The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Re-Reading Nasrallah’s 2005 letter to Le Figaro

In light of the back and forth between Hezbollah and Macron, it’s interesting to re-read Nasrallah’s 2005 Le Figaro piece that was penned during an extremely difficult moment for the party, when it was far less powerful than it is today. I should have some thoughts in coming days, but here is the translation, by Ellen Khouri, which was included in my 2007 Verso book Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah:

A Message to France

April 13, 2005

Nasrallah’s open letter to France, carried simultaneously by the Lebanese newspaper As Safir and France’s Le Figaro, represented a rare, direct address to a Western audience—one designed primarily to discourage Lebanon’s old colonial master from advocating the so-called US portion of Resolution 1559, the disarming of Hezbollah, and, secondarily, to explain Hezbollah’s stance on the assassination of Hariri.

Couched in exceedingly moderate terms, the message was undoubtedly prompted by Syria’s announcement only weeks before that it would fully withdraw its army, in accordance with Resolution 1559, by the end of April. But it was also a frank acknowledgement that in the upcoming May–June parliamentary elections, anti-Syrian parties, led by Hariri’s Future Movement, would most likely control the levers of power from Beirut, thus further tying the interests and policies of Lebanon to those of France and the West in general.

It is interesting to note that Nasrallah and Hezbollah did not address a similar letter to America, 1559’s co-author; nor did Nasrallah provide much in the way of high-level access to US media during these critical months. Although Nasrallah had by this time apparently exorcised references in his speeches to “Death to America”, Hezbollah continued to oppose America unremittingly, but obliquely—in sharp contrast to the Bush administration’s strategy which, following the Lebanese elections, would often seem bent on a direct confrontation with the Party, either through pressure on the fledgling pro-Western government of Beirut or through various regional manoeuvres against its allies, foremost of which were Syria and Iran.


As I write this, my country is going through a very difficult and dangerous period, due to a mixture of domestic and international developments that require us Lebanese to be cohesive, and our friends to stand by us. At the top of this list of friends is France, the country with which we have many cultural and historic interests in common, and with which we share similar views regarding issues of civilization, current politics, and, naturally, the hope for a better world where justice and peace prevail.

In 1982, with unlimited American support, the Israeli armed forces invaded Lebanon under false pretences, with the aim of achieving various strategic and economic objectives. While the world watched, they occupied our capital, Beirut, and no one did anything to stop them save for a few limited diplomatic demarches, and some useless condemnations and expressions of sympathy. The Israelis killed and wounded thousands of Lebanese citizens, and caused considerable psychological, social, economic, and material damage, with which Lebanon and the Lebanese people are still trying to come to terms.

The Lebanese people rose up, individually and collectively, in defence of their country against this occupation and its fallout, in spite of the disparity between the two sides, both on the ground and politically. They fought this occupation for almost twenty years, during which there was a great deal of suffering and tears, and two brutal engagements in 1993 and 1996,[1] before they were able to achieve a brilliant victory, forcing the invading army to withdraw from our country save for one small area that is still under occupation, the Lebanese Shebaa Farms.

Hezbollah, which was the spearhead and main backbone of the Lebanese resistance against occupation, succeeded through the will and sacrifice of the Lebanese people and the help of its brothers in Syria and Iran, in achieving one of the most important feats in Lebanon’s modern history. France played a prominent role in forging the “April Understanding”[2] that opened the door wide for the resistance to operate on the ground, and at the same time provided it with wide international recognition.

Ever since the year 2000, when most of the Lebanese occupied territories were liberated, Lebanon’s airspace has been the object of very serious violations that are impossible to stop. And although the United Nations has expressed its concern on several occasions, many Israeli officials still issue threats against Lebanon’s security, territorial waters, and infrastructure, which the Lebanese people spent a great deal of money rebuilding. Meanwhile, the resistance has assumed a purely defensive stance across the international border, and has operated within the confines of the Lebanese government’s defence strategy, and in cooperation with the Lebanese army, to repel any potential Israeli attack.[3] If such an attack actually takes place, it will cause much harm to our country and people, and expose the entire Middle East region to very dangerous possibilities.

The weapons of the resistance are vital for the strategic defence of Lebanon, and therefore are not something that it can easily give up, regardless of the pressures and threats brought to bear on it. For to do so would place Lebanon and its people at the mercy of the same Israeli firepower under which they lived for decades, and would rob them of their freedom and sovereignty,[4] and of their right to decide their own future and opportunities for development.

It is within this context that Resolution 1559 saw the light at the Security Council of the United Nations, as part of an overarching and comprehensive deal between the United States and France at the expense of our small country. This deal intersected with very convoluted domestic events in Lebanon that culminated in the extension of the president of the republic Emile Lahoud’s mandate for three additional years.[5]

The first article of Resolution 1559, which I call the French part of the Resolution, demands the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, which implicitly means the Syrian troops. The second article, which I call the American part, demands the dissolution and disarmament of all Lebanese militias—implicitly meaning the Lebanese resistance. Together, these two articles produced a settlement plan that intersected with the already tense Franco-American relations over the issues of Iraq, commercial interests, and European security. This settlement, which is openly biased towards Israel, to the detriment of Lebanon, France’s old and constant friend, placed three major challenges all of a sudden before our country. These are: the Israeli enemy, which lurks across the border waiting for the resistance to be disarmed; the international community, led single-handedly by the United States in the pre-emptive, so-called “war on terror” that has led to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; and internal instability, which, we must admit, has only contributed to an already agitated domestic situation. Regardless of our position towards this Resolution, the stark reality forces us to admit that these factors have together generated a great deal of upheaval in Lebanon and the region—upheaval that primarily benefits the United States, which seeks to impose its unilateral control by force over the entire Middle East and its resources, especially oil.

On February 14 this year, a horrific crime took the life of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri—the most important and controversial figure in Lebanon’s modern history, thanks to his relentless efforts to serve and rebuild his country. Our relationship with him fluctuated between disagreement and cooperation, on many levels and on various domestic issues, until a deep understanding settled between us for good, and later developed into a close friendship. This understanding revolved around fundamental issues relating to Lebanon and the future of its citizens, and we were in total agreement regarding the importance of preserving the resistance as it is now: men and their weapons ready to protect the country against any eventual Israeli attack, within the framework of the state’s defence strategy. We were also of the same mind regarding the building of a modern and just state able to ensure its citizens’ security and equality, provide them with equal employment opportunities, and guarantee them a prosperous future without sectarianism. We were both committed to the application of the Taif Agreement[6] as a basis for our mutual and common understanding regarding the country’s future.

This monumental event stunned the Lebanese people; but instead of [our] standing together in the face of its repercussions, a dangerous schism occurred and led to a confrontation between the Lebanese people. The blood of Rafik Hariri, which had not yet had time to dry, became a political tool to mobilize public feelings in an unprecedented manner. Very serious accusations were leveled here and there without adequate proof, and the Lebanese authorities implicitly blamed Syria for standing behind this abominable crime. This invited foreign intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs by those who saw the situation as a golden opportunity for the immediate implementation of Resolution 1559; this in turn placed the country’s defensive security in jeopardy, and exposed its internal stability to the elements. This state of affairs compelled us and our allies to take to the streets in force, to demand that the whole and unadulterated truth regarding Hariri’s assassination be revealed, and to send a dual message to our partners in Lebanon and throughout the world.

At the demonstration we held on March 8, 2005 in Riad al-Solh Square,[7] we renewed our commitment to the Taif Agreement—and called upon opposition groups to join us in a genuine dialogue regarding all unresolved issues, without exception, and to submit to the people’s will through free and fair elections. We reiterated the importance of maintaining the resistance’s weapons as long as Israel continues to pose a threat to Lebanon from across the border, and our readiness to discuss various existential issues that face our country, including that of the resistance. We naturally also expressed our total rejection of all foreign interventions that detract from Lebanon’s genuine and complete sovereignty, freedom and independence.

On the 30th of this month, the Arab Syrian army is due to complete its withdrawal from Lebanon, after being present in the country since 1976. In the interim, it succeeded in putting an end to the Civil War, integrating the Lebanese army by reconstituting it out of elements from various forces in the country, and rebuilding the country’s political institutions. Moreover, it is thanks to Syria’s open and continuous support that the Lebanese were able to expel Israel from south Lebanon, and we cannot but be thankful for and appreciative of their help. However, the mistakes that were committed by both Lebanese and Syrian individuals in various positions of authority—to which the Syrian president openly and courageously alluded[8]—led to the deterioration of relations between the two countries. We have always sought good relations with Syria, mainly because it is in Lebanon’s interest, since Syria remains our main and strategic ally in the absence of a solution in the region. It is also Lebanon’s only economic gateway to the Arab heartland and the world. This is why building this relationship on forward-looking and objective bases that ensure the interests of both countries and peoples is one of Lebanon’s main priorities in the near future.

Now that the withdrawal of Syrian troops is about to take place, and the international community has decided to set up an international investigation into the assassination of the martyr Rafik Hariri—the two important demands of Lebanon’s opposition—we have to find ways to extricate ourselves from the impasse in which we currently find ourselves. I therefore seize this opportunity to renew my call to all Lebanese political groups to come together and engage in a serious dialogue regarding all fundamental issues that concern the future well-being of the next generations of Lebanese citizens. These issues are: the vital importance of national unity; peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims; rejection of the notion of winners and losers; rejection of the use of arms and a [of] return to Civil War; commitment to freedom and democracy; adoption of a just and representative electoral system; [the] building [of] a modern state based on the rule of law; and the rejection of all foreign intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

France, for which we in Hezbollah have much regard, has played a major role in forging the April Understanding and in effecting one of the prisoner exchange operations involving detainees in Israeli jails. I therefore call upon France, which the Lebanese people consider as their friend and with which they share a commitment to the principles of mercy, peace, and democracy, to work diligently towards fostering national dialogue and domestic reconciliation in Lebanon, given that its role in the formulation of Resolution 1559 has angered many of its citizens. It hurt people, even though they understand the complex web of international interests, to see France falling victim to America’s savage and aggressive hegemony, especially in this rapidly changing world.

We also should not forget that our country—which for complex geographical, political, and cultural reasons – is a microcosm of almost all the major problems in the region, impacts them and is in turn impacted by them. The American occupation of Iraq has endangered regional instability, and has created threatening conditions for Iraq’s neighbors—namely Iran, Turkey and Syria. The Palestinian people are in the midst of an honorable struggle to liberate their land and gain their full right to freedom and sovereignty. In the meantime, Israel refuses to implement any of the international resolutions; it has occupied the Syrian Golan Heights since 1967, and actively continues to build its nuclear arsenal, in defiance of international resolutions. Lebanon will not be able to confront these looming challenges if its citizens are not united and fully aware that their small and beautiful country deserves to live, and that they have earned the right to live there in freedom and dignity.

Pre-Publication Footnotes:

[1] For which see above, p. ** n. ** and p. ** n. **.

[2] For the April Understanding see above, p. ** n. **.

[3] Cooperation with the Lebanese army did not, of course, mean submission to its ultimate authority—especially if that authority was under the sway of a largely anti-Syrian government; nor, for that matter, could several of Hezbollah’s various operations through the years, including the capturing operations executed in October 2000, be construed as purely defensive in the strictest definition of the word.

[4] See above, p. ** n. **.

[5] Although, according to the Lebanese Constitution, the president was permitted to serve only one six-year term, Emile Lahoud was granted an additional three-year extension until 2007 by Lebanon’s parliament. Critics of the extension argue it was illegal because heavy Syrian influence was brought to bear on the voting process.

[6] For which see above, p. ** n. **.

[7] See above, Statement **, pp. **-**.

[8] In Bashar al-Assad’s March 5 speech to the Syrian parliament, broadcast live to jeering (and intermittently cheering) protesters in downtown Beirut, the president said not “all our [Syria’s] acts in Lebanon were correct.” Donna abu Nasr, “Threats Alienate Syrians from Lebanon,” Associated Press, March 19, 2000, accessed online.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 30, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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