The most significant piece of information that was announced last night during Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah’s press conference was not the fact that members of his party would soon be indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. That much we’ve known (or, at least, been told) for several months.
Rather, the most noteworthy thing that Nasrallah said was the following:
“Before his trip to Washington, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited me, and I am grateful for his visit. What I am about to report right now comes from my estimation that [al-Hariri] was eager… and prepared to cooperate for the sake of protecting the country. So he said to me: “ Ya Sayyid, in such-and-such a month… an indictment will be issued that accuses members of Hizbullah [of assassinating your father]. These people are renegades, and the party has no connection with them. I promised you in the past that if such a thing were to occur, I would declare publicly that Hizbullah has no connection with it… [and that] there were some renegades who carried out this operation.” [And we discussed] the country and the sensitive conditions, and how we need to cooperate, etc. ” (Click here for the Arabic clip)
This is, in my opinion, the most important statement that Nasrallah has made since his speech of June 8 2009, in which he accepted the election results and effectively ended a four-year period of political polarization between the March 14 and March 8 blocs.
Why was this statement so significant? Because it signaled that, for all intents and purposes, Saad al-Hariri and the Saudis are ready to close the book on the Special Tribunal and allow it to die a quiet death. There is no desire anywhere — except among certain politicians in the Kata’ib and Lebanese Forces — to use the STL as a battering ram against Syria or its allies in Lebanon. If anything, given the new strategic dynamic in the region, the STL has become a liability for Hariri and the Saudis; they’ve been painted into a corner because of it, and are now looking for a way to make a graceful exit.
This is not to say that the STL could not be damaging to Hizbullah; in fact, its ability to hurt everyone involved is precisely what has aligned Hariri and Hizbullah’s interests. The press conference last night was meant to send a message to those who still harbor hope that the STL can be used to their political advantage. The message was clear: “The train has left the station. If you don’t believe me, ask the Prime Minister, the slain man’s son.”
Update: Nick Noe has a response to this post, which can be read here.