Firstly, I found Nasrallah’s discussion of the terms of the Syrian-Saudi initiative to be quite interesting. If Saad al-Hariri really did agree to the opposition’s demands that they (a) withdraw the Lebanese judges; (b) stop funding; and (c) abrogate the cooperation agreement with the STL, then this is noteworthy. What were, I wonder, al-Hariri and the Saudis’ demands? It seems unlikely to me that al-Hariri and his allies would have agreed to these three demands, which amount to essentially torpedoing public trust in the STL, even if it would not have brought the actual Tribunal to a close (as Nasrallah pointed out).
Secondly, the fact that Nasrallah is able to make so much hay out of the false witness issue is entirely the fault of Hariri himself and his political advisors. As I’ve argued in the past, Hariri’s people have failed miserably in shaping the debate on the false witnesses, while the opposition has basically taken the issue and run with it. Even as we speak, the al-Jadid recording is changing minds in Lebanon, even though it more or less confirms what March 14 politicians have consistently (but poorly) articulated, namely that Siddiq was not fed information by Hariri’s people.
Thirdly, Nasrallah did an excellent job of framing the resignation of the opposition in terms of their dissatisfaction with the Hariri government on a number of fronts (corruption, lack of transparency, incompetence, false witnesses, vulnerability to foreign pressure, etc.) rather than just its commitment to the STL. Earlier in the day, Michel Aoun had similarly made a persuasive and typically belligerent case against Hariri’s government, articulating the reasons that the opposition had decided to abandon the national unity path. The question is: does Nasrallah know something that the rest of us don’t, with respect to Nabih Berri’s nomination decision? All of this will become clearer in the next couple of days.
Finally, allow me to reiterate a basic point that I’ve made several times before: can anyone doubt that the opposition has the big guns (rhetorically speaking) in Lebanon? Here we have Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of a conservative religious-political party and a militia stronger than the Lebanese army that is about to be accused by the United Nations of masterminding the assassination of a Sunni prime minister, and he sounds like the most reasonable, rational, straightforward politician in Lebanon. Note that I am not agreeing with the content of what he said (which was, let’s face it, just another shade of demagoguery like everyone else’s talking points), but simply pointing out the obvious: Hizbullah would be in a vastly different position in Lebanon today were it not for the leadership of Hasan Nasrallah. No one else would be capable of reconciling the manifold contradictions in Hizbullah’s projected identity and framing their program in as capacious and catholic a manner as Nasrallah. To understate his role is to misunderstand the rise of Hizbullah completely, in my opinion.
The floor is open.