There was a time when live, televised addresses by Hezbollah’s leader used to count for something. Over the past decade, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has increasingly taken to the airwaves to tackle a variety of topics, whether they be new developments or complex national issues. While he has clearly spent much time talking to his own base of supporters, on occasion his remarks have contained explicit messages for domestic rivals, the Lebanese public at large, the Israelis and others.
But Monday’s speech by Nasrallah was one of those puzzling appearances in which it was difficult to determine the intended audience. The Hezbollah leader addressed two areas: the domestic paralysis over forming a government and the situation in Syria.
Domestically, Nasrallah advised his March 14 rivals to be “humble” and stop obstructing the formation of a Cabinet; the remarks appeared to be addressed solely at supporters of Hezbollah and other March 8 groups.
Perhaps it slipped Nasrallah’s mind that March 14 has rejected the 9-9-6 formula for a new Cabinet because it would provide veto power to March 8, which has in the past used that power against March 14 to avoid discussing “sensitive” national issues in the Cabinet, or to bring down the Cabinet altogether.
Nasrallah also forgot how March 8 pioneered the practice of shutting down the legislative and executive branches whenever it didn’t get its way.
On Syria, Nasrallah also reiterated old themes, talking about the need to halt foreign intervention in the Syria conflict, and complaining that Saudi Arabia is seeking to “block” a Geneva II peace conference.
The Hezbollah leader appeared to be engaged in whistling in the dark. The Syrian regime is strong, he claimed, while the opposition should be blamed for the massive level of foreign intervention in the war.
In fact, both arguments quickly go up in smoke when one recalls that the Syrian regime and army are so “strong” that they have required systematic intervention by Russia, Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and other miscellaneous smaller groups, just to keep things afloat; Damascus has been busy benefiting from the money, weapons and political support of others for a long time. A “strong” regime and army? Is that why they gave up the country’s chemical weapons the second that they felt a U.S. military strike was on its way?
In the end, if Nasrallah wants to continue playing the same old record to his supporters, he has every right to do so, but his speeches shouldn’t be viewed as national addresses. Perhaps they would be just as effective if they were restricted to the ears of party supporters, because they contain no attempt to reach out to political rivals and national partners, or the public at large. And if he wants others to follow the advice of being humble and not intervening in Syria, he should lead by example.