Assange interviews Nasrallah in new TV program

Hezbollah leader speaks with WikiLeaks founder about group's support of Assad, engagement with Syria rebels.

By ELIEZER SHERMAN
April 17, 2012 16:42
3 minute read.
Julian Assange

Julian Assange 370. (photo credit: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

 
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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 and towns.

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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.

“That understanding makes sure both sides don’t fire at civilians,” Nasrallah said.

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.”

“The resistance is popular,” he said. “Most of the men in it are village boys, from small towns and agricultural communities.”

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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 “donkey.”

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.

While Hezbollah’s “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.

Underlying 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.

Nasrallah 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.

Still, 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 refused.

As long as the doors to a political solution are closed, Nasrallah warned, then the fighting will continue.

Nasrallah explained 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.

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