BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s media will focus increasingly on the threat posed by ISIS and takfiri terrorism in general, the party’s media adviser, Mohammad Afif, suggested in an interview with The Daily Star.
Afif, who recently returned to his position after a stint as director of news and political programming at Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar, sees the viciousness displayed by ISIS in online videos, eyewitness reports and media reports as validation for Hezbollah’s early interference in the war in Syria.
“This confirms the correctness of our choice to stand against this takfiri ideology from the start and stop it before it reaches us,” he said. “It goes against Islamic law, religion and human nature to bear this ongoing criminality, this beheading and displaying of bodies in this fashion. This brutality has nothing to do with Islam, and no sane person can justify it.”
Afif also touched on the clashes in Arsal and the kidnapping of Lebanese Army soldiers and security personnel, saying the attack on Arsal was a strategic decision taken after jihadists failed to reach Damascus or hold on to the Qalamoun region following a joint offensive by the Syrian army and Hezbollah.
“ ISIS fell short of its main goal in Syria, which was to attack the capital Damascus and try to surround it,” Afif said. It then refocused its efforts on Arsal and other areas “in an attempt to compensate as much as possible for the series of defeats in the field and material losses sustained during its attempt to seize control of all the border areas.”
“This is, in our view, evidence of weakness and not strength, because they rely on terrorism and spreading fear to achieve progress on the ground and everyone agrees that they are a serious threat,” he continued. “This calls for general national awareness among all Lebanese factions, especially since Hezbollah has proven repeatedly its alertness to the danger of a Sunni-Shiite rift and its commitment not to fall into the evil [trap] that has been laid for it.”
Afif said Lebanese factions across the political spectrum had realized the danger posed by ISIS, especially after the broadcasting of their vicious tactics.
“Everyone agrees and acknowledges the fact that this threat is not limited to one community or sect and that [ISIS] will not spare any group from its crimes,” he said, adding, however, that “sharp disagreements” had emerged about the appropriate course of action.
“What we are missing is an agreement on how we must treat this existential threat to Lebanon. The calculations of ISIS and its sister groups are antithetical to [Lebanese interests]; they are seeking a foothold ... for field calculations related to the administration of areas under their military control.
In this regard, the border areas from Arsal up to Wadi Khaled, Dinnieh, Akkar and Tripoli, the “star” or capital of this “hypothetical emirate,” are of vital importance to ISIS in terms of establishing their ability to extend their influence over Lebanese territory, Afif said.
In response, he said, some Lebanese political parties have sought to approximate ISIS’s tone in the service of their own ambitions. In particular, they seek to capitalize on the populist appeal of ISIS by adopting some of its extremist rhetoric and justifying some of its actions.
“[These factions] try to avoid any discussion of the root problem, which is how to treat this threat of takfiri terrorism, which has reached the heart of Lebanon, and this requires everyone’s cooperation.”