Hassan Nasrallah’s TV Interview
I should first explain that we in the US can’t watch Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar. Zionists in US Congress decide what we can watch on the Middle East and what we can’t watch. At one point, they wanted to ban Al Jazeera, but lately they have grown fond of the network after the eruption of the Arab uprisings. They must have heard of the role the network is playing on the side of the Arab counter-revolution. They not only banned Al-Manar TV but they declared it a terrorist organization. Nasrallah’s interview aired on the station Tuesday was intended to address both domestic and Arab issues. But his view on the Arab uprisings was the most interesting. He seems to disagree with his own media when he asserted that Arab uprisings are not part of a US conspiracy. Hezbollah media, including Al-Manar, have been promoting the silliest conspiratorial scenarios regarding the Arab uprisings. Such scenarios have become popular among advocates of the Syrian regime. Al-Manar website features such outlandish conspiracy theories that last week they had one scenario in which Prince Bandar personally disguised himself and snuck into Syria to implement the Zionist conspiracy against Syria and to kill Imad Mughniyah.
Nasrallah unwittingly distanced himself from his media in his analysis of Arab uprisings. But his analysis of Syria fell short of showing respect for the Syrian people and their legitimate grievances against the regime. He dwelled on the virtues of the foreign policies of the regime as if they suffice for the population to be content. He spoke about reform in Syria while talking about a conspiracy against the regime. Of course, the conspiracy against the regime is real, but the popular uprising against the Syrian regime is all too real aswell. The people who are taking to the streets in Syria are not tools of a foreign conspiracy. Also, Nasrallah failed to deliver sympathy to the Syrian people who are opposed to the regime. He failed to convince them that his support for the regime is not insensitive to their plight as a population living under a dictatorship. To be sure, Nasrallah points out the double standards in Western and Arab media treatment of the uprising of Syria, versus the treatment of the uprisings or protests in Bahrain or Jordan or any other pro-US dictatorship. But that is not the fault or the making of the Syrian people. There was an opportunity for Nasrallah to express consistent support for Arab uprisings, but he did not. He basically invokes the inconsistency of Western attitudes toward Arab uprisings, as if that justifies the inconsistent attitude by Hezbollah. This is not to necessarily argue that his stance toward Syria is dictated by sectarian calculations, as is implied by sectarian-obsessed Saudi/Hariri media. It is more likely that Hezbollah relations with Syria are more political, especially if one remembers the early phase in the history of Hezbollah when it clashed repeatedly and violently with the Syrian regime. In 1987, Syrian troops entered Beirut and inaugurated their new rule by massacring a number of Hezbollah fighters. (Of course, Hezbollah’s alliance with Shiite sectarian forces in Iraq, including with groups that are part of the local structure of the occupation, and their silence vis-à-vis Sistani’s services to the occupation, can only be explained in sectarian terms.)
Hezbollah has a Syria problem: the traditional esteem that most Syrians held Nasrallah with is now a thing of the past, despite continued support by Syrians who support the regime. Hezbollah first reacted to the Arab uprisings by showing enthusiastic support for the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Here were two regimes that were clients of the US and who cooperated with Israel. Hezbollah was very pleased to have them go. And Hezbollah, unlike several Iranian leaders, did not comment on the Arab uprisings by making silly arguments that they were inspired by Iran’s revolution. The last time the Iranian revolution inspired any Arab was more than three decades ago. It is a thing of the past. But when the uprising hit Syria, Hezbollah changed course. Long gone were the cheers and enthusiasm. Suddenly, Hezbollah media started sensing an outside Zionist conspiracy. For some inexplicable reason, Hezbollah could not understand why the Syrian people who have suffered from decades of dictatorial rule by the Assad family would be inclined to depose the regime.
Nasrallah revealed that deep down, the party is aware of the Syrian popular criticisms of its stance, although that stance is being exploited by sectarian Saudi/Qatari media. But one can’t stand with a dictatorial regime while hoping to win support of the people under its rule.