With Barack Obama, the US could improve its position in the Middle East. Lebanon’s Hezbollah believes that an attack on Iran is unlikely.
Nawaf al-Moussawi is Deputy Secretary and a member of the Politburo of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Al-Moussawi, a Doctor of Philosophy, is Hezbollah’s spokesman for international relations.
Mr. al-Moussawi, does the election of Barack Obama as the 44th US president mean that the United States will change its policy in the Middle East?
The US policy in the Middle East will not change just because there is a new administration, but because the aggressive policy of President George W. Bush has failed in Iraq and Lebanon and has yielded no results.
Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff will be Rahm Emanuel, whom the Israeli media have called “their man in the White House.”
It is well known that the Zionist lobby is very powerful in the United States. His background didn’t surprise me.
Political analysts believe that the period between the US presidential elections and the new president’s inauguration on 20 January 2009 is very dangerous. Do you expect an attack against Iran?
The Americans are fighting two wars, and the whole world agrees that the wars have failed — they are a fiasco. Are they in a position to start a third war? I think not. Others think that Israel could single-handedly launch an attack against Iran. But I think that is not likely, because the Israelis could do nothing, even in Lebanon, without the consent of the Americans. How then could there be a new war in the Gulf? I think it’s currently unlikely, although we must always reckon with the worst case scenario.
Does the change in the US government mean that the influence of other powers such as Russia, the European Union, and China will grow in the Middle East?
The US policy has so far been distinguished by aggressiveness and corresponding tactics. If they want to succeed, they must cease aggression and turn more toward cooperation with other governments. As for the United States today, they will no longer be the only superpower on the international stage — because of their political and economic problems, they don’t have strength enough for that any more. Already during Bush’s term, more pluralism of major powers loomed again. Perhaps the new US president will be better able to deal with the facts on the ground than the old one. In his political opinions, Bush has let himself be guided more by a kind of metaphysical thinking.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, and in Paris, meanwhile, the EU-Mediterranean Union was founded. Will the EU play a greater role in this region in the future?
One must first ask whether the European governments are, or rather the European Union is, actually pursuing a common policy in the Middle East. So far we have experienced a wide variety of political approaches. However, it’s clear that the policy of some European governments toward the region has markedly differed from — if I may say so already — that of the old US administration. You ask whether EU policy will play a greater role here in the future? In my opinion, here, the more important role will always be that of the Americans.
Do you think that the Syrian-Israeli talks will be successful and have a positive impact on Lebanon?
The outcome of the talks depends on whether Israel is prepared to retreat from the occupied Syrian land (Golan). So far the Israelis have refused to do that. Will they be ready to do so in the future? There I have my doubts, and the possibility that the Right in Israel — Benjamin Netanyahu in particular — can come to power adds to these doubts.
On one hand, the German government tried to act as an intermediary for Hezbollah, for example in the matter of the prisoners; on the other hand, Berlin supports the state of Israel without ifs or buts. How does this policy appear to you?
Everyone knows that the Germans have a guilt complex toward Israel. This naturally has to do with what happened under National Socialism, and that, I think, suffices to explain this attitude. However, I would add that it is not acceptable for the Arabs and Palestinians to bear the burden or responsibility for what the Nazis perpetrated. For example, shouldn’t Israel have the right — as reparation for what the Nazis did in the Holocaust — to ask for a state on German soil? Why then should they have the right to build a state on Arab soil, on Palestinian soil? Abbé Pierre and Bishop Desmond Tutu have said that the Europeans committed crimes against the Jews and that the Arabs and Palestinians are paying the price for them today. So today we are paying the price for the crimes committed by others, not us. Therefore, I believe that the Europeans have moral responsibility to repair the crimes that Israel perpetrated against the Palestinians.
Lebanon will be represented in the new Mediterranean Union, and Hezbollah will presumably be part of the new Lebanese government in the future. Can this union be an instrument to help your concrete demands for peace in the Middle East to get a hearing?
The problem is not how we achieve peace. The problem is Israel’s refusal to give the Palestinian people their rights. Europe exerts no pressure on Israel to concede the Palestinians their rights. On the contrary, the Europeans show total helplessness vis-à-vis the Israeli position — they just duck and cover. That is why I believe that not much can be expected from this Mediterranean Union, regarding the peace process.
In Europe, including Germany, Hezbollah doesn’t have a good reputation, especially because of its armament. As you know, the EU supports UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which is used as a permanent pressure against your organization.
In response, let me ask the following question: If another country occupied Germany, would the Germans then have no right to take up arms and resist the occupation? Our country became occupied by the Israelis; international resolutions have proved useless to compel Israel to retreat. That is why we have picked up arms and organized an armed resistance to liberate our country. The enormous Israeli influence over the media and politics in the West has ensured that our resistance is misrepresented and distorted in people’s perception. They say things that are not true. We ask you to contact us, Hezbollah, directly and make up your own mind. Don’t depend on dishonest reporting by the media or other services. We are a national resistance movement against the Israeli occupation. We are an army of defense against the Israeli threats. We are a Lebanese political party, which has a very broad base in the population. I would say we are the party with the most supporters and followers. We have alliances with political parties and forces, which reflect the entire political spectrum in Lebanon. Hezbollah belongs to the Lebanese National Resistance Front, in which Muslims and Christians are represented.
If Hezbollah comes into power in Lebanon, many in the West fear that it will establish an Islamic state modeled after Iran.
That is not true. Hezbollah has never striven for, and at no point has it ever said it was striving for, an Islamic state in Lebanon. Hezbollah is committed to the pluralistic structure of Lebanon, and that means that the various religious groups who live together and deal with one another must be respected. We have a consensus democracy, which means more than mere numerical majorities. Lebanon is a democracy of ethnic and religious groups. The governing majority must therefore have not only a numerical majority and thus more MPs; the governing majority must also represent the majority of the important communities who play a fundamental role in this country.
We believe that the intra-Lebanese conflict is a political conflict, which must not be twisted into a religious one. A political conflict is usually solved by elections, and we will have elections in Lebanon next year. We, Hezbollah, hope that all the Lebanese people will express their opinion through these elections.