from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Nasrallah Backs Down

December 1, 2011

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On July 2, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had this to say about the UN’s Special tribunal on Lebanon, which is investigating the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri:

the tribunal is part of the war against us, because we are leading a confrontation against Israel….The most dangerous goal of this tribunal is to create strife, a civil war in Lebanon, or especially a division between the Sunni and Shiite in Lebanon.

He has also said the Tribunal is “trying to destroy the human and social fabric of Lebanon,”  and called on all Lebanese to boycott it:

I call on every official and every citizen in Lebanon to boycott those investigators and not to cooperate with them ... because all that is being offered to them reaches the Israelis. Continuing cooperation with those encourages more violations of the country and helps with the aggression against the resistance.

In January of this year, “Mr Nasrallah told a TV audience that Lebanese judges, funding and obligations to the tribunal must be removed.” Now something has changed. Today’s press in Lebanon reports that:

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Thursday said the party will not trigger a crisis over the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon despite its continued opposition to the move. ‘In a bid to preserve political stability and to keep the government intact while reaffirming our opposition [to the court] ... We don’t accept the funding but we will not create a problem, Nasrallah said during a televised speech.

What happened to those fiery words of yesteryear? Simple: the Syrian uprising. Nasrallah and Hezbollah will be among the great losers if the Assad regime is toppled, along with Iran and of course the Assad clan itself. Without Syrian support and the use of Syria for storage and delivery of weaponry from Iran, Hezbollah will be weaker.

We can also see this in the maneuvering of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, once a Syrian ally. As recently as January the headlines were “Lebanon Druze leader Walid Jumblatt sides with Hezbollah in crisis.”

As one report summarized, “Just a year ago, Jumblatt was Syria’s most vocal critic, a man who dared, long before others, to call for the downfall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose father most likely ordered the assassination of Jumblatt’s dad during Lebanon’s civil war. Then, last January, Jumblatt did a spectacular about face, siding with the Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah against his former West-leaning allies.”

But by October, “Walid Jumblatt severely criticized the Syrian regime during a concert that he hosted for his friends in the city of Jbeil. Jumblatt reportedly picked up the microphone and addressed his guests by saying: “Unfortunately, we are now enjoying music while the Syrian people are revolting against oppression and tyranny.” And Jumblatt has now applauded the funding of the Tribunal, which is another step away from Syria and Hezbollah.

When the Hezbollah leader, who has repeatedly plunged Lebanon in to crisis and into war, now has to say “we will not create a problem,” tectonic plates are moving in the Middle East. Without understating Hezbollah’s strength and viciousness, the crisis of the Assad regime in Syria has already reduced its power. Assad’s fall will reduce it more. This is yet another reason why the United States should be doing all we can to bring Assad down, the sooner the better.


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