Lebanon’s Hizbullah terror gang is normally one of the most active and belligerent terrorist organizations in the world. It is therefore significant that Hizbullah’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, told a Syrian News TV interviewer that his organization is not capable of carrying out a war against Israel on its own.
Nasrallah was quite adamant on the point. “I am not talking about the principle. You asked about our capabilities,” he told the Syrian reporter, who had just listened to some of the usual bluster about how fearless and well-armed Hizbullah is, and wondered why they did not use all their ferocity and firepower to take on the Israelis. “We are not claiming that we are capable of this. Indeed, we are incapable of this. Are we supposed to lie to our people and ourselves, saying that we are capable of launching a war against Israel, wiping it off the map, and liberating Palestine? Hizbullah is incapable of doing this all by itself. We have never made such claims. We are realistic.”
It is not often that you see terrorist leaders pulling off Western-style political walkbacks, but Nasrallah does it in this interview, admitting that his big talk about Hizbullah conquering the Galilee was purely metaphorical: “By the way, I was speaking hypothetically. I did not take an oath. I only said that this could happen. In a future war, God forbid… When I say ‘war,’ I mean Israeli aggression against Lebanon.”
Later, he walked back the walkback and said conquering the Galilee was “within the capabilities of the Lebanese resistance,” but “as for going all the way to Tel Aviv and Eilat – well, we do not have that capability. No resistance faction can be responsible for a war of such magnitude by itself. Such a war would cause great damage throughout the region. A decision like this should be taken by partners, who are capable of accomplishing the goal behind declaring such a war.”
(Note: the last time Nasrallah’s “partners” tried “accomplishing that goal,” they did not bother declaring war first, and even with a massive surprise attack, it still did not end well for them. They have been whining about the consequences of their failure non-stop for over forty years.)
Why is Hizbullah backing away from the usual vows of death to Israel? Perhaps Iran and its proxies are spread too thin between Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen. Nasrallah held forth on the latter subject at a rally in Beirut on Friday, denouncing the Saudi-led coalition currently waging airstrikes against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, promising the Saudis have no choice but to launch a ground invasion that “will be costly and will end with a defeat,” and blaming them for spreading extremist Wahhabi ideology through the Muslim world.
He has a point there, but Iran’s strategy to present itself and its terrorist progeny as a stable alternative to Sunni horror-shows like ISIS and al-Qaeda is one of the worst “lesser of two evils” choices the civilized world has ever been presented with, especially with Iran grasping for nuclear weapons.
Hizbullah presented this choice explicitly in a statement this week, insisting that Iran cannot be compared to the “backward, ignorant, and murderous” Saudis, after the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon told Hizbullah to stay out of Yemen. For good measure, Hizbullah accused its Lebanese political opponents of condoning “genocide” by supporting the Saudis in Yemen.
On Monday, Lebanese TV anchor Hanadi Zaidan dropped a blistering editorial tirade on Hizbullah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah, accusing them of sacrificing Lebanon’s interests out of “blind loyalty to the Iranian birds of darkness.” She said Nasrallah was trying to “implement an Iranian agenda against the Lebanese state,” while crediting the Saudis with providing jobs for thousands of Shiite Lebanese.
The Yemeni crisis is clearly creating a great deal of stress in Lebanon. The contrary explanation for Nasrallah’s admission that he cannot handle war with Israel alone would be that he is trying to rally support for paramilitary action, perhaps a retaliatory wave of terrorism should Israel decide to launch air strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Based on other evidence, Hizbullah doesn’t seem to have the firepower or political strength in Lebanon to spare for such a campaign at the moment.