Nasrallah Stirs A Pot Of Provocation That Will Erupt In Our Faces – OpEd


By Baria Alamuddin*

Another day, another “martyrs” event at which Hassan Nasrallah laboriously and provocatively holds forth on every imaginable issue — while being inexplicably bashful about discussing Lebanon’s dire domestic predicaments.

Lebanon is too small for “Sayyid” Nasrallah’s ego. He doesn’t just see himself as a global leader. In his hubristic mind he’s some world-conquering historical hero — Khalid ibn Al-Walid or Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi perhaps.

Once again, the Hezbollah leader was seeking to insert Lebanon into Palestinian affairs. Enthusiastically embracing the regionalization of the conflict, and unilaterally taking upon himself the divine right to decide matters of war and peace for the entire Lebanese nation, Nasrallah declared: “The Gaza battle is important because its impact will not only be confined to Gaza but will affect the entire region… We will not hesitate to provide any assistance at any time.” He bellowed that “the enemy understands very well that any assassination will not go unanswered, and will lead to a wider confrontation” – while failing to acknowledge how such a wider confrontation would inevitably play out.

Make no mistake, Palestine is the mother of all good causes and fully deserves our solidarity. Indeed, as Palestinians prepare to commemorate the Nakba, there have already been violations of a shaky truce in Gaza. Women, children and entire families have been slaughtered in airstrikes, as Israel once again imposes its remorseless calculus that upwards of 20 times as many Palestinians must die in vengeance for any Israeli killed.

Nasrallah’s cynical efforts to drag the battered and half-starved Lebanese people into direct conflict with Israel are an act of criminal lunacy. There is only one possible outcome to his efforts to co-opt and exploit this agenda; Israel’s infinitely greater firepower, backed with Western arms and support, would reduce Lebanon, Syria and other Arab states caught in the crossfire to ashes in a few short days, while Nasrallah cowers in his bunker, hoping to dominate the aftermath.

Nasrallah urged further progress toward a “joint operations room for all resistance groups.” These comments don’t come out of nowhere, but follow efforts from Tehran to unify these groups under its leadership. During April, Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani held a series of secret meetings to that end, including one with Hezbollah at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. This was followed up by a visit by Iran’s foreign minister, who raised tensions with a provocative visit to Israel’s border. Increasingly assertive actions by entities such as Islamic Jihad, with Hamas also firing rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon, appear to be a partial consequence of Iranian encouragement for raising tensions throughout the region.

Nasrallah’s reluctance to discuss Lebanon was understandable. Hezbollah has never before been faced with a populace so fearlessly ready to denounce the group on TV or via social media. Even Hezbollah’s grassroots constituencies are crumbling amid poverty, economic meltdown, political chaos and uncertainty over the future. Hezbollah can easily block the appointment of presidents, ministers and officials — but its failure to implement any affirmative vision leaves it looking like the impotent, incompetent and corrupt protagonist that broke the nation.

Nasrallah offered a distortedly one-sided account of Syrian developments, hailing Assad’s return to the Arab League as a victory. Several Lebanese commentators noted that Nasrallah omitted to mention that Hezbollah had been a principal protagonist in the conflict, and that such hollow “victories” were achieved by swimming through rivers of Syrian blood. His discomfort was highlighted by a specific denial that Hezbollah had obstructed the return of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to areas under Hezbollah’s control. If that is true, why are thousands of Syrians so reluctant to return? Is it because they are scared of what Hezbollah and Assad will do to them? Or is it because Hezbollah has stolen their farmlands and real estate for personal profit?

Even more discomforting, Nasrallah was compelled to deny as “injustice and slander” any relationship to prominent narcotics kingpin Merhi Al-Ramthan, who was killed last week in a Jordanian airstrike. Jordan also targeted Hezbollah-linked narcotics facilities in Syria. “Had we been making billions of dollars” from the drugs trade “it would have been noticed,” Nasrallah asserted.

Oh, but it has been noticed. Hezbollah’s deep embroilment in the regional and international narcotics trade, accompanied by Syria’s slide into narco-statehood, has been widely observed as a matter of factual record — as highlighted by an excellent new investigation by Arab News, among many other sources. As recently as Sunday, a startling report appeared in The Sunday Times in the UK, providing new details about Hezbollah and Iran’s involvement with international criminal networks, including a major Irish drugs cartel that has made use of Hezbollah’s hawala money transfer networks, and collaborated in the assassination of Iranian dissidents.

With Assad seeking to cosmetically clean up his act to lubricate his re-entry into the Arab League, many Captagon factories are likely to return to the Beqaa Valley side of the border where they originated — so expect Hezbollah to expand its hugely profitable narcotics activities.

Is it any surprise that, at a moment when Arab states are seeking to address the Syria issue and normalize diplomatic contacts with Tehran, Hezbollah and Quds Force-backed “resistance” factions are going all out to ignite new conflicts? For Tehran and Assad’s diplomatic détente with the Arab world to evolve into anything more meaningful, decisive pressure must be exerted on them to break with their ideology of perpetual confrontation, and the mobilization of vast paramilitary forces and missile arsenals as a dagger held permanently to the region’s throat.

Warlord theocrats such as Nasrallah, Qaani and Qais Khazali in Iraq exist solely for the purposes of ceaseless escalation and the perpetuation of sectarian divisions. By definition, the region cannot experience peace until these figures and their mercenary armies are permanently defanged.

Arab states have sent a clear message that they wish to turn the page on the conflicts of the past decade. But if they genuinely desire to neutralize the entities that fueled and augmented these conflicts, the real diplomatic heavy lifting is only just beginning.

• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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