Nasrallah Concludes 2020 by Eliminating Lebanon

The Question is How Long Can Hezbollah Maintain This Isolation and Takeover of Lebanon?

During his recent Al-Mayadeen TV interview, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke for four hours in an attempt to address questions and concerns by the Lebanese people and Hezbollah’s constituency. However, instead of reassuring the listeners, he raised additional concerns and insinuated that Hezbollah’s’ main priorities are regional, not Lebanese, and that the Lebanese people will have to accept the fact that Lebanon is an Iranian territory that will be used to implement the Iranian regime’s regional agenda. 

FLEXING FALSE MUSCLES 

While flexing Hezbollah’s strengths and powers, Nasrallah tried to hide the truth about Hezbollah’s main challenges and weaknesses. For example, he said that group has now doubled the number of precision-guided missiles since last year, and that Israel has failed to stop Hezbollah from acquiring them. But he failed to mention anything about the accuracy of these missiles. The thing about the precision missiles – supposedly to be used to hit specific targets in Israel – is that they need to have a range of at least ten meters. 

According to a BICOM study, Precision missiles are defined as those possessing low Circular Error probability (CEP). CEP is defined as the radius of a circle whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50 per cent of missiles fired. For example, if a given missile has a CEP of 10m – a range Iran has aimed for but has not achieved – half of those fired will fall within 10m of the intended target. The lower the CEP, the fewer the missiles required to destroy a target.

Many experts believe that the 10m CEP has not been achieved by Iran and Hezbollah; therefore, producing more of these missiles – without a precision capabilities – means nothing. And Hassan Nasrallah knows that, but he cannot admit failure on TV, so instead, he preferred to disguise the truth, hoping Hezbollah’s constituency would stop doubting the group’s strength. He also failed to mention that Israel have been accurately destroying Iran’s precision missiles facilities across the region _Syria, Iraq and Lebanon – for many years, and have successfully weakened this specific capability. 

On a different topic, Nasrallah repeated the group’s promises to avenge the US killing of Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who was killed a year ago in Iraq in a drone attack. “That revenge is coming no matter how long it takes,” he told Al-Mayadeen TV, sitting with a picture of Soleimani to his left. 

This was also attempted to reassure Hezbollah’s supporters, who have been questioning Iran’s capabilities and willingness to avenge someone significant such as Soleimani. Not only Iran failed to retaliate properly, all Israeli attacks against its facilities in the region have been ignored. Hezbollah’s old ways of valor and force seem to have disappeared. 

LEBANON IS A DETAIL

During the four hour interview, Lebanon seemed small, and trapped between all the regional politics of Iran. Nasrallah spoke as the real ruler of Lebanon, and the one leader that connected and facilitated the coordination of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the rest of Iran’s Shia militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Despite all the recent failures of Iran and Hezbollah in the region, he still pretended that victory is coming and that all the challenges Lebanon and the rest of countries Iran controls today are going through, are just temporary ones, and are not in any way linked to Iran’s policies and wars. Nasrallah – in the midst of that – positioned Lebanon in the midst of Iran’s wars, and indirectly asked the Lebanese people to suffer and starve in order to protect Iran’s agenda in the region. 

It is fascinating how ignorant Nasrallah is when it comes to the Lebanese people’s and his own constituency’s real concerns and pains. The gap between him and his own people has become too big for Hezbollah’s missiles and bravado to fill. He sounded like the emperor who lives in his high castle, having a feast, while his people are starving. And the worst part is that he did not seem aware of the suffering of the people outside the walls of his castle. 
His priorities and Iran’s agenda are no longer the priorities of the Lebanese – including Hezbollah’s constituency and the Shia community. When “the resistance” and Iran’s regional victories mean that parents cannot provide for their children that sick people can no longer access essential medication, and that children can no longer receive proper education, Nasrallah’s words will fall on deaf ears. His attempts to highlight Hezbollah’s military capabilities and alternative economy can only raise serious fears, not hopes. 

The Lebanese people do not want alternative economies. They do not want Chinese, Iranian and Syrian products. They want back into the international markets. They want to be able to travel and work and learn. They do not be isolated. And Hezbollah cannot provide all that. 

Nasrallah cannot govern, and Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis are becoming too complicated to handle. Resolving the crises means that he will have to agree to fight corruption, implement reforms, and cease Hezbollah’s involvement in regional wars and internal conflicts. Nasrallah couldn’t do that, so instead he resorted to the old resistance rhetoric and bravado narrative. This is the only language he can speak and understand, but the Lebanese people prefer a different language, one that the world can comprehend and not feel threatened by.  

And to make things worse, when asked about taking the COVID vaccine, Nasrallah did not give an affirmative answer, saying that they – meaning Hezbollah’s leadership – are still thinking about it. The only affirmative “no” was to the American-made vaccine. Nasrallah said he will not take it because it is American, while his fighters and employees are all using American-made technology, medication and products. The sad part is that many of his supporters will believe him and refuse to take the vaccine as well. Playing with people’s lives – for Nasrallah – is permissible, and if they get the COVID virus and die, Nasrallah wouldn’t actually mind, as long as his propaganda machine continues to spread across the country. 

In his end-of-the-year interview, Nasrallah asserted Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon, its decisions, economy, and security. As the region is moving ahead with peace initiatives and opening up to the world, Hezbollah closed off Lebanon and moved it to Iran’s axis of wars and confrontations. 

Hezbollah ended 2020 by eliminating Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, by alienating its people, and by isolating it.  The question is how long can Hezbollah maintain this isolation and takeover of Lebanon? Nasrallah sounded confident, but the reality is not very reassuring. Hezbollah has lost much of its own funds, due to the US sanctions on Iran. Hezbollah has lost access to state resources due to the financial crisis hitting Lebanon. Hezbollah is losing its allies, who have been sanctioned by the US Treasury or bashed by the Lebanese protests. Hezbollah is losing the Lebanese street and the support of the Arab world. Hezbollah is losing the resistance rhetoric as it hesitates to retaliate against Israeli attacks and assassination of its main leaders. And eventually, Hezbollah is losing its own constituency – the Shia community – who no will longer want to sacrifice anything to protect Iran’s interests in the region, especially when these interests cannot put food on the table. 

Nasrallah talked – for four hours, but this time around, the Lebanese people didn’t listen. 

Hanin Ghaddar is the Friedmann Fellow at The Washington Institute’s Geduld Program on Arab Politics, where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant.