Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke during the annual commemoration of the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Israel. He touched on many issues of local, regional and international importance. His speech showed how Hezbollah has become more influential and how it sees itself as the vanguard of Iranian power, a partner that not only threatens Israel but also views itself as a proud part of an “axis of resistance” against the US and its allies.
Among the topics discussed were Hezbollah’s reduced presence in Syria, how it could threaten Israel in the air and at sea, and that the US was seeking to communicate with Hezbollah despite sanctioning its members in the Lebanese parliament. Unsurprisingly, Nasrallah said he was confident of victory in any future war with Israel, hinting that Hezbollah would also seek to defend Lebanese airspace from Israeli planes and that it has new offensive capabilities.
The following takeaways from his speech are based on a transcript from Iran’s Fars News Agency.‘We are prepared to invade the Galilee’
Nasrallah said there were scenarios or plans that are ready to be implemented that would foresee the invasion of the Galilee by Hezbollah. This threat is not surprising since the terrorist organization has been aiming for years to use the next conflict to grab and hold some territory. It built tunnels under the border of northern Israel that were discovered as part of Israel’s Operation Northern Shield from December 4, 2018, through January 13, 2019.
The Hezbollah leader’s goal in mentioning the Galilee was to frighten Israel and provoke some kind of response. He also wants to make it seem like Hezbollah has a military on par with Israel and that it seriously believes, in some future battle, it can win a conventional war in which it will take and hold land. This is part of Hezbollah’s fantasy after fighting seriously in Syria during the civil war, where its units did fight a conventional military war. In that case, however, they were fighting the Syrian rebels.The 2006 war with Israel got Lebanon 13 years of security
Hezbollah thinks that the 2006 war was a success and it pays lip service to this theory. It argues that Lebanon got “security” out of the war. Israel also believes that the war made for 13 years of quiet on the northern border. This is interesting: it means that Hezbollah prefers the quiet and security which it thinks it “bought” through the war. But what security did it bring? Lebanon was secure in 2005, before Hezbollah attacked Israel. It was Hezbollah that provoked the war, and it is the organization that wants to rewrite history. In fact, Hezbollah used the war to refurbish its image, tarnished in 2005 by the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. Hezbollah was weak in 2006 and concerned about its future war; the attack on Israel was meant to deflect from its weakened position.
Today, Hezbollah is stronger than ever; strong in parliament and also strong on the ground, with its military installation and arms build-up, and its acting as Lebanon’s own expeditionary army fighting in Syria. It is slowly consuming Lebanon until, eventually, the country will be more an appendage of Hezbollah’s power than the other way around.‘Our offensive power has multiplied’
Hezbollah openly boasts about its abilities. Nasrallah admits that it had “limited” attack abilities in 2006. Now it claims to have drones and new advanced technologies to use on land, sea and air. Much of this comes from Iran, including precision guidance for missiles and other technology. Hezbollah says its missiles are more accurate. This indicates that Hezbollah’s boasts about being able to reach all of Israel and estimates of it having 150,000 rockets may be reasonable. It clearly wants us to think so.A new war will set the Middle East ablaze
Nasrallah has said that a new war will have greater consequences than in 2006. What Hezbollah has in mind is an arc of conflict from Lebanon to Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It argues that all the forces of the region that are pro-Iran will be arrayed against Israel. This likely means Shi’ite paramilitaries in Iraq and the threatening of Israel from Syria.
Hezbollah is now planning for a scenario of war between the US and Iran – and that Hezbollah will be part of that war by fighting Israel. “Israel will not be neutral – and when the war begins against Iran, this war will begin in the entire region.” Hezbollah sees itself now as a major piece on the chessboard against the US and Israel, which is also how Iran tends to see its own strategy. This shows how clearly Nasrallah has developed a worldview and where he sees Hezbollah’s role as key.Hezbollah opposes a US-Iran war, threatens UAE
Nasrallah claims that it is important to prevent a US-Iran war and that neither the US nor Iran want a war. This is what Shi’ite paramilitary leader Hadi al-Amiri has also said in Iraq, which demonstrates message discipline among pro-Iran groups. They don’t want war because they also fear its consequences. Iran does not fear a solution but it will not speak directly with the US, Nasrallah says. He points out that during the tensions after Iran downed a US drone in June, Iran’s threats resulted in the US foregoing retaliation. This isn’t the way Washington sees the situation, but Hezbollah believes that both the US and Israel fear a new war.
The Hezbollah leader noted that a war with Iran will affect the whole region, and feigned worries about the markets in the UAE. This is a veiled threat to Abu Dhabi.The ‘Deal of the Century’ was a failure
Nasrallah said that Saudi Arabia was so afraid to host the “Deal of the Century” meeting in Riyadh that it got Bahrain to host the recent summit instead. He claimed that Jared Kushner has admitted the Bahrain meeting was a failure. This also shows that Hezbollah wants to see the deal fail. Nasrallah is deeply interested in Jerusalem and angry that the US moved its embassy there. He says that both Muslims and Christian Palestinians oppose the US and Israel. This is part of Hezbollah’s attempt to bridge the sectarian divide and reach out to other religions.Iran will never leave Syria but Hezbollah will reduce forces
Nasrallah says the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad has won the war, and that the victory was achieved with help from Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. “Iran will never leave Syria,” Nasrallah claims. He also says that Israel is lying when it says it is targeting weapons shipped by Iran to Hezbollah via Syria. “I tell them that weapons have arrived and that Israel is deceiving its people.” He also says Israel is involved in a military adventure in Syria. He warned Israel that when the S-300 air defense system is operational, then Israel will be “playing on the edge of the fire.”
Hezbollah wants Russia to stop Israel’s attacks but he is careful about the Russian issue. What he wants to emphasize is that the Syrian regime is on the path to victory and that Hezbollah can draw down its forces.‘We are friends with Russia, but… ’
Nasrallah said that Iran’s exit from Syria is not in Moscow’s interest. He argued that reports of clashes between Russia and Iran in Syria are fake news. Then he argued that in Syria, Hezbollah does not take or give orders to Russia. This is a kind of distancing of Hezbollah and Iran from Russia’s role there. Nasrallah also claimed to meet Assad but did not reveal when for security reasons. All this shows that Hezbollah is playing a complex game in Syria: reducing its forces while trying to whitewash Russia-Iran tensions, and hoping that Moscow will let Damascus use the S-300s against Israel. In fact, Nasrallah even implies that Hezbollah should take over air defense of Lebanon.
‘We don’t care about US sanctions’
The US recently designated several Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s parliament as terrorists. But Nasrallah points out that Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization and has had sanctions imposed on it since the 1980s. He is proud that the group is being sanctioned, and claims that the sanctions do not affect Hezbollah. “We have options to advance our affairs,” he said.Yemen’s Houthis are good, the UK is bad
Nasrallah praised the Houthi rebels in Yemen and condemned Great Britain for its role in seizing an Iranian oil tanker. Both comments show the regional and global aspirations of Hezbollah to play a worldwide role in policy-making. The various statements about Iran’s policies indicate how closely aligned and coordinated Nasrallah’s speech was with Tehran. Hezbollah is starting to think of itself as a major player, even more important than a state. It doesn’t speak as a member of parliament or just a group, but with pretensions to be on the world stage – alongside Israel, the US, Iran and Russia. It seems to imply that it is more powerful and important than Lebanon itself.
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