Is it possible that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reads Haaretz? Not the Hebrew edition, of course. But does he read the English edition online, or is the print edition smuggled to him in Beirut by one of his agents in Israel? Or is it translated to him by one of his aides?
One way or another, he seems to have decided to react to an article on Haaretz's op-ed page, not very prominently displayed, on January 24; the piece discussed a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his recent visit to Beirut. There he said Hezbollah's arsenal outside the authority of the Lebanese government was unacceptable.
Commenting on Ban's statement, the Haaretz article stated that whereas a situation where a terrorist organization had deployed tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel was unacceptable to the UN secretary-general, it was intolerable for Israel. What's more, it was creating a situation where all Lebanon was sitting on a time bomb. If Israel were forced to destroy this vast rocket arsenal, great destruction would inevitably rain down on all Lebanon. In other words, Hezbollah was putting all Lebanon in danger.
Hezbollah's rockets, it was pointed out, serve as a protective shield against Iran's nuclear ambitions and will be unleashed against Israel on orders from Tehran. Therefore, sooner or later, action will have to be taken to bring about the dismantling of these rockets.
It took Nasrallah about two weeks to digest the full meaning of this message and all its implications - just what the people of Lebanon, sitting on the powder keg he had built under them, would conclude, and how that would affect Hezbollah's standing in Lebanon. Also an issue was the danger of international moves forcing the dismantling of his rockets in Lebanon, and failing that the possibility of military action to destroy his rocket arsenal.
On February 7, from his hideout in Beirut, Nasrallah broadcast by video-link a message to the people of Lebanon, a message also of interest to Haaretz's readers. Yes, he said, Hezbollah receives financial and material aid from Iran, but he denied that it takes operational instructions from Iran. Then he added a key sentence. If Israel were to attack Iran's nuclear sites, Iran's leadership "would not ask anything of Hezbollah." If that were to happen, he continued, Hezbollah's own leadership would "sit down, think and decide what to do."
So there you have it, believe it or not. Hezbollah, though it receives financial and material aid from its "brothers" in Iran, is an "independent organization," does not take orders from Tehran, and will decide when to launch or not to launch the tens of thousands of rockets it has deployed all over Lebanon against Israel. It will do this only after it has "sat down, thought about the problem and decided what to do." So, Nasrallah says, the people in Lebanon and the people in Tel Aviv have nothing to worry about.
Nasrallah must be really foolish if he believes he can hoodwink the people of Lebanon, the people of Israel or the international community. His ties to his masters in Tehran are too well known. It is they who call the shots. It is they who are trying to bolster the Assad regime in Syria. It is the continuation of Bashar Assad's rule in Damascus that assures the Iranian supply line to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
No wonder Nasrallah feels a little shaky and is trying to shore up his public image by insisting he's an independent factor in the Middle East equation. But the basic facts remain. Hezbollah's rockets in Lebanon are part and parcel of the Iranian effort to attain nuclear weapons, and neutralizing this rocket threat must be part of the strategy to keep Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons capability.
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