Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FT Interview: Mohammad Fneish

If you need any clear proof of Hizballah's lack of intent on recognizing the Lebanese state or ever laying down their weapons (and their mini-state) in favor of our dear republic, then read this interview in the Financial Times. An abridged version follows:
Mohammad Fneish, a Hizbollah leader and Labour minister in the Lebanese cabinet, spoke to Lionel Barber and Roula Khalaf earlier this month at his office in Beirut.

Q: Has Lebanon made significant progress on national reconciliation?

A: ...Since the events of May which reached the point of clashes on the streets and threatened to ignite civil war, the situation has returned back almost to normality which suggests that Lebanon does not want to be in a conflict where they have differences, they do not want their differences to lead to a violent confrontation.

In 2006 Israel tried to change the political scene in Lebanon by destroying Hizbollah and they did not succeed ... It’s not in the US’s interested that Lebanon turns into a conflict zone. This is what leads me to believe that we will not have a civil war and that the situation will remain contained.

Q: What about what happened in May?

A: I understand what you are saying, but still the weapons and show of force were not used to make internal changes ... Hizbollah acted when the other side tried to undermine the resistance. It had nothing to do with the balance of power in terms of the internal political situation. They threatened the resistance.

Suppose May had not happened. Would we have had a president by now? Would we have had a solution? This was the solution ... The alternative would have been that the situation continued to deteriorate ... no government, no president, no parliament.

Q: But are you saying that Hizbollah’s weapons will allow you to manage the peace?

A: If our priority is to reduce the Israeli threat from Lebanon, that obviously requires the internal front to be quiet ... We are keen also to have a national dialogue ... Even in the first round of national dialogue which started before the 2006 war, the subject of this discussion was never the weapons of Hizbollah, it was always national defence.

Q: What’s going to happen with the weapons? Will Hizbollah disarm?

A: You’re trying to reach the conclusion of the dialogue. We can’t say now what the outcome of the dialogue is going to be ... What is being asked of us is, if we have a bigger army will we be able to defend Lebanon? I don’t think so because it’s not a matter of numbers. You shouldn’t rush matters. The problem is not the weapons.

Q: But how can Lebanon survive if Hizbollah has its own mini-state?

A: The notion of a state does not really apply to Lebanon or to the whole Middle East ... You can’t try to apply notions of western political science in Lebanon. Is it sacred that the army is the only force that can carry weapons? If a society approves that you can have the official army and then you can have another popular force that works along side it, then what is the problem?

There is no such agreement at the moment and that’s why we need to have a dialogue.

Q: I would like to ask a hypothetical question about peace in the Middle East. If there was a comprehensive peace settlement, would Hizbollah lay down its weapons?

A: This would create a completely different situation for our region. What would happen then is that we would have to sit down as Lebanese and discuss how to adapt to it.

Q: What would Hizbollah’s strategy be?

A: Hizbollah has an ideology, a way of thinking.

Let’s say there is peace, a compromise. If there is a compromise, if the Arab world accepts this compromise, in political terms my role is to defend my country...

...Nasrallah has said that our role is to liberate the land and if you liberate the land we will be satisfied with a defensive strategy.

Q: How do you view the relationship between Syria and Lebanon?

A: Syria is now out of Lebanon. States do not necessarily exercise their influence through a physical presence ... they can have alliances.

Until the killing of [former prime minister] Rafiq Hariri the Syrians did intervene in Lebanon in a very direct way...

...Part of the American project was to get rid of the resistance and to turn Lebanon against Syria. You can’t compare the American interference in Lebanon with the Syrian role in Lebanon because since 2003 Syria has been in a defensive position.

Q: What is the situation in the northern town of Tripoli?

A: There is some truth to what Bashar al-Assad said about the north...

...The border between Syria and Lebanon is very long and it’s very easy to get in and out ... That’s why the Syrians have massed all these troops on the border ... Lebanon could become a base where these groups can cooperate. It requires such a security operation from the Syrians.
Related: FT Interview with PM Fouad Siniora.


  1. Bad Vilbel11:46 PM

    Wow! Just wow! I love the part where he says that you can't apply western concepts of "states" in the Middle East.

    I can't say I'm surprised by any of this, but it's still freaking amazing to read. Just wow! I gotta go pick up my jaw off the floor now.

  2. Anonymous12:22 AM

    My sentiments exactly!


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