Can you believe what Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah has done now! Nasrallah has revealed that the Lebanese government that he played a major role in forming, or shall we call it the Hezbollah government, is funding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [STL], which is investigating Hezbollah figures accused of being involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Is this political pragmatism or has Nasrallah suddenly become wise?
Of course, it is not one or the other! The answer is that Nasrallah has been compelled to do so [accept the Lebanese government funding the STL], regardless of what he says or claims. He also has not withdrawn his ministers [from the government], nor caused the collapse of the Lebanese government [in protest to this]. Nasrallah’s acceptance of this may be from the understanding that he has no choice in the matter, for the Hezbollah government agreeing to fund the STL, which is investigating Nasrallah’s own people – or shall we say agents of Iran in Lebanon – means one of several things. Hezbollah might have accepted this because the al-Assad regime pressured it to do so, particularly as the al-Assad government would not under any conditions accept the collapse of the only government that supports it. Indeed the collapse of this Lebanese government would mean that the al-Assad regime is completely besieged economically. Al-Assad would therefore be unable to exert any pressure in the future to bring about the formation of another such government in Lebanon. This is because the al-Assad regime would collapse before negotiations on forming another Lebanese government – which can provide the Syrian regime what it needs today, rather than tomorrow or the day after – could be completed.
The other explanation for Hezbollah’s acceptance of funding the STL is its fear that current Lebanese Prime Minister Mikati would be in a stronger position with regards to the formation of the next Lebanese government, in the same manner as Fouad Siniora. This is the reason why Hezbollah, along with its allies in Lebanon, launched a strong attack on Mikati. Should Mikati’s position be strengthened, this would see Hezbollah backed into a corner. Worst of all for Hezbollah – and this is something that is widely expected – Nasrallah may be forced to react cordially to Saad Hariri’s request to form a government, with Saad Hariri then playing the role previously played by his father [former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri] in helping Hezbollah save face, as Hariri senior did repeatedly, before he was betrayed. This is something that will be difficult for Nasrallah, for the situation in the region has changed, particularly in Syria, and that is the crux of the matter. For Nasrallah has now become afraid of what was previously a source of security, namely Damascus, as the sleeping giant [the protesters] has awoken there.
Here one might say that Mikati’s Lebanon has played a game of brinkmanship with Hezbollah, and aimed to hit two birds with one stone with regards to funding the STL, for either the Lebanese government would collapse and Mikati would emerge victorious in the face of the Lebanese electorate and Sunni community, as well as the international world, or the government would remain in power and its leader - Mikati - would be able to extricate himself from being under the thumb of Hezbollah. All signs indicate that this is indeed what has happened. For obstructing the rights of the STL, particularly in the case of the Lebanese government remaining in power, would mean that Mikati had failed to hit two birds with one stone – using the stone of the STL – for one simple reason, and that is because the major reason for Hezbollah’s silence on the funding of the STL is that it is seeking to preserve something more important, namely the al-Assad regime, whose survival in turn guarantees the survival of Hezbollah.
Therefore, what we must pay attention to today is that the pain felt by Hezbollah, and particularly Nasrallah, with regards to the issue of the Lebanese government financing the STL is much less than the pain that was felt by Saad Hariri when he travelled to meet with Bashar al-Assad in Tishreen Palace. However the pain that Nasrallah is feeling today from the truth that Hezbollah has funded the STL – which he described as Zionist and which is investigating his own organization – being uncovered is more than enough.
Therefore, one can only say to Hassan Nasrallah: We will try not to gloat with regards to the predicament that you are in!
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on Dec. 2, 2011