Nasrallah’s new remarks on Syria represent a stark warning
UPDATE – This is an excerpt from my Foreign Policy piece out now here in full that develops the blog ideas originally posted further below
“After one year of doubling down on their support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah has finally shifted its public position on the regime, albeit with great subtlety and in an extremely measured fashion. The pivot point came during a lengthy, televised speech delivered on March 15 by the party’s longstanding secretary-general, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. Speaking to hundreds of students mainly on the subject of illiteracy and the dire need for greater access to education in the Arab world, Nasrallah eventually turned to the anti-government protests in Syria that began in March 2011…” Read on at FP (link above).
Also – two columns translated from Arabic on the shift – From As-Safir’s Talal Salman, here, and An-Nahar’s Rajeh al-Khoury who obviously is antagonistic to Hizbullah (from our Mideastwire.com translation):
|19 MARCH 2012 Lebanon > Opinion
Subject(s): Democracy |
“A flip in Hezbollah’s position?”
On March 17, Rajeh Al-Khoury wrote the following opinion piece in the pro-March 14 An-Nahar daily: “It was a complete surprise for Sayed Hassan Nasrallah to call on “all the parties” in Syria to cast their weapons aside and to look into a political solution. Many considered that this statement represents a flip in the positions and standards that Hezbollah has been brandishing since the launching of the crisis in Syria a year ago. This flip has a double dimension: First, because it comes as a clear contradiction vis-a-vis the position of the Syrian regime, which is proceeding with the military solution to its utmost extent and it is not hesitating to shove Kofi Annan’s mission against the wall… Second, because it falls outside the realm of the Iranian position, which is supportive of the Syrian regime and which is supporting it with weapons, money and men as per the opposition’s statements.
“It was quite thrilling that Nasrallah equated the regime with the opposition and he listed them under the category of “all the parties.” The thrill reached a pinnacle when he said: “In Syria, there is nothing but a political solution based on a concomitant drop of the weapons according to a planned mechanism in order to reach a solution.” Meanwhile, Al-Assad was informing Annan that the military solution and the termination of “terrorism” must precede reform.
“We don’t know what is the reason that caused Nasrallah –who used to think that the ongoing events represent an “American Zionist plot” – to back away and say: “There are people in Syria who are calling for reform and who reject partitioning, civil war, and sectarian war. They do not want Arab traitors or moderate Arabs. They want the Arabs of Resistance and we support this part of the people!” What happened that caused Sayed Hassan to say that Hezbollah is part of the Syrian people who want reform while the Syrian opposition is accusing the party of supporting the regime and dispatching fighters to help it in oppressing the protestors?
“Then, where did the previous assurance go [since Hezbollah used to say that] the regime is controlling the situation and that things will soon be over? This was replaced by the statement: “We are afraid for Syria, and we are afraid of the partitioning threat to the entire region, and of the civil war and of chaos and of weakening Syria!”
“The most important question is: If Hezbollah is concerned about partitioning and civil war; and if it is calling on the Syrians to hold a dialogue, can’t a dialogue be held between the Lebanese people? And what is the reason for the mockery and disregard expressed by Nasrallah in the realm of his response to March 14 and its extended hand for dialogue…? If the issue of the weapons is to be delayed, then how can an agreement be reached and why has the challenge been increased by saying: “Anyone who can remove the weapons let them do it…” Why is dialogue allowed in Syria but not in Lebanon?” – An-Nahar, Lebanon
ORIGINAL POST & Nastallah Excerpts
I agree with the emerging commentary in the Arabic media that Nasrallah’s March 15 speech is significant. For me, it signals how concerned Hizbullah is about the deteriorating situation in Syria. He has indeed, now backed a bit away from the doubling down on Assad that we have long seen. This I think is NOT an indication of Hizbullah’s fear over internal splits, incoherency etc… I think his explanation in this regard is convincing.
However, his almost equal criticism of the regime and opposition – and his BEGGING FOR ALL PARTIES to move towards a Doha solution I think is a clear indication that Hizbullah feels as if the situation will deteriorate soon and that chaos and contingency is in the works – something which the party hates almost as much as zionism. Note the bolded parts of the speech below.
A final point – even if one believes Hizbullah and Iran will NOT go to the mat in the event of an imminent Assad collapse, this speech solidifies what I think has become inevitable: even if hizbullah wants to pragmatically and moderately react to the fall of assad and take the big blow without sparking a war etc, THEY MAY HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE EVENT. They have gone in so deep with assad, and the regime has proven how little it cares about any limits, that Hizbullah now faces a situation where a dying regime would likely draw everyone into a widescale conflict, even if hizbullah would rather stay out. One little rocket strike in Israel that kills enough from south Lebanon will easily do the trick – especially with this Israeli government who desperately wants to settle the Hizbullah issue, and the Iran issue, ideally in one go!
Another brief remark on the Syrian issue; we do not want to bypass it. From the beginning of the Syrian events we have hoped; we wagered on the hope that Syria would be able to bypass this ordeal in the interest of its beloved people and its pan-Arab position. From the beginning, we voiced apprehensions because we could see what was happening in the entire Arab region. When we speak of fear of division, we are not dreaming, we are not imagining things. We are not speaking of a psychological warfare; we are speaking of facts on the ground. Look at Sudan. It is said that it was the largest and biggest Arab country but they divided it. Even after the partition, many came and said that God willing, after Sudan recognizes South Sudan all problems would be solved. Yet nothing has been solved. The pressure on Sudan continues to exist and will remain. Today, calls for a federation, for secession, or for partition exist in more than one Arab country. Some sides aspire ! to realize this. Some of them have started to declare this and some have not. Then when we speak of the threat of division in any Arab or Islamic country, we are alluding to genuine threats. We are not inventing illusions and hiding behind them.
We are apprehensive that Syria, and hence the region, might be divided. We are afraid of a civil war, anarchy, and the weakening of Syria and its position as a pan-Arab force in the Arab-Israeli struggle and a genuine backer for the resistance movements in the region. Therefore, from the first day we called for avoiding an armed confrontation; that no one should take up arms, that the Syrians should proceed towards a political solution using the tools of a political solution. We all support reform, democracy, and respect for humans rights. We all are pained and saddened by the shedding of Syrian blood, even if it is only a drop, or the injury of a Syrian woman or child. We have been saying this from the beginning and we are saying this now and will continue to say it.
Now a year has passed since this ordeal started in Syria. Now after a year of tests, after all the options that were considered, we are calling on everyone to start a revision that would lead to the following outcome. I speak with complete objectivity: O Syrian people, there is only a political solution. Please do that. This means laying down your arms, simultaneously and within an agreed formula, and begin a clear and programmed political solution. If this is not done, there will be more bleeding, more exhaustion, and more fatigue. Whoever wants to destroy Syria or bring down the regime at all costs will not be able to do that. You have seen over an entire year all the options that were tried.
This is the solution in Syria. As to the substance and mechanism of the political solution , it is a Syrian issue and they should reach understanding on it, agree, and cooperate. Unfortunately, some in Lebanon act as if they were a superpower, drawing up lists, road maps, and putting an agenda; that the Syrians should do this and should not do that. What have we to do with this issue? As Lebanese – and I am speaking of our national interest as Lebanese – and as a Lebanese people, homeland, state, and a country, we are interested in calm, stability, security, and a political solution in Syria. As for the mechanism of this political solution, its substance, the required areas of reform, these are matters on which the Syrians will agree on. They are supposed to accept certain things and reject certain other things. They will draw red lines for each other. It is not us, the Lebanese, who should draw up red lines for the Syrians on what they want and what they do n! ot want; none of us should act as a theoretician who would advise the Syrians on the mechanisms and substance of the political solution. True, we are concerned, as neighbours, brothers, Arabs, and as peoples in the region who have one fate.
We tell our Syrian bothers – people, regime, state, army, parties, and political forces – your blood is our blood, your future is our future, your life is our life, and our security and fate are one, and therefore, brothers please resolve this problem politically, period. As to how they can do this politically, this is none of our business as Lebanese, especially because we the Lebanese are not capable of resolving our own problems, neither politically nor by other means. Every day we have a problem, a struggle, an argument, or a disagreement. It is very exhausting. The political class in Lebanon, the political performance and mentality, are a real problem, both in form and substance. Indeed, there is no respect for personages, no respect for anyone. There are no rules for voicing political differences. Judge by yourselves. There is anarchy.
On the Syrian crisis, that was what we believed from the first day. Some liked our stand and some did not like it. Some criticized us. Some are trying to exploit this stand of us, which we consider to be a nationalist, pan-Arab, Islamist, and human stand, in order to open fire at us but we have no problem. We are telling the truth as we see it. We are sincerely trying to reach the truth, we truly endeavour to support justice, and we sincerely try to uphold justice no matter what the cost. Therefore, some might comment or direct insults but this does not make any difference. When we have a vision, when we see that this is in the interest of our people, our country, and our nation we express this vision whether it is liked or not. Some might like this and some might not. Some might not applaud and some might attack us; we do not care.
Therefore, we reiterate this stand on the Syrian issue today. We say that the latest developments prove that wagering on the fall of the regime, on a split in the Army, on a sectarian war in Syria, on external military intervention, and on so many things, even the economic sanctions, will not be any use. The masses that went to the squares today – In Damascus, in Aleppo, in Dayr al-Zawr, and in many other places – are an eloquent expression. Some might say: You are not standing by the Syrian people; you support the regime. All rights, tell me who the Syrian people are. True, there is a division among the people but some sizable part of the Syrian people adopts this option. Some other part take another option. They say that the Syrian people are the ones with whom they are standing and not the ones who I am standing with. They say that we have stood by all the Arab peoples except in Syria. That is not true. Some people in Syria want reform and not division, civ! il war, sectarian war, or a death mill. They do not want to become treasonous Arabs or moderates; they want to remain resistant, steadfast, and sincere to Palestine. We are with this part of the people.
Some others differed with us. They think that Obama and Clinton and the Americans, who burned the Koran and killed those who demonstrated for the Koran’s sake and who do not stop saying that their alliance with Israel is sacred and that the Israeli security and supremacy is sacred, and who consider Sarkozy and Britain and those who sold out Palestine, the people of Palestine, the Golan, Lebanon, and many other things over the past 20 years to be their allies or their saviours, are free to believe in what they believe but we are also free to believe in what we want. We take the position of our choice.
Therefore, today and in this brief discourse, and with utter frankness, we advise all our Syrian brothers to lay down their arms, head for a mechanism for a political solution. The Syrian regime and leadership are ready to effect reforms. Look at the Syrian constitution. Tell me of any Arab constitution like this one. Yes, it is not a matter of shouting and raising hues and cries. Let us speak facts. Bring the constitutions of all the Arab states and compare them with this Syrian constitution and see the difference. Now the constitution is to be applied so let us develop mechanisms, let us reach understanding and cooperation. These things cannot be dealt with by fighting, confrontations, wars, or by inviting foreign military intervention. The bleeding must stop.
Of course the scenes that we have seen recently have to be condemned. All forms of massacres and the targeting of civilians and innocent people are to be condemned. Now the opposition is accusing the regime and the regime is accusing the opposition. One of the regime’s responsibilities today is to present the facts to the people. Those who have the facts should present them. Levelling accusations left and right is an easy thing to do but the main thing is that the massacres deserve to be condemned. Efforts should be pooled to prevent massacres. It is not an issue only of massacres; not a single drop of blood should be shed. What is the difference between killing hundreds sporadically or killing 50 altogether. This is killing and that is also killing. All forms of killing must stop. The way that leads to salvation is this. You, the Arabs and the international community, have been advising the Lebanese and telling them: Arms will not solve anything so go to the ! table of negotiations. After 7 May 2008, Arab delegations arrived here and issued their advice to all of us. They said arms would not solve any problem; confrontations would not do, and that people should live together. They brought an aircraft and took everyone to Doha. They hosted us in Doha for three days and we sat down and agreed on all details. This is logic, and this has to be applied on Syria and others. That is how matters should proceed, that is how matters should be treated if we want to treat them…”