Tuesday, May 18, 2004

This is an important development in the US war and occupation of Iraq. Hasan Nasrallah (the secretary-general of Hizbullah--the Party of God) just gave a speech in Lebanon. It was carried live (in part) on AlJazeera and (in full) on Al-Manar TV. I watched it. I have noted before (in an article I had written in Arabic) that Hizbullah does not seem to have a clear and specific policy towards developments in Iraq. It appeared hesitant and perplexed in the past. But US troubles in Iraq seem to have galvanized US critics and enemies. Expect Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah to get more and more emboldened with growing evidence of US failures. Nasrallah first focused (not on the WMDs bogus claims) but on US promises of "democracy" and "human rights" and how they are far from being established in US-run Iraq. He also made an important distinction between what he called "crimes" of some elements in Iraq, and what he called "resistance" in Iraq. He basically said that "resistance" is confined to attacks on US occupation, and made a point to say that "resistance" is not necessarily confined to military activities, but includes political, economic, and cultural matters. He also stated that it is up to Iraqis to determine the styles and modes of resistance. He seems to be implicitly criticizing vulgar Arab nationalists and remnants of Ba`thism in the Arab world when he railed against "the criminals" who perpetuate suicide attacks and car bombs in Iraq. He stressed that those criminal elements in Iraq should not be considered "resistance." He called them "agents" (of US and Israel presumably). This is in contrast with popular trends in some Arab circles where one notices glorification of all manners of violence in Iraq provided it is perpetuated in the name of "anti-American resistance." Every speech by Nasrallah (I have noticed) has a theme and a purpose. And while he sometimes improvises, I think that he prepares in advance what he wants to say. I once asked him to clarify something he had said in one speech, and it was clear to me that he had thought the words through beforehand. The purpose of this speech seems to be two-fold: 1) a message to US that Shi`ites (and specifically Hizbullah) will not tolerate a continuation of US troop presence in Najaf and Karbala', and certainly will not tolerate a takeover of the cities. He stressed that these are not only holy for Iraqis, but for all Shi`ites; 2) to mobilize Shi`ite and Arab popular opinion against US military actions in Southern Iraq, without identifying with Muqtada As-Sadr per se. He clearly does not seem eager to expand the popularity of As-Sadr, or even that of Sistani. He steered away from the issue. He also spoke of "response" by Hizbullah to US actions in Southern Iraq although he refused to be specific (he said: "days will show"--an Arabic saying). He has also called for major demonstrations for next Friday. I view this as a major development in the course of US occupation of Iraq, and expect US failures and troubles to increase. All this, however, does not change the fact that: Bush is still making progress in Iraq. (After writing this, I cannot believe how many people asked me what I meant by the last sentence. I was being ironic. IRONIC, OK???? And I refuse to put smiling faces at the end of sentences, no matter what).