In his speech Thursday, Dec. 16, Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah's fiery leader, sounded like his usual pugnacious self, damning America and forecasting an Israeli defeat in the next war. He even staged a dramatic backdrop of "Israeli spy equipment" on two Lebanese peaks, which the Lebanese army supposedly dismantled that very day. But, according to debkafile's Middle East sources, he was putting on a show to avoid revealing to his followers that he had thrown in the towel in his battle against the UN Tribunal-STL probing the Hariri assassination of 2005. His top security and intelligence operatives were now instructed to turn themselves in when summoned by the STL some time soon.
For the first time, Nasrallah will be exposing his militia heads to charges of assassination and terror. And, unless he changes his mind again, he will have removed his threat to topple the Saad Hariri's government in Beirut and plunge the country in civil war if his men are arrested. His other threat of a military showdown with Israel may have receded but is still present, because it has more to do with Iran's designs for regional expansion than assassination charges against Hizballah.
Clandestine watchers were able to confirm Nasrallah's surrender – in London. There, debkafile's exclusive intelligence sources reveal, they picked up smartly-suited, brawny Hizballah terror operatives making the rounds in posh cars of luxurious legal offices for top talent to defend colleagues when they are called to face charges in The Hague. The Hizballah never stopped pouring out a stream of vituperation while at the same time keeping track of interviews his messengers held with high-priced British legal counsel and negotiating terms for their hire.
Nasrallah's decision to submit to the UN court was one of the hardest he has made since going to war with Israel in 2006. Instead of following through on his threats to seize power in Beirut and proclaim the STL illegitimate, he must now eat crow and surrender to international justice a handful, or more, leading operatives, the mainstays of his power base in Hizballah. Their absence from Beirut may be protracted if the court issues international warrants for their arrest.
Nasrallah capitulated, debkafile's sources disclose, because he was left in the lurch by Syrian President Bashar who withdrew his support from the battle against the international tribunal to make a point in Tehran.
Iran and Syria do not disagree on the need to strengthen Hizballah, but Damascus wants the Lebanese Shiite militia to be equally dependent on them both and demands to be treated as an equal partner in policy-making for Lebanon and Hizballah.
The result is a crack in the Iranian-Syrian alliance on Lebanon on this issue.
Finding himself falling through that crack, Nasrallah decided he had better hurry up and find top-quality legal counsel to defend his henchmen.