Hizbullah’s MP Nawar Sahili Interviewed by Hugh Macleod

Interview with Hizbullah's MP Nawar Sahili
By Hugh Macleod, March 2007 
Published by Syria Comment 

As Lebanon and international players struggle to find a solution to the four month old political crisis in Beirut, British journalist Hugh Macleod spoke to Hezbollah MP Nawar Sahili about the roots of the dispute and the future of Hezbollah’s armed resistance.

In the 2005 parliamentary elections after Hariri’s assassination, Hezbollah formed part of the ‘Four Party Alliance’ that united you with your Shia rivals in Amal, and with the Druze of Waleed Jumblatt and the Sunnis of Saad Hariri. What happened to that alliance? 

After Hariri’s assassination we needed to reduce tensions in the country. Saad Hariri was very positive and told us he did not believe Hezbollah had anything to do with his father’s death.

It was a strategic alliance to give us a government of national unity. On one election list Hezbollah gave 15,000 votes to make sure there was a majority for the Alliance.

So we ended up with a government of 24 cabinet ministers, with five ministers from Amal and Hezbollah and three allied to Emile Lahoud, with Tarik Mitri as the neutral. That was the one third plus one formula. Some months later Lahoud’s minister’s Elias Murr and Charles Rezk changed their politics and went to March 14 so there was no more equilibrium. We had been betrayed and Jumblatt and Hariri said the Alliance had never existed.

What happened after the war to precipitate the crisis? 

After the war everybody realised there was a big political crisis. We could not continue in government as only numbers sitting at the table without any power in decision making. Each time there was a big issue to discuss they [March 14] threatened to take it to a vote. By the constitution, a two thirds majority passes any bill, so we felt they were forcing through their will.

We felt there was no solution: either we form a government of national unity or the government can rule alone.


During round table discussions on November 9 last year Saad Hariri met Nabih Berri and Mohammed Fniesh and there was a sort of agreement on dealing with the international tribunal at the same time as forming new government. Saad was clear: ‘If you give us the international tribunal we not against you taking 11 seats [in the new 30 seat cabinet]. But I need to see my allies.’


And you know his allies are Jumblatt and Gea Gea who are totally against an agreement because we think they are totally under US policy and until now the US does not want a solution in the region as they are lumping Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon together.


The opposition say Hezbollah resigned from the government because it is opposed to the formation of the Hariri tribunal. They say Damascus is to blame for Hariri’s killing and that as allies of Damascus and reliant on the transfer of weapons across Syria’s border with Lebanon, Hezbollah is protecting its masters in Syria. What do say to that? 

They say the problem is the tribunal. It is not true. They say the problem is Syria and Iran. It is not true. We simply want the tribunal to be judicial and criminal, not a political lever setting one party against another.

For us the problem is the government. If we want to reach an agreement between the two sides then let’s have a discussion of the draft and begin to compose a new government draft as discussed by a commission who will then pass it to the government where all the cabinet can agree on it and then I assure the president will sign it and it can go to the parliament for a vote by all MPs.

It is better for Rafik Hariri to have the agreement of all of Lebanon and if the US government would not put a veto on the issue, we could solve the problem in 48 hours. Jumblatt and Gea Gea are the US government’s officers in Lebanon and are doing Washington’s bidding.

As for our alliance with Syria and Iran, I am not a speaker for either country, but it is not something I am ashamed of.

We have a political alliance and they support the resistance, but the alliance stops when it is against the interest of Lebanon. We did not give our young guys’ blood for the sake of Iran or Syria. It was to defend all Lebanon and not for the sake of anyone outside Lebanon.

For example, when resolution 1701 was passed by the Security Council, Iran and Syria said they were against the resolution but Hezbollah said we were with it, but with some remarks. Then Iran and Syria said they were with it. If we are an arm of Iran or Syria we would not have been able to agree with the resolution.

Let’s talk about the status of the Shebaa Farms. When the UN drew the Blue Line they ruled that the Shebaa Farms was Syrian territory, that it was part of the Golan Heights, thereby verifying Israel’s complete withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.  The Syrians say it is Lebanese territory yet they have never officially ceded the land through the UN to Lebanon. If Hezbollah wants to liberate Shebaa Farms why not go to Damascus?  

First of all, the Shebaa Farms is Lebanese territory. We have official papers issued by the government in the 1930s that state it is Lebanese land. So why should we go to Syria to ask them to say it is our land?

If Syria officially ceded the land to Lebanon it would mean Israel would be in violation of resolution 425 and while acknowledging that it would certainly not be the only resolution Israel has not implemented, surely putting Israel in violation of 425 would strengthen the resistance’s effort to liberate the land? 


There is no legality in the international community. When you have a paper saying this land is your land you do not need to go to an international tribunal. The international community made a mistake, so why should we accept it?


Why should I tell my neighbour to go to the international community for the purpose of the international community only? Siniora had a solution to get UN soldiers into the area and he discussed this with Waleed Mualem during the war.


Yes, so why has there been no movement on resolving the issue? 

The problem is with Israel not Syria. The Shebaa is a strategic place and the Israelis will not withdraw from it easily.

Let’s talk about Hezbollah’s other key demand: the return of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails. We know Hezbollah is demanding the return of Samir Kantar and there are maybe half a dozen more Lebanese in Israeli jails.  Yet rights groups say there are some 280 Lebanese prisoners once held in Syrian prisons and still unaccounted for. Why is discovering the fate of those Lebanese not the priority of the resistance? 

The Syrians were here not as an occupying army. We cannot compare a neighbour to an enemy. The very people who are fighting Syria now were the ones who asked Syria to intervene.

You cannot compare the civil war among Lebanese to the big war which is against Israel. We are not against asking Syria to give back any Lebanese, but we are not going to war with Syria over it.

Syria has said there are no more Lebanese prisoners, but it’s a big question mark. They were taken during the civil war, which was a very dirty war.

We have tried several times with the Syrians and they say there are no more Lebanese prisoners in their prisons. They were all killed during war. But certainly if there are Lebanese who are still living in Syrian prisons then we hope Syria will give them back. 

The Times of London recently reported Hezbollah militants were preparing a new line of armed defence just north of the Litani River, out of reach of UNIFIL. What is Hezbollah’s position on resolution 1701?  

We agreed on 1701, no one obliged us. When UNUFIL came they asked if Hezbollah considered them an enemy or friend. We said we only have one enemy, the one who occupies our land and attacks our people.

I do not have the information to speak about our security strategy, but I can assure you that the resistance is still here. We did not close the file. We still have the three components; occupied Lebanese land, our prisoners in Israel, and the Israeli threat to our people.

We still have to resist. We cannot wait with our hands in the air.  

Now we are leaving the south of the Litani for UNIFIL and the Lebanese army, but if one day Israel attacks Lebanon I don’t think UNIFIL will defend Lebanon. So if one day Israel attacks and UNIFIL withdraws, the Lebanese army is not strong enough to defend, so it will be the job of the resistance to defend Lebanon again.

Can you see a day when Hezbollah could be incorporated into a strong Lebanese army, as a kind of special forces unit?   

Our point of view is that the resistance is strong because it is secret and popular. The day it becomes part of the army regular army the Israelis will come and attack the Commander in Chief, the Defence Ministry or the Prime Minister’s office, and then there will be a war between Israel and Lebanon.

Our strategy of defence is to keep the resistance but to have a link to the army, be an aide to the army, but not part of it. Before the war the military intelligence services captured an intelligence group working for Mossad which was good for Lebanon and good for the resistance.

But fundamentally if you have an armed group operating beyond the control of central government and the army and taking security decisions that can lead the country into war, then you are undermining the army and ensuring it can never be strong . . . 

It is the matter of a political decision. Before the war everybody said Hezbollah was against the army going to the south, and now we have changed.  This is not true. Before the war, there was no decision given to the army that if they went to the south they would be there to defend the border. We were afraid the army was going as a policeman to protect Israel not Lebanon.

When the decision was taken that they should go to the border to fight then we agreed. It’s a beginning. Maybe one day the army can be strong with anti-aircraft missiles to defend the country.


Resolution 1559 called for the disarming of all remaining militia groups in Lebanon. Hezbollah has made it clear it will not disarm. Is 1559 a concern for you? 

We do not consider ourselves a militia. The definition of a militia is a group that uses its arms against its own people. We have never used our arms inside Lebanon. We are a popular resistance, so 1559 does not exist for us. The weapons of the resistance are an internal Lebanese issue and one that we have positively discussed in the National Dialogue talks before the war.

Hugh Macleod is a British journalist who has been based in Syria and Lebanon working for the British and US press for the past three years. From early April highlights of his work can be found at www.hughmacleod.co.uk

Comments (25)

Gibran said:

Please do not forget to tune in to CNN at 8PM ET tonight Sunday March 18 to see the latest on Death Squads run by the brethren of Hezbollah in Iraq. First hand reports certified by independent organizations of secret torture prisons run by the thugs of Shia Death Squads under the guise of being government will be shown. Beware of very disgusting graphic images never seen before.

March 18th, 2007, 11:22 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Yes, an important piece on CNN tonight indeed. One should not have any difficulty noticing the striking resemblance of the tactics used by the Iraqi death squads and the tactics used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the secret CIA-run prisons across the world. Those of us who are old enough should also find resemblance to the tactics of the Contra death squads in the 80’s. Of particular striking resemblance to the Honduras death squads is the presence of the recycled Reaganites who are running Iraq today. Hmmm…


March 18th, 2007, 11:43 pm


3antar said:

surely the treatment of Iraqi shia by the american media isnt the same as the Lebanese shia. US gvt require to maintain the some good relations with the shia while keeping those baathist sunnis of Iraq as part of those evil insurgents. how else are they to divide and conquer. cant have both shia and sunnis under scrutiny lads. one at a time.
but hey, thats CNN for ya, that orient is just packed with crazy Ayrabs. mu sa7? It must be a nightmare for the american public to keep up. So sunnis in Lebanon are good , while sunnis in Iraq are bad. Shia in lebanon are bad, while shia in Iraq are a bit of both. Alawis are a sect of shia but they are the worst kind. Iran wants to nuke our poor little israel and god help our president, he’s got far too much on his plate.

March 19th, 2007, 12:04 am


Alex said:

سورية في الأخبار
ميسر الشمري الحياة – 19/03/07//

الأخبار في الأيام الماضية، باستثناء خبر مؤتمر بغداد، كانت أخباراً سورية بامتياز، ما يعني أن سورية إما أن تكون عادت إلى دائرة الضوء التي وضعها فيها الرئيس حافظ الأسد، وإما أن تكون الإجراءات التي تهدف إلى عزلها عن قضايا المنطقة بعد ان تم تحييدها منذ ان خرجت قواتها من لبنان، قد بدأت.
ومع ان سورية جزء من مؤتمر بغداد، فقد كان الخبر الأكثر تردداً في وسائل الإعلام، هو ما نقلته صحيفة “هاآرتس” الإسرائيلية حول مفاوضات سرية جرت بين دمشق وتل أبيب، ثم توج الخبر أخيراً، بإعلان الأميركي (من أصل سوري) إبراهيم سليمان انه سيلتقي أعضاء في الكنيسيت الإسرائيلي لاطلاعهم على سير المفاوضات السرية التي كان وسيطاً فيها.
الخبر الثاني في الأهمية، تمثل في تفويض الاتحاد الأوروبي خافيير سولانا لمناقشة القيادة السورية حول الوضع اللبناني، وذلك بعدما تمكنت الديبلوماسية السعودية من تهيئة الأوضاع النفسية والسياسية للقاء جمع سعد الحريري ونبيه بري.
هذه الأخبار الخاصة بالدور السوري في قضايا المنطقة، تأتي بعد مفاوضات واجتماعات ماراثونية قادتها الديبلوماسية السعودية، توجت باتفاق مكة للفصائل الفلسطينية، وقبله مؤتمر مكة للمصالحة العراقية الذي عمل بعض الأطراف على قتله جنيناً، وبعد ذلك الجهود السعودية في إرساء السفينة اللبنانية على شواطئ لبنان الوطن المستقل، وهو ما يرجح أن تكون سورية في طريقها إلى دائرة الضوء التي وضعها فيها حافظ الأسد، إلا أن الخبر الذي نقلته صحيفة “الحياة” السبت الماضي عن مسؤولين عسكريين إسرائيليين، حول نية سورية القيام بحرب خاطفة ضد إسرائيل، ينسف هذا “الترجيح” خصوصاً أن المسؤولين الإسرائيليين تحدثوا عن نشر دمشق المئات من بطاريات الصواريخ، كما تحدثوا عن تنقلات عسكرية داخل سورية.
شخصياً لا أثق بالتسريبات الإسرائيلية. وعندما قرأت خبر “هاآرتس” حول مفاوضات سرية بين سورية وإسرائيل، اعتبرت الخبر مجرد “فرقعة إعلامية” إسرائيلية، لكن بعد الإعلان عن لقاء بين إبراهيم سليمان وأعضاء الكنيست، التزمت الصمت تماماً مثلما فعل الإعلام السوري، لهذا وجدت نفسي مضطراً لقراءة تصريحات المسؤولين الإسرائيليين حول نية سورية شن حرب خاطفة ضد إسرائيل بشكل مختلف عن قراءتي للأخبار السورية الأخرى.
العراقيون، وخصوصاً الكبار منهم، يرون أنهم “أهل كونات” (أهل قتال)، فيما يرون السوريين أهل سياسة، ويرددون بأن اليهود في جميع أنحاء العالم يعملون في التجارة، إلا في دمشق يعملون في تنظيف دورات المياه والحمامات العمومية، لهذا لا استبعد أن تشن سورية حرباً ضد إسرائيل، وذلك لأن لها سابقة في ذلك، إذ أوعزت لـ “حزب الله” عندما ُضيق الخناق عليها بالقيام نيابة عنها بحرب الـ33 يوماً ضد الكيان الصهيوني.
دمشق أحست بالعزلة عربياً وإقليميا ودولياً فور انتهاء حرب الـ33 يوماً، خصوصاً بعد خطاب رئيسها الذي وصف فيه بعض القادة بـ “اشباه الرجال”، هذا الإحساس تزامن مع مواصلة قطار الديبلوماسية السعودية رحلته في المصالحة العربية، وأنجز “اتفاق مكة” بين الفصائل الفلسطينية، وبعده بأسابيع توقف القطار السعودي في واحدة من أهم محطاته، عندما زار أحمدي نجاد (حليف سورية الأول) السعودية واتفق مع قيادتها على نقاط مفصلية في مسيرة العمل الإسلامي والثنائي، وهو الاتفاق الذي هيأ أرضية مناسبة لإنهاء الصراع السياسي في لبنان.
من المؤكد أن ما تم الاتفاق عليه بين القيادة السعودية ونجاد وصل الى دمشق قبل أن تحط طائرة نجاد في طهران، لهذا عقد وزيرا الدفاع السوري والإيراني اجتماعات مطولة في دمشق الأسبوع الماضي، وقام الرئيس بشار الأسد، قبل ذلك، بافتتاح مصنع السيارات السوري “شام” الذي تمتلك إيران 60 في المئة منه، والتقى بعد ذلك وزير الدفاع الإيراني.
شخصياً لا أستبعد قيام دمشق بحرب ضد إسرائيل، ومن المؤكد أن اجتماع وزير الدفاع السوري مع نظيره الإيراني، لن يكون لدراسة وضع مصنع سيارات “شام”، بل سيكون لتعطيل المحكمة الدولية بخصوص مقتل رفيق الحريري، وضرب اتفاق مكة الذي لم ترض بنوده بعض الفصائل الفلسطينية القريبة من دمشق وطهران، وضرب الدور السعودي، وبالتالي إعادة المنطقة إلى المربع الأول.

March 19th, 2007, 2:18 am


Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect said:

“One should not have any difficulty noticing the striking resemblance of the tactics used by the Iraqi death squads and the tactics used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the secret CIA-run prisons across the world.”

Yes, especially one who is blind to reality.

If it came between “Iraqi Death Squads” and “the tactics used at Abu Ghraib”, I’d opt for Abu Ghraib in an instant.

March 19th, 2007, 3:10 am


Alex said:

No, I would prefer the Iraqi Death Squad.

: )

March 19th, 2007, 3:12 am


Gibran said:

There is no need for you guys to fight in order to choose between Abu Ghraib and Death Squads. Some one before you had been down that road. He eventually chose Harvard and gave up the mafia-like predecessor of Death Squads (the so-called Revolutionary Guard or Sepah-e Pasdaran). Landis may, however, be exhibiting the opposite phenomenon of an academic regressing to the ranks of the Sepah-e Pasdaran:

What was once a Revolutionary Guard is now just a Mafia

By: Mohsen Sazegara *
Back in October 1978, none of us in exile with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini imagined that victory for the Islamic Revolution would be attained only a few months later.

It was during those days in Neuf-le-Chateau that the notion of starting a “people’s army” first took hold, and expecting that our battle would be a long one, we took as models for our soon-to-be established army the forces in Algeria and Cuba.

But on February 1, 1979, we stepped off a plane from France into Tehran, and 10 days later we were in power. Suddenly we had a position to protect, and the model for our people’s army changed dramatically. It seemed more appropriate to emulate such forces as the Swiss Armed Forces, United States National Guard or Israel Defense Forces.

The thought was that if the Islamic Republic had two separate armies with independent command structures, the country could insulate itself against a coup. If ordinary citizens were given military training in preparation for combat, we believed, then any military commander would think twice before contemplating overthrowing the government.

In the three decades since, there has not been a coup. That people’s army, however, has grown into a multi-headed monster.

Today the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution — known in Farsi as the Sepah-e Pasdaran and in English as the Revolutionary Guard — is a mafia-like organization with a corrupting influence on Iran’s army, police, media, industries, judiciary and government. It is imperative that every effort now be made to contain the Revolutionary Guard’s powers, because its political and economic adventurism will ultimately lead to a serious crisis, not just in Iran but also across the Middle East.

Any attempt at rolling back the Revolutionary Guard’s power must begin with an understanding of how it has strayed from its original mission.

In the first phase of planning, we envisioned three separate circles on the organizational chart. The first consisted of a small but varied cadre of at most 500 people who were to be permanently employed by the Revolutionary Guard. All command and staff positions, including all the trained personnel destined for senior command in guerilla warfare, were to come from this quarter.

The second circle was to consist of another group of around 500,000 people who were to be recruited on a volunteer or part-time basis from the general public, with a designated mission to serve as commanders of “civilian guerilla groups.” The third and final circle would encompass as many people as possible from all walks of life — students, workers, bureaucrats, farmers and the like. It was envisioned that each volunteer would receive military training and subsequently be invited to participate in at least one prearranged military exercise each year.

Although computers were not commonly used in those days, we nonetheless intended to make full use of computerized programming for the promotion of the new organization, under the direct supervision of one of the personnel working for me. The light weapons held in the various armories were to be re-registered and distributed around the country. In case of an emergency, our thinking went, a simple volunteer from anywhere in the land could serve under the command of a part-time, fully trained group leader, who in turn would be part of a Revolutionary Guard division under the command of a full-time, fully trained commander with a mission to protect the country and the revolution.

As originally planned, the Revolutionary Guard was to be, quite literally, a people’s army — not, as it has become, a force separate from the general public, let alone opposed to it. In times of war, the Revolutionary Guard was seen as a force to fight alongside the regular military in the service of the country. In times of peace, it was to tend to its own affairs. In times of need or natural disasters, it was to help out with civil defense and other emergency operations.

After the original plans for the Revolutionary Guard had been drawn up and its constitution finalized in April 1979, I relinquished my post in the organization’s information and research unit to Ali Mohammad Besharati. I moved on to National Iranian Radio and Television, where after a short while I was appointed to head radio operations.

The years since have taken me on a far different path than the one on which I began the Islamic Revolution, but having been involved with the Revolutionary Guard at its birth, I have continuously followed its evolution. It is my view that over the course of the past 28 years, the Revolutionary Guard has deviated from its original mission in three important ways, in the process inflicting a series of irreparable damages to Iran.

The first deviation began when Mohsen Rezai, Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr and their ilk entered the Revolutionary Guard. Their first major task was to convert the Revolutionary Guard’s information and research unit — which had originally been designed to serve as an analysis and planning unit with, at most, some residual capacity for military intelligence gathering — into an outright security organization with Rezai at its helm.

It didn’t take long for this intelligence unit to expand its influence over the Revolutionary Guard’s other units. In May 1982, Iranian armed forces expelled the occupying Iraqi army from the ravaged southern city of Khorramshahr. Before the Iraqis captured the city in October 1980, it had been a major international port with a wealthy, cosmopolitan population, and the Revolutionary Guard’s part in recapturing Khorramshahr quickly gained mythic status in Iran. The intelligence unit’s control over the Revolutionary Guard became near total, and it embarked on a mission to convert the Revolutionary Guard into a classic fighting machine.

After the battle for Khorramshahr, Iran held the upper hand over Iraq. But rather than pursue a cease-fire, these gentlemen — aided and abetted by then-parliament speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — convinced Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that it was essential for Iranian military forces to invade Iraqi territory and capture the port city of Basra. There is no doubt that responsibility and blame for the six-year extension of the Iran-Iraq War, which needlessly caused so much death and destruction for the Iranian people, rests firmly on the shoulders of the clique of Revolutionary Guard commanders around Rezai and Zolghadr.

These same elements in the Revolutionary Guard, who assumed senior military titles for themselves without having the slightest relevant qualifications, unashamedly planned a number of large-scale offensives after the victory at Khorramshahr. As a consequence of Operations Khaybar, Badr, Karbala 4, Karbala 5 and others, thousands and thousands of young Iranians needlessly suffered. Of the nearly 267,000 Iranian deaths and 500,000 casualties caused by the Iran-Iraq War, more than 90% occurred after Khorramshahr was recaptured and the invading Iraqis expelled from Iranian territory.

In 1985, the Revolutionary Guard was able to obtain Khomeini’s approval for developing air, ground and naval units, thereby acquiring all the properties of a classic military organization. Despite lacking the necessary training and education, the Revolutionary Guard began to rival the regular armed forces.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Revolutionary Guard’s commander, Rezai, stated that the Revolutionary Guard must develop units specifically tasked with confronting opposition to the regime. I met shortly afterward with the head of Iran’s Judiciary Branch and asked him not to pursue Rezai’s plan. The only possible outcome from such an act, I warned, would be the creation of a force very much resembling the Nazi Brownshirts.

The head of the Judiciary Branch laughingly disregarded my suggestion. I should not bad-mouth the Nazis, he told me; at least they had some educated people among them. In the end, Rezai had his way, and so were created the “White Shirts” and other civilian groups entrusted with the task of intimidating and brutalizing any hint of opposition, a practice that still takes place today.

The Revolutionary Guard was no longer a people’s army, just another coercive force at the service of the ruling establishment. To solidify their hold on power, the same clique that has been running the Revolutionary Guard all these years prematurely removed a number of senior and able commanders, among them Davoud Karimi, the commander in Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guard also expanded beyond the air, ground and naval components approved by Khomeini in 1985. The Basij force, which had been created as a volunteer militia to help fight the war with Iraq, was transformed into a unit with paid elements who were tasked with confronting domestic opposition. And in order to carry out the Revolutionary Guard’s bidding in areas outside the country — Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and, most importantly, Iraq — the Quds Force was created.

I once heard Hassan Abbasi, who was a member of the Revolutionary Guard’s strategic planning department, boast to students at Khajeh Nasir University that the Revolutionary Guard was making good use of the Hezbollah cells it had created in Lebanon and elsewhere. And the current president of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, served with the Ramazan Unit of the Quds Force, participating in Iraq-related operations during the during the Iran-Iraq War. There should be no doubt about the Quds Force’s role in what transpired last summer in Lebanon, or in what is happening on a daily basis between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq.

The Revolutionary Guard also set up a new secret intelligence unit under the auspices of the Judiciary Branch’s security section. In effect a parallel security organization, it operates under the direct supervision of the supreme leader.

The most notorious part of this secret intelligence organization is Prison 325, which the unit runs independently in Evin Prison. I, like other opposition elements, was imprisoned there.

The Revolutionary Guard’s second major deviation from its original mission took place over the course of Rafsanjani’s eight-year presidency. After becoming president in 1989, he made it a priority for all government agencies to increase their revenues. He incorporated into his plans the Revolutionary Guard and the Ministry of Information. These two organizations, armed with weapons and handcuffs, soon entered the world of business — and became an entity replicated in other parts of the world only by mafia-like gangs of criminals.

In the former Soviet Union the KGB occupied a similar position, and as a result, post-Soviet society is plagued by the Russian mafia, one of the world’s deadliest criminal organizations. To this day, these elements have a stranglehold on some of Russia’s key economic enterprises, which has allowed them to weigh in heavily on the general direction of the country’s politics.

In Iran as much as in Russia, when elements armed with weapons enter into commercial activities, two immediate and major threats are created. The first is that economic rivals are soon arrested or intimidated, and with rivals out of the equation, a commercial monopoly is inevitably established. Second, the armed economic unit, in an attempt to increase its easy profits, uses its power of intimidation and force to enter into a number of illegal activities, such as drug and alcohol smuggling and prostitution. Because of their weapons, no one dares challenge or criticize these elements’ behavior.

After Mohammad Khatami assumed the presidency in 1997, serious attempts were made to extricate Iran’s intelligence community from the world of conventional economic activities. Intelligence Minister Ali Younesi himself insisted on the effort. By most accounts, some moderate progress was achieved, but a number of people remain skeptical about the sincerity with which the effort was pursued.

However, as regards the Revolutionary Guard — which still operates under the direct supervision of the supreme leader — no such steps were ever initiated. Indeed, its involvement in commercial activities has only grown.

Today the Revolutionary Guard controls more than 100 different economic enterprises, conducting business under the aegis of either itself or the Basij. Its commercial activities have ranged from importing household goods — at a time when other commercial enterprises were banned from importing some of those goods — to being in charge of car manufacturing companies and assembly plants.

The Revolutionary Guard has also been a major contractor in the construction of oil and gas pipelines, as well as in the importing of Kazakh oil into Iran. And when Iraq was under international sanction by the United Nations Security Council, the Revolutionary Guard was the prime force behind Iranian efforts to help Saddam Hussein and his family smuggle oil out of Iraq, according to personal acquaintances of mine who were involved in the operations.

Some Revolutionary Guard commanders are directly involved in economic activities aimed at enriching themselves. One case in point is Sadegh Mahsouli. Formerly the Revolutionary Guard commander of Azerbaijan province in northwest Iran, he was nominated by Ahmadinejad to the powerful post of oil minister, and would be serving today had the parliament not rejected his nomination.

And since Ahmadinejad moved into the president’s office, contracts for oil pipelines worth more than $7 billion have reportedly been awarded to Revolutionary Guard-affiliated enterprises without any public tenders, at a time when numerous contractors with far more experience and qualifications in their respective fields are struggling with serious financial problems.

Consequently, a government whose slogan and mission has been to fight financial corruption has inadvertently become what is undoubtedly the most corrupt government in the history of modern Iran.

The Revolutionary Guard’s third deviation from its original mission has taken place since Ali Khamenei became supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1989. By involving the Revolutionary Guard in the political life of the country, Khamenei’s direct and unwise leadership of the corps has simply exacerbated matters beyond imagination.

Before Khamenei assumed the mantle of leadership, ambitious Revolutionary Guard commanders who displayed an interest in entering into politics were severely reprimanded. Khomeini firmly believed that no military establishment should be allowed to involve itself in the political life of the nation.

Once Khamenei came into power, however, Khomeini’s restrictions were no longer adhered to, and political appointments of Revolutionary Guard members became quite regular. At the height of the reform movement under President Mohammad Khatami, Khamenei was instrumental in allowing a number of key Revolutionary Guard and Basij members to enter into politics.

The appointments were part of a strategy aimed at safeguarding Khamenei’s own position of power, which was threatened by a clear absence of popular support. When the media publicly questioned the lethal mix of military and politics under Khamenei, the reaction was quick and venomous — and I speak from personal experience.

In 1999, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Rahim Safavi, gave a public speech in which he attacked Jame-e, a reform-minded newspaper I co-founded, and warned of “snakes and scorpions rising from the cracks of Iran’s journalistic society.” The solution he proposed — no doubt with the blessing of the supreme leader — was to “cut off heads and tongues” in order to silence any form of free and open discussion that did not suit the purposes of Khamenei and his cronies.

I responded to his comments by publishing a short article in Jame-e. I wrote that I did not recall Safavi being one of the Revolutionary Guard’s founding members. I also wrote that when we created the Revolutionary Guard, we never envisioned it as a force standing against the ordinary people of Iran or in opposition to freedom of expression.

Immediately after the article was published, I was contacted by the supreme leader’s office and reprimanded for having written that I could not recall Safavi’s background with the Revolutionary Guard dating back to the corps’ founding.

Sometime afterward, Safavi made a political speech during the annual commemoration of the occupation of the American embassy in Tehran. I once again responded, this time in a radio interview. I stated that neither Safavi nor any other military commander had the right to comment on political matters, and that they must leave political matters entirely in the hands of the country’s civilian leadership. I also stated that if Safavi and any other military commanders nourished political ambitions, they were more than free to pursue them, but only once they had resigned their commissions and opted for civilian life.

In 2003, I was arrested and imprisoned by the secret intelligence unit run by the Revolutionary Guard under the supreme leader’s direct supervision. My radio comments about Safavi were among the six serious charges brought against me. My crime had been to insult a revolutionary organization, a crime punishable by imprisonment.

My experience was far from unique. Anyone seen as a competitor — political, commercial or otherwise — runs the risk of being put out of commission by intimidation and brute force. As a direct result, a number of Revolutionary Guard commanders have risen to key positions of power in Iran, despite being clearly unqualified.

Under their leadership, the Revolutionary Guard has extended its reach across Iranian society. Militarily and politically, it has carved out a role for itself not unlike that of the Red Army and the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. It has transformed itself, KGB-like, into a mafia that dominates Iran’s police force. And in its business activities, it now resembles some of the world’s major cartels.

And the Revolutionary Guard’s ambitions continue to grow. In order to sideline potential rivals, the Revolutionary Guard has been instrumental in inciting division between some of the country’s key agencies, such as the Supreme National Security Council and the Ministry of the Interior. With the backing of Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard commanders have done their very best to expand their influence over the legislative and judicial branches of government. And they have made every effort to consolidate support for their cronies in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in Iran’s radio and television networks.

Left unchecked, the Revolutionary Guard’s political and economic adventurism will inevitably lead to a serious crisis. The people of Iran will suffer the most, but so, too, will others in the Middle East. Last summer’s hostage-takings in Lebanon and Palestine, which culminated in the horrific 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, are only small examples of the kind of scenarios we are likely to face.

It is therefore imperative that the Iranian people, with the help of the international community, seriously attempt to roll back the powers of this growing monster. Unless the Revolutionary Guard is contained, it may soon face a groundswell of opposition — from within its own ranks, from others associated with the regime and, perhaps most importantly, from ordinary Iranian citizens. Unless the Revolutionary Guard curbs its incompetent and illegal involvement in the political and economic life of Iran, the rising tide of unrest is bound to reach a very dangerous climax.

Picture: Mohsen Sazegara who co-founded the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in 1979, and served the Islamic Republic until 1989 in a number of senior government positions, including deputy prime minister for political affairs and managing director of the National Radio of Iran. He went into exile after being imprisoned in 2003, and is currently a visiting researcher at Harvard University.

Source: sazegara.net

March 19th, 2007, 3:38 am


Enlightened said:

“That was the one third plus one formula. Some months later Lahoud’s minister’s Elias Murr and Charles Rezk changed their politics and went to March 14 so there was no more equilibrium.”

What alternatives did Murr have after he was targeted for asasination? Charles Rizk, did not want any association with the Illegitimate Lahoud! The equilibrium if any really existed after the Harriri assasination, was never really existent at all after he left office, the decks had been cleared and Harriri had crossed the Rubicon in his break from Syria. Nawar Sahili speaks of a fake alliance! None really existed after Harriri left the premiership, it was paper thin at best.

Alex I am sending youairfreight ONE ORANGE JUMPSUIT ! Let me know your size, would you prefer a hood? or hood free? Foot and handsize would also be required to ensure your hands and feet , are fetted to ensure no discomfort!

March 19th, 2007, 5:17 am


R said:

Dear Hugh

You are yet just another gringo asking alllllll the wrong questions. Like the betles song “Get Back” – Hugh, Get back to where you belong.

March 19th, 2007, 5:44 am


Alex said:


: )

As usual, you don’t want remember the whole truth!

Why did Murr switch to the other side?

Here is the answer, but it is in Arabic …ask your father in law : )

No, I will help you: Murr’s name was “accidentally included in a list of 9 names that Mehlis threatened to publicly disclose all their financial records!” … not only that but his name was only one of two names to be announced from that list! …. given the fact Murr is a first-rate corrupt official who would be humiliated if his financial records were publicized, he accepted their terms (switch to the other side) and few days later Mehlis apologized saying: “oh, we have no idea how Murr’s name was accidentally added to our list of suspects.. and we have no idea how we even mentioned his name publicly”!

WOW! … wasn’t that something! … they accidentally added his name to that short list, then they accidentally announced his name! .. then he went on TV and changed his position to “the Syrians are so bad” .. then Mehlis removed Murr’s name.

So I am staying exactly were I stood for ever. I will never be impressed with the clowns and the warlords on the other side.

March 19th, 2007, 7:05 am


ausamaa said:


Join the crowd. The Feb 14 clowns are not impressed with their “Own” selves!!!

March 19th, 2007, 8:49 am


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, thanks for the facts. It is really a strange fact that a Lebanses politician switched sides in Lebanon. It never happened before, as all Lebanese zou3ma are always held to the highest standards and they never waivered, ever, from their position against Syria since 1976. This Murr clown must be really tart and sour.

March 19th, 2007, 9:04 am


ausamaa said:


Man, are you serious?: “It is really a strange fact that a Lebanses politician switched sides in Lebanon”.

They have practically turned “switching sides” to an every-day-occurance and to a “highly refined art”.!

March 19th, 2007, 9:29 am


3antar said:

I liked that article you copied in about Mr. Sazegara.
Doesnt come as a surprise in many ways.
Through out my reading , i just couldnt help notice how much in common he has with Khaddam.
That geezer also claims to have tried advising against deviations the govt heading towards.

“He applied to become a candidate for President of Iran in the 2001 election and was refused.”

the similarities are uncanny.

but an interesting read nevertheless .

March 19th, 2007, 10:02 am


Ford Prefect said:

In reading al-Mustaqbal and listening to Jumblatt, I was led to believe that all Lebanese politicians are the most democratic, peace-loving, and honest politicians in the world. None of them is corrupt, became a millionaire through unfair competition, an ethnic cleanser, a Syrian kiss-asser, or a convicted murderer. These ape-descendent Lebanese politicians are a shining example for us Syrians that we must follow. Was I misinformed then, Ausamaa?

March 19th, 2007, 10:16 am


Gibran said:

You don’t really want to get your father in law involved in translating to you a piece of misinformation worse than this misinformed so called interview of some Mr. Hugh of a mispelled (Nawar). Alex finds none but al-Thawra piece of shit written by none other than a Shity Syrian propagandist, Abdallah al-Shami, to make his point even pointless. Alex, we only read your and the other chorus nonsense for amusement. Please don’t try to over-prove yourself.

March 19th, 2007, 12:17 pm


ausamaa said:


Now I got you!

March 19th, 2007, 1:12 pm


3antar said:

Robert Fisk: US power games in the Middle East

As the West looks anxiously at Iraq and Afghanistan, dangerous cracks are opening up in Lebanon ­ and the White House is determined to prop up Fouad Siniora’s government

Published: 19 March 2007

The spring rain beat down like ball-bearings on the flat roof of General Claudio Graziano’s office. Much of southern Lebanon looked like a sea of mud this week but all was optimism and light for the Italian commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, now 11,000 strong and still expecting South Korea to add to his remarkable 29-nation international army. He didn’t recall how the French battalion almost shot down an Israeli jet last year – it was before his time – and he dismissed last month’s border shoot-out between Israeli and Lebanese troops.

No specific threats had been directed at Unifil, the UN’s man in southern Lebanon insisted – though I noticed he paused for several seconds before replying to my question – and his own force was now augmented by around 9,000 Lebanese troops patrolling on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier. There was some vague talk of “terrorist threats … associated with al-Qa’ida” – UN generals rarely use the word ‘terrorism’, but then again Graziano is also a Nato general — yet nothing hard. Yes, Lebanese army intelligence was keeping him up to date. So it must have come as a shock to the good general when the Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabeh last week announced that a Lebanese Internal Security Force unit had arrested four Syrian members of a Palestinian “terrorist group” linked to al-Qa’ida and working for the Syrian intelligence services who were said to be responsible for leaving bombs in two Lebanese minibuses on 13 February, killing three civilians and wounding another 20.

Now it has to be said that there’s a lot of scepticism about this story. Not because Syria has, inevitably, denied any connection to Lebanese bombings but because in a country that has never in 30 years solved a political murder, it’s pretty remarkable that the local Lebanese constabulary can solve this one – and very conveniently so since Mr Sabeh’s pro-American government continues to accuse Syria of all things bestial in the state of Lebanon. According to the Lebanese government – one of those anonymous sources so beloved of the press – the arrested men were also planning attacks on Unifil and had maps of the UN’s military patrol routes in the south of the country. And a drive along the frontier with Israel shows that the UN is taking no chances. Miles of razor wire and 20ft concrete walls protect many of its units.

The Italians, like their French counterparts, have created little “green zones” – we Westerners seem to be doing that all over the Middle East – where carabinieri police officers want photo identity cards for even the humblest of reporters. These are combat units complete with their own armour and tanks although no-one could explain to me this week in what circumstances the tanks could possibly be used and I rather suspect they don’t know. Surely they won’t fire at the Israelis and – unless they want to go to war with the Hizbollah – I cannot imagine French Leclerc tanks are going to be shooting at the Middle East’s most disciplined guerrilla fighters.

But Unifil, like it or not, is on only one side of the border, the Lebanese side, and despite their improving relations with the local Shia population — the UN boys are going in for cash handouts to improve water supplies and roads, “quick impact projects” as they are called in the awful UN-speak of southern Lebanon – there are few Lebanese who do not see them as a buffer force to protect Israel. Last year’s UN Resolution 1701 doesn’t say this, but it does call for “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon”. This was a clause, of course, which met with the enthusiastic approval of the United States. For “armed groups”, read Hizbollah.

The reality is that Washington is now much more deeply involved in Lebanon’s affairs than most people, even the Lebanese, realise. Indeed there is a danger that – confronted by its disastrous “democratic” experiment in Iraq – the US government is now turning to Lebanon to prove its ability to spread democracy in the Middle East. Needless to say, the Americans and the British have been generous in supplying the Lebanese army with new equipment, jeeps and Humvees and anti-riot gear (to be used against who, I wonder?) and there was even a hastily denied report that Defence Minister Michel Murr would be picking up some missile-firing helicopters after his recent visit to Washington. Who, one also asks oneself, were these mythical missiles supposed to be fired at?

Every Lebanese potentate, it now seems, is heading for Washington. Walid Jumblatt, the wittiest, most nihilistic and in many ways the most intelligent, is also among the most infamous. He was deprived of his US visa until 2005 for uncharitably saying that he wished a mortar shell fired by Iraqi insurgents into the Baghdad “green zone” had killed then- Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. But fear not. Now that poor old Lebanon is to become the latest star of US foreign policy, Jumblatt sailed into Washington for a 35-minute meeting with President George Bush – that’s only 10 minutes less than Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert got – and has also met with Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Gates and the somewhat more disturbing Stephen Hadley, America’s National Security Adviser. There are Lebanese admirers of Jumblatt who have been asking themselves if his recent tirades against Syria and the Lebanese government’s Hizbollah opponents – not to mention his meetings in Washington – aren’t risking another fresh grave in Lebanon’s expanding cemeteries. Brave man Jumblatt is. Whether he’s a wise man will be left to history.

But it is America’s support for Fouad Siniora’s government – Jumblatt is a foundation stone of this – that is worrying many Lebanese. With Shia out of the government of their own volition, Siniora’s administration may well be, as the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud says, unconstitutional; and the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics came violently to life in January with stonings and shooting battles on the streets of Beirut.

Because Iraq and Afghanistan have captured the West’s obsessive attention since then, however, there is a tendency to ignore the continuing, dangerous signs of confessionalism in Lebanon. In the largely Sunni Beirut suburb of Tarek al-Jdeide, several Shia families have left for unscheduled “holidays”. Many Sunnis will no longer shop in the cheaper department stores in the largely Shia southern suburb of Dahiya. More seriously, the Lebanese security forces have been sent into the Armenian Christian town of Aanjar in the Bekaa Valley after a clump of leaflets was found at one end of the town calling on its inhabitants to “leave Muslim land”. Needless to say, there have been no reports of this frightening development in the Lebanese press.

Aanjar was in fact given by the French to the Armenians after they were forced to leave the city of Alexandretta in 1939 – the French allowed a phoney referendum there to let the Turks take over in the vain hope that Ankara would fight Hitler – and Aanjar’s citizens hold their title deeds. But receiving threats that they are going to be ethnically cleansed from their homes is – for Armenians – a terrible reminder of their genocide at the hands of the Turks in 1915. Lebanon likes its industrious, highly educated Armenians who are also represented in parliament. But that such hatred could now touch them is a distressing witness to the fragility of the Lebanese state.

True, Saad Hariri, the Sunni son of the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, has been holding talks with the Shia speaker of parliament, Nabi Berri – the Malvolio of Lebanese politics – and the Saudis have been talking to the Iranians and the Syrians about a “solution” to the Lebanese crisis. Siniora – who was appointed to his job, not elected – seems quite prepared to broaden Shia representation in his cabinet but not at the cost of providing them with a veto over his decisions. One of these decisions is Siniora’s insistence that the UN goes ahead with its international tribunal into Hariri’s murder which the government – and the United States – believe was Syria’s work.

Yet cracks are appearing. France now has no objections to direct talks with Damascus and Javier Solana has been to plead with President Bashar Assad for Syria’s help in reaching “peace, stability and independence” for Lebanon. What price the UN tribunal if Syria agrees to help? Already Assad’s ministers are saying that if Syrian citizens are found to be implicated in Hariri’s murder, then they will have to be tried by a Syrian court – something which would not commend itself to the Lebanese or to the Americans.

Siniora, meanwhile, can now bask in the fact that after the US administration asked Congress to approve $770m for the Beirut government to meet its Paris III donor conference pledges, Lebanon will be the third largest recipient of US aid per capita of population. How much of this will have to be spent on the Lebanese military, we still don’t know. Siniora, by the way, was also banned from the United States for giving a small sum to an Islamic charity during a visit several years ago to a Beirut gathering hosted by Sayed Hussein Fadlallah, whom the CIA tried to murder in 1985 for his supposed links to the Hizbollah. Now he is an American hero.

Which is all to Hizbollah’s liking. However faithful its leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, may be to Iran (or Syria), the more Siniora’s majority government is seen to be propped up by America, the deeper the social and political divisions in Lebanon become. The “tink thank” lads, as I call them, can fantasise about America’s opportunities. “International support for the Lebanese government will do a great deal for advancing the cause of democracy and helping avoid civil war,” David Shenker of the “Washington Institute for Near East Policy” pronounced last week. “… the Bush administration has wisely determined not to abandon the Lebanese to the tender mercies of Iran and Syria, which represents an important development towards ensuring the government’s success,” he said.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Wherever Washington has supported Middle East “democracy” recently – although it swiftly ditched Lebanon during its blood-soaked war last summer on the ridiculous assumption that by postponing a ceasefire the Israelis could crush the Hizbollah – its efforts have turned into a nightmare. Now we know that Israeli prime minister Olmert had already pre-planned a war with Lebanon if his soldiers were captured by the Hizbollah, Nasrallah is able to hold up his guerrilla army as defenders of Lebanon, rather than provokers of a conflict which cost at least 1,300 Lebanese civilian lives. And going all the way to Washington to save Lebanon is an odd way of behaving. The answers lie here, not in the United States. As a friend put it to me, “If I have a bad toothache, I don’t book myself into a Boston clinic and fly across the Atlantic – I go to my Beirut dentist!”


March 19th, 2007, 2:50 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Akbar Palace (or was it his ally Gibran?) said:
“If it came between “Iraqi Death Squads” and “the tactics used at Abu Ghraib”, I’d opt for Abu Ghraib in an instant.”

Here is what Akbar Palace would have opted for in an instant at Abu Ghraib:

(exertps from ARTICLE 15-6 INVESTIGATION OF THE 800th MILITARY POLICE BRIGADE – by MG Antonio M. Taguba)
Full report can be found here:

• Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet
• Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees
• Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing
• Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time
• Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear
• Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped
• Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them
• Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture
• Writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked
• Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture
• A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee
• Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee
• Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees
• Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees
• Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol
• Pouring cold water on naked detainees
• Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair
• Threatening male detainees with rape
• Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick

Do you still want to opt for this, AP?

March 19th, 2007, 2:58 pm


youngsyria said:

its the first time ,for me, to read something like this:
Finance Minister reply on “Syria’s Revenues in Danger”

he replied to many comments !! is this a new fashion in Syria?
sorry its in Arabic…somebody translate if its worthy

March 19th, 2007, 3:06 pm


ugarit said:

Google translation service can translate on the fly

Translation into English of Finance Minister reply on “Syria’s Revenues in Danger”

beware that the translation is quite funny sometimes.


http://www.syrianfinance.org/ (ar)
http://www.syrianfinance.org/index_eng.html (en)

March 19th, 2007, 3:21 pm


Alex said:


If I were you I would just ignore this story, instead of “oh Alex linked Al-Thawra Syrian newspaper”!

Let’s take the Syrian paper out of it and concentrate on the facts: Is there anything wrong with the story I wrote about?

Did they or did they not publish Al-Murr’s name “by mistake” in that list of suspects?

Did they or did they not say “oops! we have no idea how his name made it to the list” and then “honestly, we don’t even know why we picked his name from that list to threaten him publicly”!


March 19th, 2007, 5:12 pm


Enlightened said:

Alex, please when you post and adress me, dont be so smug, especially whe i dont read arabic as it is a extremely sore point with me!

Secondly; if you have the article you can translate it, or the points no problem, even if tedious, a succinct summary perhaps might even do.

“The Whole Truth ” alex my friend no such thing exists even in the ME, there are only shades of grey!

So your take on the issue was that it was backmail? I think it would take more than blackmail to have got him to switch sides, scratch the surface a little deeper, and you will find that there were more pressing issues in his relations with his father in law- that Syrian Pinochio aka Lahoud!

March 19th, 2007, 11:04 pm


Alex said:

Dear Elightened,

Please forgive me for the tone again .. it is all meant to be taken in a light way … we are not steering international relations here.

When I sound sarcastic with you it is not the same way I do with “G” who I do not respect much.

As for the blackmail .. yes I do believe Blackmail at least played a big part in pushing him to make the move .. but it is more than blackmail .. there is also the opportunity of playing a role again with the new masters of Lebanon… I hope you accept that a corrupt politician who was Syria’s man in the past, would be compatible with Syria’s replacement in Lebanon.

If you want me to write to you more about why I am convinced of this opinion I can do that when I come back from dinner. Just let me know please.

And please don’t take my comments negatively, ask my friend Ehsani; I always “criticize” him, but there is nothing negative about it.

March 19th, 2007, 11:22 pm


K said:

This is the first time I read a Hizballa spokesman challenged on the issue of Syria’s hundreds of Lebanese prisoners (of all sects) some of whom have been rotting in Syria for decades now, alive or dead.

I’m sure you’ll understand I found his response decidedly unsatisfactory. My favorite phrase: “We are not against asking Syria to give back any Lebanese.”

I paste its entirety for your pleasure:

Let’s talk about Hezbollah’s other key demand: the return of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails. We know Hezbollah is demanding the return of Samir Kantar and there are maybe half a dozen more Lebanese in Israeli jails. Yet rights groups say there are some 280 Lebanese prisoners once held in Syrian prisons and still unaccounted for. Why is discovering the fate of those Lebanese not the priority of the resistance?

The Syrians were here not as an occupying army. We cannot compare a neighbour to an enemy. The very people who are fighting Syria now were the ones who asked Syria to intervene.

You cannot compare the civil war among Lebanese to the big war which is against Israel. We are not against asking Syria to give back any Lebanese, but we are not going to war with Syria over it.

Syria has said there are no more Lebanese prisoners, but it’s a big question mark. They were taken during the civil war, which was a very dirty war.

We have tried several times with the Syrians and they say there are no more Lebanese prisoners in their prisons. They were all killed during war. But certainly if there are Lebanese who are still living in Syrian prisons then we hope Syria will give them back.

March 20th, 2007, 4:13 am


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