I don't think I am the only one to note the uncharacteristically ill-considered statements that have been pronounced by the militant Lebanese party over the past few months. Observers of Lebanese politics, irrespective of their political affiliation, used to admire the group's shrewd politics, and charismatic speeches. This year, however, Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and his vice secretary general, Na'im Qassim, have been anything but diplomatic.
It all started with two infamous incidents that may have cost Hizbullah and its allies dearly in the last parliamentary elections in Lebanon. First, in what appeared to be a largely propaganda campaign aiming to influence the Lebanese elections, the Egyptian General Prosecutor arrested members of a Hizbullah cell in Egypt. The charges against the detainees, which included planning terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil as well as smuggling arms to Gaza, were propagated with unprecedented frenzy by the government-sponsored media. This presented a moment of truth for the Lebanese militia. Their proposition that they are a purely Lebanese group striving to defend Lebanon against Israel was put into question. But instead of letting the story die, Nassrallah bizarrely admitted his group's involvement in attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza through the Sinai Peninsula. Although he did deny plans to bomb Egyptian touristic sites, Nassrallah unapologetically accepted responsibility for his cell's operation on foreign territory to smuggle arms.
Second, Nassrallah proclaimed May 7th as a "glorious day" for Lebanon. May 7th marks the anniversary of Hizbullah militants seizing control of Sunni neighborhoods in Beirut. But while the events that led to May 7th were complex, and there is plenty of blame to go around, one thing is absolutely certain: Sunnis did not appreciate it. For Nasrallah to celebrate that date prior to the elections was not only a misreading on his part of the Sunni constituency, but it also reflected unthoughtful overestimation of his party's electoral appeal amongst the non-Shiite Lebanese.
As you well know, Hizbullah's parliamentary alliance lost the elections soon after (for a myriad of other reasons too, to be sure). One would think that the organization's leadership would have reconsidered its political message's ever-diminishing appeal. But Sheikh Na'im Qassim came forward with another bombshell yesterday. In a very-underrported interview, he blamed the turmoil in Tehran on Western and American meddling, siding decidedly with the Khamenei regime. He then went on to imply that the protesters were driven by foreign forces and that the Iranian model of elections is praiseworthy. In doing so, he almost echoed Ahmadinejad's minister of interior's statements.
Can someone help me decode Hizbullah's recent political messaging? Why are they making these decisions? I would be very interested to find out.