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Lebanon and Nasrallah's Trinity - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If the latest reports are correct, within the next few weeks the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will reveal the names of nine members of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah for alleged participation in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Sources close to the ICC tell us that the list of those likely to be indicted includes the names of at least two senior members of Hezbollah.

Once the list is published, the question would be how to detain those indicted and bring them to trial in The Hague?

Since Lebanon is not a signatory of the ICC treaty, it is unlikely that it will order any arrests. The accused may also decide to run to Iran as soon as they get wind of their indictment. As Iran is not an ICC member either, there would be little chance of any arrests on its soil. Over the past 30 years several pro-Iranian Lebanese militants have fled to Iran after being indicted by courts in a number of European countries.

Thus, some might wonder what is point of issuing warrants that cannot be enforced.

The answer is that arrest warrants issued by the ICC or similar international tribunals carry a political, and some might say even a moral, weight that cannot be ignored.

Right now some 30 such warrants still remain pending, among them Ratko Mladic, the Serbian general who organised the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica. However, many arrest warrants are enforced after many years. Mladic’s partner in crime Radovan Karadic was picked up after 12 years of successful hiding.

Although the ICC is focusing on a number of individuals, it would be hard to pretend that Hezbollah as a whole will not be affected by such grave accusations. The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah, like all other branches of the pan-Shiite radical movement, is known for its iron discipline and highly centralized decision-making. It also has a seasoned intelligence service of is own which trained and supported by Iranian services.

No one would believe that individual members could organize a sophisticated operation to carry out a high profile assassination in the heart of Beirut without anyone in their party knowing what was going one.

And, if someone high-level in the Lebanese branch knew of the plot, is it possible that Tehran was not informed? Would a branch of the movement go for such a high risk operation without obtaining at least a nod from the ‘mother country’?

Judging by a series of recent statements from senior Iranian figures, the answer must be no.

Here is Major-General Hassan Firuzabadi:’ Those who criticize our support for Hezbollah and Hamas do not understand what is at stake. We support {those movements} because they represent the firs line of our own defense. They are fighting for our safety and security and he triumph of our revolution.’

General Friuzabadi is Chief of Staff of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces and member of the High Council of National Security that ultimately sets the strategy for foreign radical groups supported by Iran.

And here is Awaz Heydarpour, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s security commission in Tehran: ‘ Wherever there is Hezbollah there is Iran. Our revolutionary movement is not limited by borders.’

And here is Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of the Lebanese branch of the movement: I am proud of being a soldier of the Supreme Guide and a fighter for Walyat al-Faqih (Rule by the Clergy).’

There is an abundant literature on Hezbollah’s Iranian connection. Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Mohtshami-pour has published memoirs narrating how founded the party during his tenure as Khomeini’s ambassador to Damascus.

Hezbollah was originally founded by a group of mullahs, led by Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari, while they were in the Shah’s prisons in Iran in 1975.

In 1980, the government, headed by the then Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, approved a budget of $60 million to help create branches of Hezbollah in s many Arab countries as possible. The idea was that these groups would help switch Arab public opinion in favor of the Islamic Republic during its bloody war with Saddam Hussein.

The model taken was that of the Communist International which helped create more than 60 pro-Soviet parties across the globe during the 1920s and 1930s.

Over the eight years that followed the Tehran decision, 10 foreign branches of Hezbollah were created abroad.

The Lebanese branch became the best known because of its involvement in a series of dramatic operations, including the taking of over 100 foreign hostages.

That Hezbollah is, at least in part, a foreign body, is clearly indicated by the new slogan launched in Lebanon.

The slogan is: People, Army and Resistance. (Al-Shaab, al-Jaish, al-Muqawimah).

The slogan splits the assumed unity of Lebanon as a nation-state by dividing it into three distinct elements. It assumes that people is something separate from the army and the resistance.

Because the term ‘resistance’ is supposed to identify Hezbollah, the slogan also assumes that the Lebanese people and their army are not willing or able to resist foreign threats against their security and national sovereignty. That assumption implicitly puts the Lebanese people and their army in the position of tutelage vis-à-vis Hezbollah.

The slogan could be seen as a cover to legitimize the creation of a Hezbollah stat within the Lebanese one with Tehran’s financial and political support.

But let us return to the impending indictments.

Even if the foot soldiers of h crime are brought to justice, those who sent them into the killing field will remain immune.

The immediate question would be whether a party that is accused of being involved, even remotely, in so heinous a crime could remain part of a country’s legislature and government.

Dislodging Hezbollah from positions of power would not easy. The party has the capacity and, certainly the will, to use force even if that meant pushing the country towards another civil war that few Lebanese want.

Thus the real question is the dire political choice that all those involved must face: the choice between justice and peace.

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. Mr. Taheri has won several prizes for his journalism, and in 2012 was named International Journalist of the Year by the British Society of Editors and the Foreign Press Association in the annual British Media Awards.

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