Across the Bay

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Well, That Settles It

The Daily Star published an interview with Hizbullah #2, Naim Qassem. The stuff he said marks a remarkable shift in the official rhetoric. For the longest time, Hizbullah denied lending any material support to the Palestinian militants, claiming moral support only. Qassem put that to rest:

"We believe in cooperation in all possible and appropriate ways and forms, whether it be material, financial or moral support. And we consider it our obligation."

He added: "Why would some people denounce our support for the Palestinians in their struggle. Can't they see how the U.S. backs Israel with $3 billion each year, in addition to their military support and the political acceptance of daily crimes and aggression against the Palestinian people? It is only normal that countries sharing the same ideas cooperate to face alliances threatening their existence."

Qassem said Hizbullah has always regarded the Palestinian struggle as something that concerns the whole Arab world.

He said: "To those who do not believe in our support for the Palestinians as neighboring people under occupation, we say there is also a direct benefit for Lebanon in supporting them. Helping the Palestinians stand up to the Israeli offensives will disable Israel's ability to expand its aggression into neighboring countries, of which the first would be Lebanon, and we have suffered from this in the past."

As for the issue of disarmament, Qassem also dismissed all illusions about Hizbullah's willingness to lay down their arms, even if Israel withdraws from Shebaa:

"To our partners in the country who may not approve of us maintaining our weapons, as a defensive force, after Shebaa Farms are liberated, we say will be willing to sit down behind closed doors and discuss this issue and try to convince them of the need to keep the resistance's power, which is Lebanon's power facing Israel's military superiority."

He also wrote off the theory of Hizbullah merging with the army:

"The Lebanese Army does not enjoy as much freedom in operating as the resistance does as it is restricted with the political situation and international formulas it can not bypass. That is why we need to keep our autonomous work to preserve our independent operation."

"The resistance's arms are there as a defensive line against continuous Israeli aggressions. If they withdrew from the Shebaa Farms, Lebanon would remain under Israeli threats. If we do not have a defensive power what can we do to face this threat?"

So, that settles that. The question is, what are they thinking? I mean we all knew that this was their held position, but this is a direct provocation, domestically, regionally, and internationally. I don't care how many delegates they send to Europe to "work on the party's image." Apparently, not only the Syrians misread the Europeans.

Is this supposed to shore up the party's image internally with the Shi'a constituency for the elections? Are they basically inviting trouble? This is precisely what everyone has been accusing them of, domestically and internationally. Is it that they basically don't care, because they figure no one has the will to forcefully disarm them? Is this deliberate intimidation, after the numerical one failed? They are basically snubbing the entire Lebanese interior, not to mention the entire world.

But this is the bottom line. This is what Hizbullah is, and always was: a militant Islamist group with a regional agenda (and a program aimed at overthrowing the Lebanese system).

I eagerly await the official responses on this one.