Hassan Hassan writes: Last week, Moaz Al-Khatib [who recently resigned as head of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces] recorded a video in which he addressed Hizbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in relation to the party’s involvement in Syria. Al-Khatib’s speech was moving and powerful. But Al-Khatib seemed convinced that Nasrallah was a virtuous person who could be dissuaded, through emotive words, from partnering with the Assad regime in slaughtering Syrians.
On Tuesday, Nasrallah addressed his party’s involvement in Syria in a Qaddafisque long speech — major Arabic channels aired only part of the speech. Nasrallah snubbed Al-Khatib’s calls for withdrawing forces from Syria, even refraining from mentioning Al-Khatib by name when he spoke about his peace initiative. He said when the “‘resigned head” of the National Coalition spoke of a political solution, he was severely attacked by outside countries and his colleagues. In their videos, both Al-Khatib and Nasrallah spoke of a catastrophic fitna (sectarian strife) in the offing but each from his own vantage point.
Nasrallah’s speech is still shrouded with mystery. There area few points to make about it.
The first one is whether he needed to make his party’s involvement in Syria so public. The party previously benefited from denial and vagueness to maintain its image as a non-sectarian resistance party. His announcement has now made the party nakedly sectarian.
That is a huge development and will change the way Hizbollah is viewed across the region. Even though Hizbollah had always been exclusive to Shia members, many in the Arab world showed understanding and gave the party the benefit of the doubt. I remember a Lebanese Palestinian friend of mine, in Damascus, saying that Palestinians were urging Hizbollah to allow them to join its ranks. The idea that Hizbollah is a Shia party that fought for Lebanese, Palestinians and the Arab world led many to ignore its ideological background. [Continue reading…]