Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah has emerged from the lopsided prisoner exchange deal he pulled off against Israel freshly invigorated for the next stage of his takeover of Lebanon.
The Middle East will not quickly erase the images he choreographed on Wednesday, July 16 of two shiny black coffins with the remains of two Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser handed to Israel, or himself accepting the cheers of a huge Beirut audience as he embraced Samir Kuntar, the Nahariya child killer, for whose release he long fought.
With a touch of the jackboot, he forced the Lebanese president Michel Sleiman, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and prime minister Fouad Siniora, to join the welcoming party, clasp Kuntar’s hand and acclaim him a national hero.
Nasrallah’s armed forces do not rival the Israeli or Syrian armies; he has no air force or navy. But he has 40,000 missiles and a winning strategy – part natural charisma, and part crafty timing, tenacity, brutal methods, contempt for his enemies and a huge appetite for power.
The Hizballah leader managed to end his 2006 Lebanon war with Israel in a draw. In May, with minimal military clashes and loss of life, his militia captured Beirut and brought the pro-Western government to its knees.
Now Nasrallah has his eye fixed on the next steps of his masterplan, revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources:
1. He has switched the next military confrontations with Israel away from Hizballah and over to the Lebanese national army, whose units now police southern Lebanon together with UN peacekeppers. President Sleiman, former chief of staff, reading the lines dictated him by Nasrallah, has issued threats to Israel to evacuate the disputed Shebaa Farms enclave and Mt. Dov slopes of the Hermon ridge or face the Lebanese army.
Natonal consensus, Nasrallah’s ladder to the apex of power
2. Nasrallah plans to lead a national dialogue among Lebanon’s diverse sects and communities to reach a consensus on what he calls the national “defense strategy” – not only against Israel but any outside forces. Our sources infer that he may thinking in terms of breaking away some day from his sponsors in Damascus and Tehran.
At a speech in the southern port-town of Sidon Wednesday, one of the new Hizballah ministers said: “We extend our hand to turn a new page. Dialogue is the path for our strength to liberate and defend our land. We call for speedy dialogue and don’t fear talks because we want to meet in the nation’s interest.”
3. Nasrallah envisages a clear division of jursidication between the army, police, internal security, intelligence and the various Lebanese militias dedicated to “resistance” – the war on Israel.
4. He calls on all Lebanese factions and groups, even those opposed to his own Hizballah, to set up militias, offering them advice and arms.
5. For his perception of national unity, Nasrallah is willing to take a step he hitherto forswore, namely to place Hizballah’s arsenal, including its missiles, at the disposal of “the nation.” He proposes referring decisions as to when, where and under what circumstances Lebanese military manpower and weaponry should be employed to a new multi-factional command, with the sole authority to make these determinations. The various militias, of which Hizballah is the strongest and best organized, will also fall under this command.
6. The Hizballah leader avows he is open to topics raised by others being placed on the agenda of the national dialogue.
In theory, Nasrallah is a great patriot and seeker of national unity. But he is clearly addressing his compatriots from a position of strength. Certain of retaining the whip hand over the new order he has laid down, he is bent on using it as a ladder to climb to the apex of power in Beirut.