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After Part I of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s lengthy interview with Al-Jazeera host Ghassan Bin-Jiddu aired on July 23, Part II on the 24th completed the interview. Nasrallah talks about the formation of a national unity government, the parliamentary role of Hezbollah and how, contrary to what others might say, the party has a presence everywhere in Lebanon, even south of the Litani River.
GHASSAN BIN-JIDDUH: Honorable listeners: may God's peace be upon you. Welcome to the second part of this special encounter with the secretary general of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Welcome, Your Eminence, once again. In Part I we discussed military issues.
Allow me in this part to begin with the term you mentioned after the war when you described what happened as "a divine victory." Ultimately we know that you are believers, Muslims, Islamists, and believe in the metaphysical, but why do you describe that victory as divine, as though you have no capabilities and as though your human beings were of no significance on the ground and that you relied only on divine care?
HASSAN NASRALLAH: The term divine victory does not mean that at all. Our understanding is: God Almighty ordered us to prepare. He ordered us to struggle against those who attack our land and occupy our country and threaten this country's existence. That is one point. We talk about resistance as a patriotic action, but primarily for us it is a divine, religious, canon law duty that is in harmony with all divine laws.
First we obey His command. He commanded us to engage in jihad and we obey His command. Second, He commanded us to prepare, "Prepare whatever forces you can muster." He ordered us to fight, and to take the requirements of fighting into consideration. Those are the material factors. All the requirements of fighting: military, political, financial, material, social, moral, media, and so on.
In addition to that we believe that first and foremost everything is in the hands of Almighty God: "But you will only wish to do so if God wills." [Koran] Almighty God said to us: Rely on me. When we obey Him and comply with His command, follow His path, and rely on Him, and believe that He interferes -and not like the Jews.
Almighty God says: "The Jews have said, 'God's Hand is fettered'," while we believe that everything that takes place in the universe is in God's hands and with the will of Almighty God, for He interferes, and we believe that He promised to help, give succor, assist, defend, strengthen, throw, make firm, give assurance, and change the equations and balances. We believe in all that. What we did is that we obeyed God's orders and made due preparations. We did all what we could in terms of preparations. Now you may tell me that we did not down any Phantom jet. Well, we could not bring a weapon that downs Phantom jets, but we did everything within our power and capabilities.
GB: Regarding the political contacts last year, Your Eminence, were you surprised by General Awn in the first days [of war] when he stood by you?
HN: When we...
GB: Did he stand later on by you after he became sure that you can be steadfast, or what?
HN: According to my knowledge of General Awn, even when we reached the understanding, we believed that truthfulness and loyalty are among this man's characteristics. You may disagree with him in politics, but what he abides by is what he says. That is what we believe. When we concluded the Hezbollah-Free Patriotic Movement Understanding we laid down a very important national foundation for an advanced stage.
In my view, especially with the Muslim-Christian issue in Lebanon, if you want to count milestones and say before and after that milestone, you can count the Hezbollah-Free Patriotic Movement Understanding as a milestone and speak about what came before the understanding and after the understanding. On this point, I say in parenthesis that as a result of the discussions that are taking place in Lebanon - perhaps we can talk a great deal about the previous stage -but I say to the Christians that Hezbollah is completely committed to the understanding, and I say a good understanding to everyone who tries to talk about fears connected with Hezbollah.
That relationship was established through the understanding, and was applied in politics and other fields. The stand at the time of the war confirmed our view, and therefore it was not surprising. Indeed, we were very happy that our view and understanding of the man and his movement were correct.
GB: Was that from the first days or after?
HN: From the first days, from the first moments. I know that. Of course when one wants to respect such a stand more, there is one who took a stand with you -of course that applies to the other political leaders, the Muslim and Christian national leaders in Lebanon, but you asked me about General Awn -when all those leaders stand by you from the first day and it is clear that there is a world war on you, and -as one plus one equals two -it's going to be impossible or very difficult for you to win, and yet take he took such a stand.
It means he is not taking the stand on the basis of political calculations or interests, he is taking a sound and correct principled, ethical, and patriotic stand that should be taken whatever the results of the battle.
GB: You are saying that all the parties that are now called the opposition...
HN: I believe that all those who took a stand on the side of the resistance on that day did so on a moral, humanitarian, and patriotic basis, and not on the basis of personal interests. It was not clear from the first days -with the big nonmilitary but political and media offensive against us, that the war will continue and it will be protracted and Hezbollah will be destroyed and crushed, there were those who were not compelled to take stands.
As you know, there is a culture among some Lebanese which I call "the culture of standing on the hill." When there is a conflict, he stands on the hill to see in whose favor the battle is going, and then goes to the winning side. All those who took stands from the first day did not stand on the hill. They did not consider the political and military results of the battle. Their premise was a moral and patriotic premise.
That is why I said after the war -perhaps in an interview with you -that we feel that we owe a debt to those leaders, movements, and forces which we cannot forget or ignore until Judgment Day. That indicates how much that stand has affected us.
GB: Are there those who stood on the hill, or are those who were with you and those were not with you? Was there no one on the hill?
HN: Now we have started on the problems. There are political forces that took a stand. As far as I remember, among the politicians no one stood on the hill. There were those who were clear. There were those who embraced the resistance on the political, media, social, and military levels, and truly they considered that their fate and ours is one. There were those who did not stand on the hill but took the other position.
We did not wish to raise the matter during the war. After the war, we called for a national unity government and we were told that a national unity government is suicide. Harsh statements were issued that held us responsible for the war, statements that spoke in the same language as the Israeli enemy, namely that our war was for the sake of Syria and Iran and it was not a patriotic war. There were discussions and back-and-forth on the subject at the time.
But there are also forces whose popular bases - and perhaps indeed definitely they themselves -undeniably provided humanitarian and social care. I thanked them at the time of the war. However, on the political and media levels they were not with us in their political stands. If you hear the discourse of some political leaders at the time of the war, and if you see their media at the time of the war, at the minimum they were not with us.
G:B: For the record, Your Eminence, why did you accuse the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of not being with you, and even on one occasion you used the term that you were "stabbed in the back." Why?
HN: Look that brings you to the entire political movement at the time of the war: the political theses, the political aims, and the negotiations. The person who is more capable of talking about this aspect is Nabih Berri, for he was leading the negotiations. Indeed, I can say he was leading the political process. It is not just that he was the speaker of parliament. Sure, he was parliament speaker and people talked to him, in accordance with the Lebanese set-up, but ultimately Hezbollah and Amal are directly present in southern Lebanon and on the front.
For the sake of that battle we and they were coordinating all our efforts. At the beginning we said that I will directly pay attention to the military part, and Speaker Berri will of course be completely in the picture, and Speaker Berri will pay attention to the political part and I will be in the picture, and we will maintain constant consultation.
In the first days of the war, the Israelis -together with the Americans -set an objective. We'll come later to the New Middle East. The objective was to end Hezbollah -end it politically, militarily, and so on, release the two prisoners unconditionally, and send a multinational force under Chapter VII to southern Lebanon. Neither the Americans nor the Israelis -and not even some of the internal Lebanese sides -were at the time talking about sending the army to southern Lebanon.
Their approach to the army was that it is unreliable - its leadership, officers, soldiers, and ideology -and consequently what was put forward at the time was not to send the army to southern Lebanon to solve the problem, but to send a multinational force under Chapter VII. Now the Lebanese government - he said on the first say I have no knowledge, I am not involved. Very well. We didn't comment on the matter. Lebanon is now in a state of war. Right or wrong, who made the decision -now we are in a state of war.
They said we will settle the accounts later, and we said good, we'll settle the accounts later. But how did we behave? How did they behave - as a Lebanese government concerned with a state of war, or as a mediator, or as a party -more difficult than being a mediator. When from the beginning of the war we are told: O guys, Israel is continuing with the war -one, two, three, four months -and the war will not stop.
You will be destroyed, killed, and crushed and there is no solution other than such and such, and pressure is put on us in that direction. Well, you want to protect the place or you came to put pressure on me.
GB: Excuse me, but what do you mean by such and such? What was the pressure they were putting on you? You say such and such - either you do that or don’t. What was being asked of you?
HN: What was being asked of us...
GB: What I understood from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is that he did not adopt a stand. He was conveying to you a stand...
HN: He was conveying to us a stand, and he was saying to us that you will be destroyed and crushed unless this war stops. But wait, I am coming to this point, he did adopt. Well, from the beginning those in office advocated and worked for those objectives.
Thirty three days, you remember Mr. Ghassan, what were we -we and Speaker Berri and what was then called the opposition was not yet in its present form but which is now the opposition -saying: an unconditional cease-fire, and after the cease-fire we will see how we can solve the other issues. You recall that there were political leaders who were saying on the media: We reject a cease-fire in all circumstances.
We want a comprehensive solution to the problems that exist with Israel. In effect, what is he saying: Continue O Israel to displace the people, destroy their homes, and continue with the bombardment and the killing, for we do not want a cease-fire, except within the framework of a comprehensive solution. We were being bombarded while Prime Minister Fuad Siniora did not want a cease-fire until he solves the matter of the Shebaa Farms, or until he solves whatever issue -the clauses he spoke about. We were calling for an end to the war, a cease-fire...
GB: Hezbollah's weapons...
HN: The weapons? I am coming to that. From the first to the last day the language was: We want a comprehensive solution, we want to exercise the State's authority, and no weapons other than the weapons of the State. What did that mean? It meant that they were exploiting the war and our blood, dead bodies, homes, people, and the whole country -they were all involved in the war, we were not the only ones involved in the war.
Can you imagine a responsible Lebanese official who has a humanitarian and patriotic feeling -forgive me -in the government or among those in power saying: We do not accept a cease-fire except within the framework of a comprehensive solution? How can that be?
When we went to the negotiations, the whole talk with us was: hand over the prisoners -from the first days of the war, hand over the prisoners, and hand over the weapons voluntarily, not south of the Litani River but all the weapons of the resistance. Hand them over, and accept with us the multinational force. Why "accept with us", because when we do not accept a multinational force and consider it an occupying force, it means that force is coming to fight, and we'll fight it. We have to accept in order that the multinational force can come and be sure that the Lebanese -or some Lebanese at the minimum -will not fight it.
However, with development of the situation in the field, Mr. Ghassan, what made the political ceiling of the Americans, Israelis, even the French at the time, the Europeans, the Arabs, the internal Lebanese come down further and further was the situation in the field, the Israeli failure, and the steadfastness of the resistance and the people and the country. That is the truth.
At the beginning, it was to end [Hezbollah]: surrender your weapons, hand over the two Israeli prisoners, accept the multinational force, and the matter ends. At the beginning we offered the following solution, because it was said to us there can be no return to the pre-12 July 2006 situation. We said: Correct, nor do we want to return to the situation that existed prior to 12 July, because after a war of this kind, if we stay on the border any small problem could lead to war.
During the period from 2000 to 2006 the policy of the Israeli enemy was a policy of containment. As far as I am concerned, if they say to me come and stay in the border, I would prefer it if someone else stays along the border. That is why from the beginning, we and Speaker Berri proposed the idea -and actually it was his idea before it was ours, and he marketed it: deploying the army to take over responsibility of the borders.
We were also for the deployment and reinforcement of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. In other words, we were the ones who proposed the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border and the reinforcement of UNIFIL. The other side's proposal was to deploy a multinational force under Chapter VII south of the Litani River, with the Lebanese Army deployed north of the Litani River while the multinational force trains the Lebanese Army north of the Litani - that is the Lebanese Army is not considered a reliable establishment. When we stood fast, [the ceiling of demands] began to go down.
What were they saying then? [They were saying] OK, there is no need to destroy and finish off Hezbollah, nor is Hezbollah required to hand over its weapons in all of Lebanon. We want to create a buffer zone, namely the area south of the Al-Litani River. We agree to the Lebanese Army going to the border, but alongside the Lebanese Army we want a multinational force under Chapter VII.
Now they will say no, but I have seen in some newspapers promotional articles, some of which contain fabrications and lies -regrettably I am forced to use such a language. I would like to affirm to you that until the 30th day of the war what was still being said to us is a multinational force under Chapter VII. Until the 30th day.
GB: Who said that to you?
HN: Officials in the Lebanese government and those who are behind them. I do not want to go into mentioning names. Those who are in power.
GB: They were relaying...
HN: They were adopting that stand. They were not [only] relaying it. They adopted that stance and were working for it. Well, I am accusing them of that.
GB: But Speaker Berri described it as the government of resistance?
HN: These are considerations for after the war. What was being said to us was an adopted stand: if you do not accept the country will be ruined. When you say to me, if you do not accept the country will be destroyed, ruined, you will be responsible. It means you are putting pressure on me. You are adopting such a stand.
OK, we got to the point of a buffer zone. The question of the prisoners was out of the discussion from the first day. It was not under consideration. With regard to the prisoners: there are indirect negotiations, and an exchange. It was out of the discussion. Actually they were no longer asking about the prisoners. During the negotiations, the subject of prisoner exchange or the subject of the two Israeli prisoners became very marginal.
We agree to the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border, and this has been our proposal in the first place. However, we are against the presence of the multinational force. We accept the reinforcement of UNIFIL under the mandate of the United Nations, and not international forces under the command of the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, or anyone -regardless of our stands towards those governments or states.
We do not accept a buffer zone. I recall that at the time Speaker Nabih Berri said we accept a buffer zone on both sides of the border -we measure and we station forces on this side and on that side, a buffer zone this side and a buffer zone that side. An equal arrangement. How can it be when Israel's artillery, tanks, troop concentrations, and military divisions are along the border at a distance of 10, 50, or 100 meters from Ayt al-Shaab, (Nawas), or any southern town, I turn south of the Litani River into a buffer zone? That is out of the question.
Prime Minister Siniora had accepted that. He was fighting for it, until the last day. He was fighting for it. The Cabinet meeting minutes are documented and are there. We refused. We refused to have a multinational force. With time, it began to transpire that Israel is in a corner and is unable to continue.
You must have read, and like you I have read the statements of some Israeli officials, even in the Winograd report and elsewhere, that we began the war and that it will take three, four, or five days and after that the world will exert pressure on us to stop the war, but it transpired that the world was putting pressure on us to continue the war. The Israelis are saying that the world was exerting pressure on them to continue with the war. Who was that world? At the minimum the United States. Is there doubt about that? Could it have been China that was putting pressure on Israel to make war? When they saw that the Israelis...
GB: Israel's UN representative said Arab sides.
HN: Yes. When the Israelis failed and were unable to continue - and the weak points and flaws became apparent -and the Israelis could not stop our missile capability and could not launch a ground offensive, and Acre, Nahariya, Haifa, and beyond Haifa, and the threats to Tel Aviv, the political language de-escalated and they eventually accepted a reinforced UNIFIL. We even insisted on the name -it is called UNIFIL and it should continue to be called UNIFIL.
We do not want the name to be changed. If you want to reinforce it, do so, we have no problem with the numbers. We also discussed UNIFIL's tasks until the last moment. It was then agreed -and that was ultimately agreed upon in 1701 - that the Lebanese Army goes to the border, and we leave the border while the Lebanese Army takes over; then the UNIFIL forces are deployed in the area south of the Litani River according to what is agreed upon with the Lebanese government.
As for a demilitarized zone, that for us is totally rejected. From the first day we said we will comply -and we maintained that stand to the last day: We comply with not having armed manifestations south of the Litani River. Even when we were there prior to 12 July 2006 there were no armed manifestations.
GB: At that time, Your Eminence, in addition to what Speaker Birri said about the government of political resistance, you also accepted the seven points put forward by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora at the time?
HN: When the seven points were put forward - there were of course discussions on the matter in the country a while ago. They talk about the State of institutions, when Prime Minister Siniora went to Rome, gave a speech, and talked about the seven points, where was the decision made? In the Cabinet? No, the Cabinet did not make a decision on the matter. Is that the State of institutions and law which they want to build? They are acting as leaders, not as a State of institutions and law.
After he spoke in Rome, we did not comment on what he said because throughout the 33 days, for we had made the decision not to raise a political problem with anyone. With all those who were attacking and maligning us, we used to say national unity and national solidarity. There was a discussion in the Cabinet. We said to him: First, you acted in an un-institutional manner. Second, there are points in the seven points to which we do not agree. For instance, placing the Shebaa Farms under UN jurisdiction.
We agree to Israel leaving the Shebaa Farms. Certainly, that is a positive aspect. However, during the national consensus we unanimously agreed that Shebaa Farms are Lebanese and should return to Lebanese sovereignty. You on your own went and asked for Shebaa to be placed under UN sovereignty. Where did you make such a decision?
Regarding the second point, namely no weapons other than the weapons of the State and the Armistice Agreement, we said to him that those two points are on the national dialogue table, and should be tackled within the framework of a national defense strategy. You cannot decide them now benefiting from the circumstances of the war. Therefore, so far there are two points which we reject and there is a point on which we have reservations, at the minimum.
At the time, President Emile Lahoud and other ministers said: Brothers, we will now come out divided, and that will weaken us in front of the international community. We are not going to fight another political battle. We agreed -and it is there in the Cabinet meetings minutes -that it will be said in general terms that there is a consensus on the headlines of the seven points, and that when this matter will become serious the Cabinet will discuss them point by point in detail.
Then it was said we agreed unanimously and we backslided from that consensus, that we agreed and backtracked on our agreement. We are not like that. We do not behave in such a manner. I challenge them and say to them: Brothers, there are Cabinet minutes where it says at the minimum -and I do not know if that is recorded - I, I the secretary general of Hezbollah, seek the ruling of the Cabinet minutes -the audio minutes would be better. What Minister Muhammad Fneish said at the Cabinet binds us to the last hour. Let them bring it out.
In his latest television interview, Prime Minister Siniora was asked about that matter and he said: The Sayyed: said so. They had circulated part of the speech, and it is true for I spoke within the context of that agreement, for we had said we want national solidarity and consensus on the main headlines and points, but we had a tacit agreement.
Now if I am a patriotic person and do no initiate a problem with the government, and am anxious to maintain national security and speak in a language of national unity, you cut off my speech by half, and you get out of what we had agreed upon in the Cabinet and then accuse me of contradicting myself. You can accuse me of anything except backing down on my promise and lying.
You can accuse me of anything else, but those two things do not apply to us. We are not like that. Our enemy knows we are not like that. Therefore there was no consensus on the seven points. That is the story. Nevertheless, I do not want to begin a new argument.
I call on the ruling team to show the Lebanese people the minutes of the Cabinet session that was held after Prime Minister's return from Rome so that we know who is saying the truth and who is not. I accept that. The matter does not require any investigation. Just bring out the text so that the world can see what happened. What I need is what our dear brother Muhammad Fneish said at the Cabinet, and what he said is binding for us.
GB: Your Eminence, in the second part of this installment, we will discuss Hezbollah's position on the Lebanese and Arab levels one year after what happened last year. The central question, of course, is: Lebanon, where to? Honorable viewers, stay with us.
GB: Honorable viewers, welcome once again. Your Eminence, regarding the political negotiations that were held last year, you said you had some reservations on the seven points, and you mentioned the negotiations that occurred on approving UNSC resolution 1701. First a question that concerns Hezbollah: I would like to understand, when you delegated the task of political negotiations to Speaker Nabih Berri, did that mean you acquiesced to everything and consequently that you in the Hezbollah leadership were concerned only with the military and the resistance?
HN: It was Speaker Berri who was negotiating and who was undertaking the meetings, negotiations, discussions, and the attempts to curve the corners as it is said. We were in agreement on the basic issues. What Speaker Berri did he did in the name of Amal and Hezbollah and in his capacity as parliament speaker. There were many matters which we studied together and we consulted each other about them.
“On some matters I was compelled to refer to the Hezbollah leadership, despite the circumstances of the war and the fighting. I gathered the brothers in the leadership despite the difficult circumstances that existed on that day and we discussed matters and gave the replies to Speaker Berri.
GB: You brought them together by making them attend a meeting or by communicating?
HN: They attended. During the 33 days we met more than once, from time to time, especially when the negotiations got to very sensitive political points. Agreement was reached on what Speaker Berri did. Of course he had his method and management style which distinguished him in the matter of negotiation, discussion, and even in putting forward ideas.
GB: With regard to the negotiations, was the issue of disarming Hezbollah or the resistance put forward seriously or did you view it as browbeating?
HN: Yes, the issue was seriously raised. I do not want to mention any names because it may seem that I am targeting a certain person. I can tell you, and the minutes of the Cabinet meetings during the war are available and I refer to them, that there was insistence until the last days on [demilitarizing] the south of the Litani River, although the Israelis failed and started to make concessions. However, there were people in the Cabinet and the ruling team, and I will not mention any names, who demanded setting up a demilitarized zone south of the the Litani River.
With every other word, they said "the sole legitimate weapon" and "exercising the authority of the State." I am not against exercising the authority of the State. In 2000, after liberation I went to Bint Jbeil and said we are not a state or the authority of a state, and the State can come. We did not exercise authority, not at any moment. We did not exercise authority in southern Lebanon and along the border strip at any time.
We are there as the resistance. I said to them: We are present south of the Litani River, we are present north of the Litani, we are present in Beirut, and we are present in various areas, the Lebanese Army is present, and the State exercises its authority. And south of the Litani River should be like that. However, the ruling team insisted that they wanted the area south of the Litani River to be demilitarized.
I will tell you more than that. At the minimum level some UN officials and some European governments accepted what we put forward, namely an area in which there are no apparent weapons and in which the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL are deployed, while the ruling team continued to insist on the demilitarization of south of the Litani River.
Until the last day, when we were discussing sending the army to the South, they obstructed that decision because when they did not get a commitment from us that we will decommission our weapons south of the Litani River, they wanted to include in writing that one of the tasks of the Lebanese Army is to demilitarize that area and it is entitled to raid any home and any place it suspects there are weapons in it.
The brother who was negotiating at the time -and that happened in the negotiations with some officials of the ruling team -said: Brother, take it easy, we do not have homes to raid. Our homes are demolished. What houses you want to raid? They continued to insist on that point. Finally a settlement was reached -when the council of ministers issued orders to send the army to the South the army's tasks were written down, and there was a lengthy discussion at the time. Speaker Berri played a basic role in that discussion, and the army commander as well.
Protracted discussions were held in the Cabinet, and believe the internal situation almost collapsed over that issue. We were going to leave the Cabinet -our ministers and Amal's ministers. We were going to boycott the government. We were going to resign form the government in the last days of the war because the ruling team was insisting on writing in the tasks of the Lebanese Army which it dispatches south of the Al-Litani River that it can raid houses and places where resistance weapons are likely to be found.
That was the climate. This is not much known or in the open. Nevertheless, I say the government has minutes of the meetings and there were people in those negotiations. Ultimately when we go to 14 August. I want to tell you more than that. Before 14 August 2006, on 13 August...
GB: It was a Sunday.
HN: We were notified that it is an end to hostilities, not a cease-fire, and the displaced persons are prohibited from returning to their homes. It was official quarters in the State that officially notified us.
HN: No need to mention names. I do not like to mention names.
GB: Was it someone in the government, outside the government?
HN: It was persons who were asked to notify us by the Lebanese government. They notified us officially that the displaced persons cannot return because the Israelis could carry out any action, and what is taking place now is an end to hostilities and not a cease-fire. They told us frankly that the displaced persons will remain outside their areas until the outstanding points that are linked to south of the Litani and the resistance weapons are resolved. However, the people responded on 14 August 2006. The people were very great.
GB: Perhaps it was out of fear for the people, not anything else?
HN: No, not out of fear for the people. No, no, they were notifying us in order to put pressure on us. They were saying that it will be an end to hostilities on 14 August and there will be no return of the displaced persons. Some people blame us that we waited too long during the war and after the war -but truly if I were to recount everything that occurred with us, and if one day we can bring out those minutes and if they are recorded on audio, and the people know the nature of the discussions and negotiations that were going on, the pressure that was exerted on us, and how the ruling team acted on this matter, they will say we have the patience of Job.
GB: Your Eminence, proceeding from that, Lebanon where to? After a year the country is divided between government and opposition. Society is clearly politically fragmented. There is confessional tension in the country. Where is Lebanon heading to? You are a responsible part of all that.
HN: Look…. After the war, in the first television interview I gave I said we call for a national unity government. Look at the crime I committed. After the war, I did not attack anyone, I did not accuse anyone, I did not say anyone was a traitor -contrary to what they say. In any case, it is all recorded. Let them cite what I said and give the dates, and let them provide full texts.
We talked about a national stamina. We said our country has just come out of a war. We want to reconstruct and rebuild it. We want to obtain assistance for it. We want to protect it. We want to improve and develop it so that it progresses. We want to employ the results of that war in the national interest.
Of course, I spoke about presenting the victory. I said this victory is a present to Lebanon and the Lebanese people, and it was achieved by all of Lebanon. I included in the victory even those who had no connection with the victory. What did I do? I did not say to them increase the number of our ministers in the government. I did not say call me to account, and I will call you to account. I did not want to open an inquiry at the time.
If they want to have an investigation with me I accept, but I do not want an investigation with them. I did not ask for a change in confessional or sectarian shares as they subsequently tried to say -they claimed that Hezbollah wants to improve the Shi'is' position in power. That is not true. We said a national unity government. I even mentioned names: I said there is a big bloc in parliament called the Reform and Change bloc that is allied to the Free Patriotic Movement. Let it share in the government, and let us form a national unity government.
At the time I said I can persuade the rest of the opposition not to ask to be represented in the government, and in fact sections of the opposition blamed me at the time, for we have just come out of war. All what I said -I did not say increase our share, nor did I talk about a change in confessional, sectarian, or representational balances -is that that there is a big Christian faction and I believe the Christians are not properly represented in the government of which we were members.
Let them be represented and let us have a national unity government. I still remember the literature of that day -that we stand shoulder to shoulder and protect and build the country together. I said to them at the time that you bring funds from your friends and we will see our friends. We work and carry this country together. What was their response? No, a national unity government means suicide, and a national unity government means life or death. What do you understand from such words? One understands it is not a local Lebanese matter. The calculations are in another place.
I will tell you in brief. I am convinced there is a Lebanese will to have a solution. Of course, now they will say Iran and Syria. I am convinced there is a Lebanese will for a solution. Some time ago we almost agreed on a national unity government. One of the political leaders on the other side said in the presence of his guests that he agrees and will go along [with a national unity government]. He even said we are forced to sacrifice such and such a person. Then the American ambassador went on a round and the whole situation changed.
My view is that most of the leaders in the ruling team -let's leave the opposition aside -want the internal situation to be remedied. I am convinced of that. All the opposition leaders want the situation to be tackled. It is the Americans who are preventing that. The Americans and the Americans. It is the Americans who are tying the region together, not us. Today, when we say a national unity government we are remedying a Lebanese situation, a national situation.
The Americans believe - and they are wrong - that if they agree to a national unity government then according to them they are giving Syria and Iran something in Lebanon, at a time when they are not getting anything in Iraq and Palestine. It is the Americans who are acting on the basis that the issues of the region are one dossier and one plan, not us. Today we are not mortgaging Lebanon's fate to Gaza's. We are not mortgaging Lebanon's internal situation to the fate of the internal Palestinian situation. We are not mortgaging Lebanon's fate to Iraq's fate.
We are saying come O Lebanese, let us sit together and form a national unity government. But when we join that government the basics should have been already decided so that we do not waste time and hoodwink each other. It is the Americans who prevent that, because the Americans consider the formation of a national unity government in Lebanon is a gain for Iran and Syria, at a time the Americans are still facing a dilemma and a big problem in Iraq.
And there is the situation in Palestine, and you remember that when the incidents in the Gaza Strip occurred, the Americans immediately accused Iran and Syrian -and now recently they have added Qatar to them. They immediately link events to the conflict among the existing axes. Whatever are the events that are taking place in Palestine, whatever are the events that are taking place in Iraq, we say on the Lebanese and national level that Lebanon's interest lies in the establishment of a national unity government.
The opposition cannot rule on its own, nor can the loyalists rule on their own. What prevents the establishment of a national unity government so far? According to my understanding, my information, and my observations, it is the American ambassador on the basis of a decision of his government.
GB: So where to? Now there is division. What then?
HN: Where to?
GB: You are accusing the Americans of being behind not finding a solution. What is to be done? Does the situation remain as it is? Does the present division remain? Will the sit-ins in the city centre continue?
HN: The sit-ins are a detail. I read these days that some people say we are besieging Beirut, staying in a car park as it was said the other day. Is that a siege of Beirut? All Beirut is operating and is open. There is the place of the sit-in which is affected. The sit-ins are a detail. It is the political climate which is the problem in the country.
It is the climate that was created after the war which is the problem. The climate that was created after the war is a completion of the attack against us. Perhaps the view abroad is to the contrary because the media of the other side is stronger. It is depicted that once the war was over we shifted our attack towards inside the country. Not at all. We did not come after the war and demand the overthrow of the government, or that it should be changed or called to account.
We said keep the government, keep the prime minister, keep the ministers, let us expand the government so that it becomes a national unity government. It is they who completed the attack against us, and the attack is still continuing. What they failed to achieve militarily [changes thought] - they have launched an organized campaign steered from outside and inside the country. There is a media operations room which distributes to some media, some newspapers, and some columnists, from the time the war ended to this day, separately from the opposition movement in Lebanon.
The aim of that campaign is to distort Hezbollah's image, distort the image of the resistance -for instance one of the media, there is no need to identify it (and I don't want to involve Al-Jazeera), the only thing it could do on the July war anniversary is to present a report on Beirut's Southern Suburb, an ugly report and anyone who sees it will say that the television report involves targeting, at a time when in the July-August 2006 war the Southern Suburb was presented to the world as a symbol of steadfastness, resistance, resilience, and sacrifice.
There are omissions in the report -it was not the Southern Suburb which they presented in the report. In my view that is not a coincidence. It is part of a big political media operations room that exists in Lebanon and in the Arab World and also the West to distort the image of the resistance and Hezbollah which has achieved a very lofty standing among Arabs, Muslims, and the peoples of the world. It is required to destroy it.
What is happening in Lebanon is part of this matter. Otherwise how can you respond to someone who is saying let us stand shoulder to shoulder, put our hands in each other's hands, and let us make a national unity government in the way they responded to us? That truly is the context of the matter. You ask me what is the way out? The way out is to form a national unity government. More than that. I am surprised by the Lebanese politicians on the media.
We say to them we do not want to be in the government. I do not want ministers from Hezbollah. I do not want to name anyone. Their reply is: You want to control the government. You want to establish a wilayat al-faqih in Lebanon. You want to appropriate political decision-making. I am saying to you form a national unity government of which I am not a member, and I do not want to name any ministers, nor do I want to interfere in the nomination of ministers.
Let the opposition and the pro-government loyalists form a national unity government, and I will give it a vote of confidence, defend it, and support it. The result is that I am accused of wanting to control the government. The solution is to form a national unity government and it is in the hands of the other side.
GB: If that does not happen, Your Eminence? Two governments, an interim government, what?
GB: Everything is possible. Everything is being discussed now, even among the opposition. Everything is possible.
GB: One year later, you have Lebanese prisoners there. One of your brother prisoners recently apologized for becoming a prisoner and increased your burden. What do you say?
HN: I heard him. I say to him there is no need to apologize. He has not made any mistake. That is the nature of war. When we are captured on the frontline it means we are fighting on the frontline, it means we have not buried our weapons and escaped to the rear lines or outside the country. The brothers who are now prisoners in Israeli jails have fought honorably, stood fast, and fought to the last moment, and were captured. When we talk about war we talk about martyrs, wounded, prisoners, and fighters. Therefore it is natural that there are prisoners.
I also want to assure those brothers -and they are definitely reassured -that we cannot leave them in prison. The operation we carried out to capture prisoners on 12 July 2006 confirms that we are like that, that we are a people who do not leave our prisons in jail. Those brothers will definitely return to their fathers, mothers, and families proudly and with their head high. There is no doubt about that. There are negotiations going on and we are not empty-handed. We are negotiating and the day will come, God willing, when we will bring back our brothers proudly and honorably, and without favor from anyone.
GB: There are now negotiations?
HN: Yes, negotiations are continuing.
GB: Is there progress in the negotiations?
HN: We agreed from the first day of the negotiations not to talk about them -so as not to spoil them. You know today in the enemy's entity there are wider opportunities for outbidding and competing, and that could lead to obstructing or thwarting the process. I abide by what we agreed upon. However, I assure you that negotiations are continuing and meetings with the international mediator are continuing.
GB: Does the recurrent targeting of UNIFIL frighten you? Does it make you fear the situation could deteriorate?
HN: It worries us. When the attack on the Spanish contingent occurred, and now the recent story in, we were asked who do you accuse, we said the investigations should show that. Some people tried to put it on Hezbollah, but neither analysis nor the facts support such a charge. Some immediately accused Al-Qaeda, Salafis, I don't know who. It is possible, why not? But why not Israel, since we are mentioning hypotheses?
I'll tell you what Israel's interest is. If the Israelis do not want to have war it is their interest for the number of the international forces in southern Lebanon to increase and to place their mandate under Chapter VII. If they are depicted as being threatened, they will then be forced to change the rules of engagement when they are targeted. As soon as the attack on the Spanish contingent occurred, they began to talk about changing the rules of engagement. Thus they will begin to set up check-points, carry out raids, and fly reconnaissance aircraft.
The objective is not to protect the international forces. The objective is to exercise a serious security authority over the area south of the Litani River. If they do not want to launch a war, then they have an interest to place the UN emergency force under Chapter VII, increase its numbers, and so on, and if they do want a war then they have an interest in making them go away.
The presence of UNIFIL will be very embarrassing for the Israelis, especially if in the next war they contemplate carrying out a wide-scale ground operation. Therefore targeting UNIFIL and making it leave, will render southern Lebanon exposed to the possibilities of war.
Therefore I assume that the Israelis are possible culprits. Yes, other possibilities exist, I cannot deny that. Therefore the important thing is the security investigations which could lead to a result. In short, the targeting of UNIFIL worries us.
GB: Since you are talking about the investigation -and that is my last question -but briefly, Your Eminence, Israel has formed a commission of inquiry [into the war], have you in Hezbollah carried out an internal assessment to draw lessons from the war, the shortcomings and the positive sides?
HN: Yes, and we finished before the Israelis did.
GB: You did not announce it?
HN: We did not make an announcement because we are not a state. We are not an army, a state, or a State institution. We are a resistance movement. Therefore we keep the lessons we learned to ourselves, and we cannot give them to the Israelis. Even the Israelis published only those parts of the Winograd Report that were known and reported in the Israeli press. The Winograd report mentioned more about the failures of the leaders. But the technical part that reveals the weak points in the Israeli army -the important and serious part -was kept hidden.
GB: What about you?
HN: We are not thinking at all of publishing our report. However, we conducted an assessment and identified the strong points the weak points, the shortcomings, the faults, where we can improve our strong points, how we can address our weak points. We did that. We are now working on the basis of that assessment.
GB: Thank you, Your Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, for this interview...
HN: There can be no transparency in that. There is transparency in everything except in that. Our strength is that the resistance is secret, hidden, and unknown to the enemy.
GB: Thank you, Your Eminence, for this exhausting interview in its two parts. Thank you, we had agreed to have this interview more than a month ago. Thank you, honorable viewers, for being with us. God be with you."