Nasrallah’s eloquence

18 Jan
Hassan Nasrallah on TV

Image by Kodak Agfa via Flickr

Hassan Nasrallah took to Al-Manar TV on Sunday night to speak of recent developments in Lebanon and to clarify the part Hezbollah has played.  In a clever move that implied his willingness to communicate and to maintain openness and honesty with the Lebanese people, Nasrallah explained the background to the failure of the Saudi-Syrian settlement, which happened so rapidly and took so many by surprise.

“It is the right of all the Lebanese to know and … facts can always uncover the schemes being prepared for our country,” he said.

Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah (Party of God), said that his group had always supported the Saudi Syrian effort to end tension in Lebanon in light of the STL probing of those responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.  He even said that “we bargained on this effort as all the Lebanese who sought welfare for Lebanon.”  Such a claim is in direct opposition to the claims made last week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when eleven ministers resigned from the cabinet and effectively dissolved the government.  Her response was that such an action would not be committed by anyone with the interest of Lebanon in their hearts and as their goal.

Mrs Clinton also pointed out that opposition to the UN tribunal is an opposition to justice for the Lebanese.  Hezbollah, who pride themselves on being patriotic, have been keen to emphasise that they are not against the tribunal in itself, but the politicised symbol it has now become.  Nasrallah has long labelled it “an Israeli project” and claimed that it will indict Hezbollah because that would be the most convenient conclusion for enemies of the group.

Nasrallah said on Sunday: “We said that we refused a politicized indictment and we consider ourselves as its target.  However, Lebanon is our country and we adhere to safeguard it. We reached the following conclusion.  We put Lebanon aside through three items: the government withdraws Lebanese judges from the STL, stops funding it, and cancels the understanding memo between it and the international tribunal. These three items do not cancel the STL, regardless of our opinion of it.”

These, according to Nasrallah, were Hezbollah’s terms for the Saudi-Syrian settlement; he said also that the Saudis agreed.  “There was a positive atmosphere but the Saudi king’s illness slowed down the process and negotiations were taking place via telephone.  Two weeks ago, we had confirmation that the king underwent a successful operation and that he was recovering and willing to move forward with the effort to reach an agreement.  We were told that the king [Saudi King Abdullah] will send for Hariri to come to the US to put the final touches on the agreement.  Then Hariri made his statement saying the deal was cut months ago; this needs to be verified, but nevertheless it’s good. Then Hariri goes to the US, holds some meetings, and without prior notice he calls the Syrians to tell them that he cannot continue with this effort.”

Nasrallah’s explanation suggests that Hariri’s claim that the deal had been in place for months and that Hezbollah had neglected their promises was false.  Nevertheless, Nasrallah is careful to sound relaxed by this (“nevertheless it’s good”) as though Hezbollah’s reputation little mattered in the larger matter of progressing the terms of the settlement.  He gives the idea that Hezbollah allowed their integrity to be called into question for the sake of maintaining amicable relations with Hariri – in other words, for the good of Lebanon.  Whether true or not – Hezbollah are not a group likely to allow their dignity to be compromised – Nasrallah certainly does the job of laying blame at Hariri’s door effectively.  He makes Hariri sound untrustworthy, whimsical and, worst of all, not ready to sacrifice some of his own desires for the country he governs. 

Naturally this is mere prelude to Nasrallah’s real culprits: the USA and Israel.  The USA, he says, did something to reverse Hariri’s course.  Whether they exercised power over him or lead him to fear, they influence him into cancelling the settlement.  According to Nasrallah’s presentation, then, it was the “meddling” of the US that prevented the settlement from taking place; this, he said, was because they did not want an Arab settlement taking place.

“It is obvious that the Americans and the Israelis were against the Arab effort and they bargained on its failure because they had in mind that the crisis was complicated and eventually, they will not need to interfere.  However, when they realized that the process was yielding positive results, they interfered in a decisive way.  This is why the efforts stopped so suddenly.”  This is also why, Nasrallah added, opposition ministers decided to resign from the government.

In blaming Hariri for the settlement’s failure, whether because of America or not, Nasrallah is discrediting a man he believes must be removed from the picture of Lebanese politics.  He paints him as an American pawn not to be trusted in order to undermine support for his possible re-election as prime minister.  “There is no doubt that certain Lebanese parties had worked extensively to thwart the Arab effort and lashed out at the King because they sensed he was very serious in completing the understanding.  Either Hariri and his team did not want to proceed with the deal but had to under Saudi pressure, and eventually went to the Americans and others to pressure the Saudis to stop the effort, or they were supporting the king but the American will was against it.  Either way, Hariri and his team have established the fact that they cannot be trusted and is not reliable to help Lebanon or lead the country out of any impasse.”

He discredits Hariri further by refraining from stating exactly Hariri’s own terms in the SS settlement, saying only that “the Lebanese will discover that among them is a term or two in line with Lebanon’s interest; beside this, all other terms serve the interest of Hariri’s political and security team.”  And of course: “Still, we dealt with them very positively.”

Nasrallah ended his speech with a warning.  It is one which, apart from a sentence blaming Israel that comes so unexpectedly and so unsupported by evidence it can only sound absurd, showcases his persuasive eloquence impressively.

Hezbollah “will not let anyone damage our reputation and dignity and we will not allow anyone to conspire against us or accuse us of spilling the blood of martyr Rafik Hariri. We will act according to what will be released. How? It depends on our estimation of interests. I have no doubt that Israel killed Hariri and carried out the assassinations in Lebanon. We have confronted wars of all kinds, military, security and assassinations. I reassure those who are still after this project that they are miscalculating. Consultations may bring back Hariri, but this is the beginning of a new stage. We tell those who believe they can use the indictment to target the resistance that they are extensively miscalculating.”

“I will have another speech in light of what Bellemare will issue in the next couple of days,” Nasrallah concluded.

This article is written neither to condemn nor support Hezbollah, merely to demonstrate the intelligent rhetoric of its leader.  Whether one agrees or not is a separate matter.

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