Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- in an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat former Hezbollah foreign relations official, and candidate for the upcoming elections, representing the Tyre district constituency, Nawaf al-Musawi, calls for a change of the regime of monopolization and dependence on foreign countries into one based on cultural and religious pluralism, and on political partnership in making national decisions, stressing that “we in the opposition indeed can govern Lebanon, and it is no problem for us if the other team refuses to be part of government.” He accuses the majority team of sectarian incitement, instead of criticism of electoral programs, and of fabricating lies, sometimes on reducing the mandate of the president of the republic, and sometimes on an amendment of the Al-Taif Accord. He asks for an overall national confrontation of the networks of spies and hirelings working for Israel, and for an end to the political sniping at the resistance and its weapons. He says that the Israeli military maneuvers later this month are “a test balloon” of a confrontation of the consequences of an assassination of the Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, which, if it happens, would lead to a general conflagration. He affirms that the president of the republic, General Michel Suleiman, is capable of managing the state of balance. He considers that anyone seeking to curtail the role of the president by means of a parliamentary bloc would be harming him, and he stresses that Lebanon can be ruled only through partnership, democracy and consensus.
Here is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have been talking more and more about changing the regime, and this has entailed many reactions and came as a shock for the Lebanese. What do you mean by it? And, what do you mean by establishing a third republic?
[Al-Musawi] We have said that we are seeking to change a regime that the other team has tentatively set up, a regime of monopolization [of power], unilateralism, dependence on foreign countries, and encouraging subservience, through the creation of a climate of sectarian and doctrinal incitement. We have said that we want a change of this dirty, monopolist and dependent regime to set up a regime of cultural and religious pluralism, and of a political partnership in making national decisions.
Concerning a third republic, any electoral competition is based on criticism of political programs, but the current psychological mobilization takes place on the basis of doctrinal and sectarian incitement on the one hand, and, on the other, on the basis of fabrication of lies, sometimes on reducing the mandate of the president of the republic, sometimes on amending the Al-Taif Accord, and thirdly, on setting up a secret-ridden republic. A secret of such a republic would then be discovered every day, in line with their whims. This method of lies, deception, and incitement is inappropriate for the elections that are due to take place in Lebanon. The elections should take place according to standards that befit Lebanon that has pioneered democracy on the one hand, and on the other, was a pioneer in the resistance against the Israeli aggression and occupation. This is why we clearly call for criticism of political programs, not fabricating lies.
Concerning our vision and our program, we, in the entire opposition spectrum, have put forward clear programs. They (the majority) are unable to criticize these programs, so they resort to fabricating lies. For our part, we criticize not only their programs but also the political practices they have been using for more than the last three years, which have led to the loss of the Lebanese independence, which they have signed away to foreign countries, some of whom are Arab and others Western. By the way, while we are talking, the American ambassador (Michelle Sison) has visited a public figure from the other team to coordinate the Kasrawan electoral list. Also, a few days ago, an American minister, who used to be his country’s ambassador in Lebanon, came to coordinate lists in Beirut and Sidon. So, when we politically criticize the other team, we criticize its programs and conduct, but they respond by fabricating lies. This is their habit and this is what they have done before, especially when they came up with massive illusions based on a lie that four officers had been arrested. The illusions then faded away because lies do not last long. So, they confront us with lies, and we confront them with facts.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think of American Vice-President Joseph Biden’s visit to Lebanon?
[Al-Musawi] There are some in Lebanon who want to turn the country into a banana republic, under American domination; moreover, they are begging for American intervention to place Lebanon under an American mandate. Regrettably, this mentality has led only to domestic fragmentation and to dependence on foreign countries. We accept only a unified homeland, on the basis of cohabitation within a consensual democracy. We accept only a Lebanon that makes its own decisions in all independence, away from American hegemony. We accept only a strong Lebanon in the confrontation with the Israeli enemy.
You are now asking questions, and you notice with me that the other team is absolutely avoiding tackling the issue of the networks of spies and hirelings working for Israel, more of which are still being uncovered by the security services. It is strange to see that the other team invents lies to wage Don Quixotian fights, while deliberately ignoring current genuine issues such as the Israeli espionage penetration of Lebanese security. I have already said that relying on the security services to deal with these networks is necessary but not sufficient because there must be an overall national confrontation of the issue of hirelings.
I have also said that the way of tackling the spying issue must start with deepening anti-Israel feelings, and with all the Lebanese considering as a fact that Israel will not be a [good] neighbor, nor will it be a friend; rather, Israel is an enemy; moreover, it is the sole enemy, and any attempt to replace enmity toward Israel with enmity toward an Arab or an Islamic state would encourage Israel’s agents in Lebanon and in other Arab countries. Also, when hirelings are charged with the task of spying on the cadres of the resistance and its leaders, and on the locations of the arms of the resistance, the political sniping at the resistance and its weapons would strengthen the hirelings. It would also enable Israel to activate sleeping agents or recruit new ones. This is why there should be an end to the political targeting of the resistance, and to incitement against it; instead, the dialogue table should be used to discuss issues related to how to confront the Israeli aggression, through a debate on a defense strategy. With such an approach, anyone whose position is different from that of the resistance would be able to raise it at the dialogue table, instead of resorting to incitement, mobilization and rancor against the resistance, because this constitutes fertile ground where spying prospers. We also emphasize that doctrinal and sectarian incitement will lead to the retreat of the priority of enmity toward Israel by spontaneously putting forward the priority of hostility to the other partner in the homeland [Hezbollah]. This is why doctrinal and sectarian incitement should be avoided.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any link between the uncovering of the spy networks and the [planned] Israeli gigantic maneuvers? And, is it true that the basic aim of the maneuvers and of the spying networks is the assassination of Hassan Nasrallah?
[Al-Musawi] We welcome any effort aimed at dismantling the Israeli spy networks; we do not dwell on background analyses, and we do not encourage the public to be preoccupied with them; instead, we appreciate any effort to dismantle the spy networks in question. We are saying that the effort that should made by all those concerned must focus on the confrontation of the Israeli enemy.
With regard to the expected Israeli maneuvers, they must polarize the attention of the Lebanese, first because they will be conducted by an enemy; second, they will be taking place in the close geographical vicinity of Lebanon; and third, because the public objectives of these maneuvers are of direct concern to Lebanon’s security, because – it is said – they could turn into a confrontation. This possibility envisaged by the Israelis poses a question mark over what, in the Israeli minds, could lead to such a development. This brings up the possibility of an Israeli security-related act of aggression against the resistance. This is why one should deal with these maneuvers with responsibility, seriousness, vigilance, and preparedness, all the more so since one of their objectives is to constitute a test balloon for dealing with the consequences of an assassination of Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Hassan Nasrallah. In fact, the Israeli spying activities are focusing on this target, and the Israelis are behaving as if such an assassination would lead to a general conflagration. With the maneuvers in perspective, they are preparing the Israeli society to accept serious consequences, because an Israeli decision has been made to assassinate Hassan Nasrallah. Many states are in collusion with this decision, and all the intense media campaigns against Hezbollah’s secretary general – each time he delivers a speech, and even when he does not deliver a speech – constitute a moral assassination of the secretary general, before a physical assassination. In this respect, some rightly believe that any harm against the secretary general would lead to a revolution in Arab feelings and an explosion of Arab emotions, and this is why they are preparing the mental and psychological ground to avoid possible consequences of such an assassination, if it should happen. Today, more than any time in the past, -especially at this stage preceding the elections – the Israeli efforts are intensified for an assassination, and the [upcoming] Israeli maneuvers are basically linked to this matter.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you not afraid that these Israeli maneuvers will obstruct the upcoming legislative elections, with only three days separating them?
[Al-Musawi] Our preparedness for these maneuvers will abort the intentions of the aggressors; the more vigilant we are, the more measures we take, the less chance there will be for aggression.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How would you assess Hezbollah’s relationship with the president of the republic, General Michel Suleiman?
[Al-Musawi] We are keen that the role of the president of the republic should be effective, and this is why we have said that anyone seeking to curtail the role of the president of the republic by means of a parliamentary bloc would harm such a role, because the president of the republic is the president of the country, the symbol of the state, the guarantor, the arbitrator, and his role stems from the fact that he is an arbitrator capable of managing the state of balance.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has the Jazzin problem made it difficult for Hezbollah to bring a rapprochement between Parliament Speaker Nabih Birri and General Michel Awn?
[Al-Musawi] The presence of two electoral lists of opposition candidates in Jazzin is yet another proof that this opposition comprises free men and leaders who make their own independent decisions, contrary to what happens in the other team, where the American ambassador and some ministers coming from abroad interfere in the composition of electoral lists, and withdraw a candidate in favor of another. The cordial competition between members of the opposition in Jazzin is a sign of good political health. Once again, we affirm that the national opposition is indeed capable, thanks to its men, of being independent and of having a unified vision. Besides, both Parliament Speaker Nabih Birri and General Michel Awn have emphasized this unified vision, and that any attempt to create divisions or estrangement will be sterile. Facts will confirm after the legislative elections that the opposition will be able to place Lebanon on the track of freedom and pluralism.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What Hassan Nasrallah has said to the effect that the events of 7 May 2008 in Beirut were a “glorious day” has come as a provocation to the population of Beirut, and led Deputy Saad al-Hariri to say that such talk has wasted an opportunity to meet Hassan Nasrallah, while Deputy Walid Junblatt considered it as a slip of the tongue?
[Al-Musawi] It is an irony of fate that he (he means Deputy Ahmad Fatfat, member of the Al-Mustaqbal bloc) was the one who had turned the barracks of the Lebanese Army in Marj Uyun into a café for the Israeli invaders to be served with tea; it is an irony of fate that he who is wearing for ever the stigma of shame on his forehead stands up, with others, to insult the resistance and its leaders. It is also an irony of fate that he who is begging for the voices of electors stands up and insults the resistance, at a time when he has not yet got rid of his shame caused by stabbing the resistance in the back with silly, foolish decisions. If anything, this shows the level of ignominy and degradation reached by the other team in their political discourse that contains only insults and vilifications which emanate from blind rancor. He is using hatred as a means of winning. As for what Hassan Nasrallah has said, it came after our masses had run out of patience, the masses of the resistance found themselves in the face of the unjust campaigns against the martyrs of the resistance. He [Nasrallah] had to answer these unjust campaigns. The expression “be careful of the gentle when he gets angry” that he used was very profound. We have always been tolerant toward hostile behavior, but the situation sometimes reaches the extent when our masses are no longer able to bear such abuses. This is why when he runs out of patience a gentle person is bound to get angry.
Concerning the words of Walid Jumblatt to the effect that what Hassan Nasrallah had said was a slip of the tongue, it was also a slip of the tongue on the part of Jumblatt himself.
With regard to Deputy Saad al-Hariri, no meeting was scheduled to take place between him and Hassan Nasrallah, in the first place.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think of what Deputy Basim al-Sabu’ has said, that the south Beirut suburbs have become a hotbed of corruption and a refuge for fugitives from justice, and of his call for the polling boxes to be moved outside these suburbs?
[Al-Musawi] Before I answer this question, let me ask the one who is talking about state access to allow the state to cross a street and arrest an Israeli agent; also, how come that he who says that there should be no weapons except those of the Lebanese Army stops the army’s intelligence agents, prevents them from arresting a hireling, closes roads, erects barricades and raises pictures. This is why we see that the discourse of the other team is nothing but a deceptive one, and that their real intentions transpire through their field practices. In fact, what happens on the ground confirms this. The army intelligence men needed time to be able to remove barricades blocking areas which seem to require a visa from any visitor. So, when they speak about state access and that there should be no weapons except the army’s weapons, they are in fact being despotic and monopolistic. They do not want a state but a private company or a farm that belongs to a foreign quarter.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some have doubts about your electoral alliances, and the return to talk about a tripartite coalition, etc, what is the truth of the matter?
[Al-Musawi] We are committed to our alliances, in all clarity, and we are not ashamed. With the help of Almighty God, the opposition will retrieve Lebanon’s independence by winning the elections, which will open the way for the establishing of a regime of political pluralism and partnership. Our vision stems from our awareness of the plural composition of Lebanese society, and it says that democracy in Lebanon is a consensual one. So, we believe that Lebanon should be ruled in a partnership. But, if some insist not to be part of government in the event of an electoral victory for the opposition, then it is up to them, but we in the opposition are indeed capable of governing Lebanon. It is no problem for us if the other team refuses to take part in government. We trust that they who have been able to remove the occupation of Lebanon, and to defeat the Israeli enemy are capable of building a Lebanon whose heart is not occupied by a private company (Solidaire); in fact the heart of the capital, Beirut, is occupied by one of the companies that are confiscating the rights of the state, and usurping the material rights of citizens.