Thursday, July 25, 2013

So Hezbollah did fight in Abra after all?

[Originally posted at NOW]

I’ve just returned to Beirut after a week’s holiday, so apologies if I’m late to this, but judging by the lack of any mention of it in the Lebanese news that I can find, it seems I’m not the only one.

Buried in the comments section of the most recent post on Elias Muhanna’s Qifa Nabki blog is a reference to Hezbollah MP Nawwaf al-Musawi’s quiet admission, made on the Kalam Ennas TV show on July 4th, that the Party of God did in fact get militarily involved in the Lebanese army’s deadly battle with Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s gunmen in Sidon last month.

Musawi’s exact words, which can be heard from 21:30 in this video, were: “At the time that [Assir] attacked the Lebanese army […] he began to fire on all its surroundings […] on Haaret Saida, on all the areas, in which it’s known that we [Hezbollah] have a presence […] We, within the limits of self-defense, dealt with the fire that was coming at us.”

The choice of the phrase “dealt with” (“تعملنا مع”) obviously invokes the ominous ambiguity of cigar-chewing mobster speak, but Muhanna at any rate interprets it to mean “returning fire when they received it”. To me, even more interesting is the Orwellian invocation of “self-defense,” with its echoes of the Party’s characterization of its intervention in Syria (remember the 30,000 border village residents?). After all, if armed Sunnis in Syria are legitimate military targets, why on earth shouldn’t their counterparts in ‘The Gate of the South’ be too?

Which is not to say, of course, that Hezbollah played a major role in the Abra clashes – indeed, the evidence suggests their involvement was marginal. But it does rather call into question the continuing, indignant insistence of people like Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, as well as the Lebanese army itself, that the Party had no involvement of any kind. (How much longer they can keep this going is unclear, particularly if Future MP Ahmad Fatfat is telling the truth about having video footage of the Party’s cadres in action in Abra.)

And it might, conceivably, be a lesson in humility to those who ridiculed the very notion of Hezbollah fighting in Abra, as though for the Party to turn its guns on fellow Lebanese were something atypical or out of character. Such people have apparently learned nothing at all from Hezbollah’s unapologetic and unembarrassed invasion of Syrian rebel-held territory, in alliance with a regime that commits daily crimes against humanity. Minor though the Abra fight was in comparison to this appalling transgression, it cannot be understood except as an extension of the same fundamental ethos, and those who persist in ignoring or distorting this do so at the expense not only of their own credibility, but of the interests of the Lebanese (and Syrian) people themselves.

Thanks to Maya Gebeily for translation.

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