Hizbullah’s secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah gave a press conference this evening, in which he addressed the issue of forthcoming indictments from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
- Saad al-Hariri visited Nasrallah before the former’s recent trip to Washington DC, and informed him that the STL would soon issue indictments against members of Hizbullah for the murder of former Premier Rafiq al-Hariri. Saad assured him that when these indictments were announced, he would absolve the party of any responsibility, and insist that these accused figures were “undisciplined” members and not connected with the leadership in any way.
- For his part, Nasrallah categorically refused any connection between the party and the crime whatsoever, and insisted that the most likely culprit was Israel.
- Nasrallah demanded that the leadership of March 14th engage in an honest and thorough review of all the “mistakes” it had made over the past four years (with its accusations against Syria and its allies).
Perhaps the most important point that Nasrallah made was that this press conference was only Part I of a two-part series. The second installment, he promised, would present all kinds of highly sensitive information dealing with the Tribunal itself and its proceedings.
It will be interesting to hear how Saad al-Hariri and his allies respond to the press conference tomorrow. I must say that the fact that Nasrallah disclosed the details of a private conversation between him and Hariri is highly unusual. It makes it impossible for the latter to climb down from it in a graceful way, which leads one to wonder whether Hariri knew what Nasrallah would say tonight, or whether he was just snookered.
Judging from all of the cozying up to Syria in the past several months, my suspicion is that Saad Hariri and his advisors would like nothing more than to put the entire STL episode behind them, and are looking for a way to save face while doing so.
If everything that was said tonight is true, then Nasrallah’s strategy (familiar to any West Wing devotees out there) was a shrewd one: break the story yourself so as to control it as best you can. By the time that the STL gets around to indicting Hizbullah members a few months from now, the development will be old news, already dissected, analyzed, and picked over by Beirut’s punditocracy. No one will be surprised, and (if Nasrallah, Jumblatt, and increasing numbers of former M14ers get their way), no one will really care.
Some further reading…
- On the rumors of Hizbullah being infiltrated by Israeli spies, click here to see Nasrallah’s response. It’s a classic…