One of Lebanon’s most controversial figures just gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), on the issue of Lebanon’s ongoing revolution, its causes, consequences, and implications, as well as Hezbollah’s stance on its further development or demise. Naim Qassem is a Shiite Lebanese cleric and politician, who is the second in command of Hezbollah with the title of Deputy Secretary-General.
Assessing what’s happening in the Islamic Republic of Iran has never been easy since its revolution, and the fall of the Shah changed the country profoundly forty years ago, in 1979. Permission for foreign journalists and analysts to enter Iran is difficult, bordering on completely impossible.
What is clear, is that the Iranians currently face a number of obstacles to their sphere of influence as well as their continuity in the region, namely:
American sanctions, (Donald Trump calls its maximum pressure), internal dissent leading to the killing of around 200 protesters by the security forces recently, anti-Iranian demonstrations in their ally and neighbor country of Iraq, as well as without violence and with less violence, a desire among many in another friendly territories such as Lebanon, for an end to their influence within Lebanon’s borders, its internal affairs, and the region.
In Lebanon, the influence comes through their ally, or as BBC describes them their “protégé”, Hezbollah, arguably the most powerful single group in the country and one of Lebanon’s major groups to “factor in” as it moves forward with change and reform. It fought in Syria on the side of the Assad regime and is with Iran at the top of Israel’s list of enemies.
The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen met the Deputy leader of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem in Beirut. As the organization, and more specifically their leadership, hardly ever agrees to meet with reporters or give interviews, it was a rare chance to get Hezbollah’s view of the Middle East, and on the current developments in Lebanon.
In his interview, he states: “Of course the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous, and you can see how people are suffering from the devaluation of the Lebanese currency. Consequently, you can see how the economic situation is collapsing.”
He continues saying: “We cannot accept that things continue like this. So for this reason, we said very clearly, that the government has to be formed in order to put an end to this collapse and decline.”
He went on to further elaborate: “Unfortunately, there are some who are trying to cause damage to Lebanon – especially the United States […] and every two or three days Pompeo says he doesn’t want to see Hezbollah participating in Lebanese politics. But Hezbollah is part of the people! So let America put a stop to its meddling in Lebanese affairs.”
When asked about the American perception and classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and that this is why the US “says what it says”, Qassem responds with the following:
“What concerns us is how our people view us. We as Hezbollah, in the eyes of our people, are a resistance who has liberated the land. This resistance indeed represents the people. We are a political party which serves the interests of the people, and also serves for a better future of the people.”
Conclusively, Qassem said: “[…] we consider that the US is leading the terror in the world. If they (US) designate us as terrorists this doesn’t mean that they are right.”
Amidst these bold statements, as well as Hezbollah condemning the revolution as the main cause of Lebanon’s financial and economic paralysis, one has to wonder where they were to “save the day” before things got this bad.
The entire interview is available to watch on Youtube or here below for everyone’s own eyes and ears to be the judge.