There seems to be a number of things connecting the sudden public appearance of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in the midst of his supporters in Beirut, marking the religious festival of Ashoura, after years of confining his public appearances to video-links from unknown locations, and the televised interview conducted by ABC with Syrian President al-Assad, which represents the first interview given by the Syrian leader with an American media outlet since the start of the protests in Syria.
Both men wanted to send a signal or message by choosing to appear publicly in this manner, with both appearances seemingly to unexpectedly coincide.
In the first case, it is apparent that by disregarding all security threats and personally appearing in front of the masses and the media for just a couple of minutes – before hiding behind the screen once more – Nasrallah was trying to send multiple messages. To summarize this, we could say that Nasrallah was trying to reassure his supporters and strengthen their resolve by communicating that he remains strong. He also wanted to boldly assert his everlasting support for the al-Assad regime, venting his anger on President of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Burhan Ghalioun. As Nasrallah greeted the crowds who rallied around him, he clearly told us that he will stick to his choice [of supporting al-Assad], no matter how heavy the price might be.
In the case of President al-Assad, he this time chose to primarily address the American public via a television interview held on the same day that US Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] met with Syrian opposition leaders to discuss strategy with regards to managing post-Assad Syria. However, unlike the rhetoric put forward by Nasrallah, al-Assad tried to appear more flexible, comporting himself in a neutral manner, saying that he is the president of Syria, not its owner. He also denied responsibility for the brutal violence perpetrated by the Syrian security forces against protesters, talking about mistakes made by individuals, rather than a comprehensive policy of systematic violence and killing being implemented by his regime.
Between the language of defiance adopted by Nasrallah and the unsuccessful political manoeuvring attempted by al-Assad, it seems that both figures choosing to appear before the public in this manner was a kind of admission that they are facing a genuine crisis and are willing to suffer its consequences together. Unfortunately, they have brought with them a large crowd which has been carried away by misleading rhetoric which has blinded them from seeing the truth, namely the on-going camping of violence and bloodshed being seen in the streets of Homs, and throughout Syria.
It is as if we are witnessing the final moments of the Syrian regime…and the success of the Syrian revolution! Nasrallah and al-Assad's rush to appear in public is a clear expression of their definite lack of vision amid the intensification of the protests in the Syrian street, and the increasing international pressure on the Syrian regime.
These are details that recurred in a number of successive wars and revolutions, leading to more and more prominent figures choosing the radical option, ensuring that there is no way back, only forwards!
We are all now certain that the collapse of the al-Assad regime is only a matter of time. The repercussions of this collapse will inevitably resound across the country and region, and may include further violence and crises. Nasrallah’s attempts to mobilize support, and al-Assad’s attempts to deny the violence, will ultimately not help them win the final rounds of this battle, even in the media!
The writer is a columist and political commentator. This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat on Dec. 10, 2011