Hanin Ghaddar

Hezbollah on the defensive

There is a saying in Arabic about a mountain that went into labor to give birth to a mouse. It is mostly used to explain a pathetic or disappointing outcome after a long process with high expectations. It applies perfectly to how the Lebanese felt after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s press conference on Monday in which he tried to prove Israel’s involvement in the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others.

Nasrallah succeeded in forcing almost all Lebanese to watch his presentation for more than two hours, glued to the TV, anticipating a serious and highly-significant turn of events. But the leader of the Party of God fell short in delivering the goods.

Nasrallah may have reassured his own supporters that Hezbollah played no role in the killing, but the footage from Israeli UAVs filming the usual routes Rafik Hariri allegedly used when driving in Beirut, Saida and Mount Lebanon, combined with a power-point presentation on Israeli spies and statements by Israeli officials on Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination, did not prove Israel’s involvement either. 

The “evidence” Nasrallah presented can be easily refuted. It is well known that Israel’s MK surveillance planes have filmed every inch of Lebanon, that it has agents and surveillance equipment on the ground, and that it has shown that it is more than capable of liquidating its enemies. In short, there were no surprises, which was not unexpected given that Nasrallah’s objective was not to surprise us. 

But to give the Hezbollah leader some credit, apart from soothing any anxieties his supporters may have had, he showed us the extent to which his party has become technologically advanced. The footage he presented made a big impression, and not just on Hezbollah’s supporters, showing that the party can directly tap into video feeds from the many aerial drones circulating above Lebanon to Israel’s military command. He also reminded us of previous Israeli murder missions in Lebanon, highlighting the country’s historic disregard for Lebanese sovereignty. 

However, at the end of the day, the footage, according to the public and experts, was meaningless. It did not add anything new to our knowledge of Israel’s capabilities and intentions, and it failed drastically at constituting evidence.

But Nasrallah knew that. His intention was to send a clear message to the Lebanese and the international community that Hezbollah rejects the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and anything that comes from it. That is why he did not provide the STL with the information he’s been gathering.

Of course, even if the STL wanted to take his so-called “evidence” into consideration, there is serious doubt that Hezbollah will let the investigation team know just how it got the footage. Nasrallah does not have to prove it is authentic as long as his supporters believe so. This means that whatever indictment the STL issues, Hezbollah will not accept it. Still, Nasrallah demanded that the Lebanese government form an internal committee to carry out an independent investigation that would, of course, base its inquiry on Israel’s involvement in the assassination.

By giving the Lebanese government an internal option, Nasrallah was simply telling PM Saad Hariri that he’d better take this alternative or face the possibility of violence between the Shia and the Sunnis, which would spread to the whole region.

He said this very calmly, dropping the tone that he used prior to last month’s Saudi-Syrian-Lebanese summit. This indicates that Hezbollah decided to abide by the summit’s statement of avoiding violence, at least until further notice.

The Syrian regime now, having agreed with the Saudis on preserving calm in Lebanon, won’t let Nasrallah violate the rules. However, as the Syrians still want to undermine the STL, they have supported Nasrallah’s presentation and have asked for it to be taken into account.  Nasrallah is now waiting for Hariri’s answer, hinting through reports on Hezbollah media of a change of government should he not take his “recommendations” seriously.

What Nasrallah knew but did not tell his supporters is that despite it all, the STL will go on, independent of any internal struggle in Lebanon. Even if Nasrallah wishes to kill the tribunal, he cannot, despite the power his party wields over the country.
So now what? Will the STL change course because Nasrallah has said it must? Of course not. Will Nasrallah change his rhetoric? Of course not. But one can say that things are not quite the same after Nasrallah’s Monday conference, only because now the debate has shifted, and whoever wishes to discuss the STL will have to include the footage, whether or not they are convinced by it.

On the other hand, when and if the indictments are handed down, things will also not be quite the same for Nasrallah, who will be even more cornered. And until then, the Lebanese will probably witness more threats, messages and an escalation of tension.

Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of NOW Lebanon

  • Marco Antonio

    Wow, five years ago hizballa and march 8 gang of investigators told us it was father of lintel (abou adas) who killed Harriri. Now they say it could be abou shlomo, but even hiballa isn't sure about that possibility according to their press conference of late, so that leaves micky mouse and donald duck and a host of other israeli agents on the hook. Boy those israelis are everywhere, in the air on the beaches, even in aoun's movement, its scary...

    August 16, 2010

  • XYZ

    I find No such 'Evidence' in any part of his presentation,plus all the usual other stuff that he failed to address..The timing of his 'evidence',the action prior/during and after the killing,the total & utter failure of Hizb,Leb/Syrian Sec services,killing of Mugniyeh/kanaan and few others of the 'link'...I don't hold much faith,a deal could/would be done between Saudi/Syria over Iran/Hizb and more power... time for Mr Saad Hariri in running Lebanon...As the late Harriri use to say.."NO ONE BIGGER THAN THE COUNTRY"...Think about it !!

    August 14, 2010

  • Horatio Caine

    The Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus covered the scene of the explosion only a few hours after the event destroying precious evidence, that's an irrefutable fact accepted by all, even Jamil Sayyed. Has Nasrallah inquired as to why did they do that? How did the Israelis, after killing Hariri managed to get the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus to cover the evidence?

    August 13, 2010

  • Ali A-lSadr

    that's like the difference between being dead and being little dead. And despite all the pressure the might of the USA can bear on the UN officials they still told the truth about the non existence of the weapons of mass destruction by following the evidence, just like they will with the STL no matter what Ashkenazi, Feltman, Assad or Nasrallah invent, I just hope that Hassan does not burn the whole place down to protect the guilty if evidence point to someone from the so called Hezballah.

    August 12, 2010

  • koussa

    How often do Israeli drones have flyovers over Lebanon's territories, according to HA media all the time, almost daily. What are the odds that every part of Lebanon has been captured by those drone's cameras, extremely high. I spilled my three scoop Ice cream cone the other day and if an Israeli drone had captured the many previous times I passed by that ice cream stand I bet they had something to do with the now infamous ice cream spilling incident after all it's obvious they were watching my every move and plotting to topple my ice cream, all three scoops,

    August 12, 2010

  • upurs

    Like him or hate him, his presentation is a lot more credible than Colin's Powell's presentation at the UN of the supposed "evidence" of Iraqi weapons of mass distraction errr I mean destruction.

    August 12, 2010

  • Elia

    Once the STL can give me better proof. I'm going to have to go with El- Sayyed. And really, the second I click now Lebanon, I just know it's m14 bias. Don't shoot down an idea, before looking at it neutrally. I am Christian, and I too care for lebanon's identity.

    August 12, 2010

  • Hassan

    This Arabic saying applies exactly on the delivery of the conference by Nassrallah. I must add it was easy and a Cesarean labor; and what a coincidence, Julius Caesar was betrayed and murdered. To be fair, I am going to accept this footage as evidence of the Israeli’s involvement. However, this footage, and how it was obtained, made me more convinced to believe that there are more than one criminal working together to accomplish this murder. People are not stupid not to think of another Arabic saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. I know it is hard to accept and suspicious to believe that both the Israelis and Hezbollah found a common enemy and used each other to achieve this hideous goal. Yet, look back at time and history, there are proves, from BC to War II etc. actually a good example would be the Iraq- Iran war and US. Israel is manipulating and smart; they used Hezbollah members to execute Hariri’s murder. Hezbollah achieved one goal, Hariri's assassination, and by doing

    August 12, 2010

  • Tim Lebanese

    Like some politician said, have you looked at the pictures ? It clearly shows it's a one way street! That didn't happen until LONG after the assassination happenned!

    August 12, 2010

  • wiseman

    I am a very strong advocate of Lebanon....but as a warning to Lebanon...I swear I will relinquish my Lebanese passport if Lebanon enters another civil war. I (...)on anyone who raise weapons against the other.

    August 11, 2010

  • Lebanese

    u can show these pics to (...) uneducated people but not us u printed oput pictures from google earth and came up with this story like (...)

    August 11, 2010

  • From US

    first time I read this electronic publication. I clearly sense journalism skewed by political agenda. Nice graphics !

    August 11, 2010

  • JS11

    Did you even watch Nasrallah's presentation? Undated videos are completely inconclusive evidence.

    August 11, 2010

  • jnoub

    Thats only your opinion, the problem with people like u is that u dont want to see the truth .. people are so blind ..

    August 11, 2010