and more importantly, American support for Democracy. Tehran's (and Damascus' as well) most urgent goals are to break the US-led efforts to support democracy forces in the region. Hezbollah was tasked to do its part mainly in Lebanon, but also in the region.
18. Terror is our choice
"We as Arabs, Umma and Muslims," said Nasrallah, we have one choice, that is resistance (Terrorism) its methodology, its culture, its will and its action." With this conclusion, now the international community, democracies, the Arab and Muslim world and most Lebanese realize who they are up against and what they are facing in Lebanon: a powerful, determined and highly armed force, which has seized the control of the country's destiny (for now) and which has the full support of the neighboring Syrian regime and an Oil power, Iran, seeking to rapidly becoming a nuclear one. Far from the erroneous reporting by prominent international media calling this speech "a step towards coexistence," what we have heard, saw and read was nothing less than a full fledge declaration of Terror, mollified to Western ears by a powerfu and sophisticated propaganda machine.
� Dr. Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He is the author of the recently released book, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad; and of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2006) and The War of Ideas: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2007), available at www.walidphares.com.
Dr. Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut, and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He has taught Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University until 2006. He has been teaching Jihadi strategies at the National Defense University since 2007.
Dr. Phares has written eight books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies and the Journal of International Security. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, BBC, al Jazeera, al Hurra, al Arabiya, as well as on many radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittees on the Middle East and South East Asia, the House Committees on International Relations and Homeland Security and regularly conducts congressional and State Department as well as European Parliament and UN Security Council briefings.
Visit Dr. Phares on the web at walidphares.com and defenddemocracy.org.
© 2008 Walid Phares
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