WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange premiered his new television show on Tuesday
with an exclusive interview with the outspoken but largely elusive Sayyid Hassan
Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general.
During the interview – which
was Assange’s first for his new program, The World Tomorrow, on the
Kremlin-funded English-language Russia Today – the Hezbollah leader rejected
claims that the group, which Israel, the US, Canada and the Netherlands
recognize as a terrorist organization, fires rockets toward Israeli civilians
Speaking with Assange via video feed and seated in front of a
blue curtain and the Lebanese and Hezbollah flags, Nasrallah explained that
Hezbollah began “reacting” to “Israeli aggression” following the “resistance
years” between 1982 and 1992, “strictly to stop Israel from shelling our
civilians.” He said Israel has been “shelling Lebanese civilians since 1948,”
when the Jewish state was founded.
Today, Nasrallah continued, Hezbollah
and Israel have an “understanding” whereby both sides agree not to fire on
civilian targets. He referred to a 1993 US-negotiated cease-fire between Israel
and the Lebanese group that ended a flare-up of hostilities between the two
sides, which was reaffirmed in a written ceasefire in 1996.
understanding makes sure both sides don’t fire at civilians,” Nasrallah
The Hezbollah leader explained to Assange, who sat next to a
translator in a television studio, how the group’s fighters are able to outsmart
Israel’s “sophisticated technology, weapons and communications.”
resistance is popular,” he said. “Most of the men in it are village boys, from
small towns and agricultural communities.”
He explained that the “code”
the group’s members used to confuse the IDF is “simply the use of slang from
their villages – from their families.”
“Anyone listening trying to decode
the language will not easily be able to find out what they mean,” Nasrallah
said, smiling as he recited code such as “cooking pot” and
Hezbollah periodically claims to out Israeli spies within its
ranks, and uncover Israeli espionage equipment stashed in southern Lebanon, the
terrorist group’s stronghold, while Israel decries the terrorist group’s use of
Lebanese villages and populated areas to hide weapons.
“resistance” to Israel is carried out via paramilitary operations, the group has
worked for years to build political clout in Lebanon, and today boasts 12
members in the March 8 Alliance, Lebanon’s ruling coalition.
such regional political influence, the Hezbollah leader spoke extensively about
his group’s attempts to encourage the armed opposition in neighboring Syria to
work with its President Bashar Assad, whom Hezbollah supports.
reiterated his group’s support for the Assad regime, despite strong
international and Arab objection to the Syrian president’s violent handling of
the anti-government opposition.
Hezbollah, along with Iran and Russia,
have been the most outspoken supporters of Assad as he continues for over a year
to battle rebels demanding he step down. The Syrian conflict has resulted in the
deaths of more than 9,000 people, according to the United Nations.
while Nasrallah recognized that both Assad and the opposition may have crossed
“red lines,” he said Hezbollah “hasn’t backed down in the face of Israeli and
American pressure” and shifted alliances.
Hezbollah encouraged armed
rebels to engage in a dialogue with Damascus, an offer that the opposition
As long as the doors to a political solution are closed,
Nasrallah warned, then the fighting will continue.
that Hezbollah’s support of Assad was rooted in the Syrian president’s service
to the “Palestinian cause.” He insisted that Damascus is “willing to undergo
reforms and prepared for dialogue,” and added that Hezbollah would happily
fulfill the role of an external arbiter between Assad and the opposition.