LEBANON: Hezbollah strays from Iranian line on WikiLeaks, praises its disclosures
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah appears to have acknowledged the credibility of WikiLeaks, breaking with the official stance of the group's patron, Iran, that the leaked diplomatic cables are part of some American and Israeli-backed conspiracy.
By supporting WikiLeaks, Nasrallah now finds himself in the same camp as an unlikely figure: Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who said in comments published Saturday that the documents expose Iran's "vulnerability."
In a speech late Friday night, the Hezbollah leader said the resistance would be targeted by conspiracies even greater than those already revealed in the leaked United States diplomatic cables, hinting mysteriously at more to come.
During the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the party and its supporters "faced serious threats and conspiracies" from many sides, Nasrallah said, adding: "This is what we see in WikiLeaks day after day, and which we will see on a greater [scale]" (Arabic link).
Was Nasrallah's ominious prediction a rhetorical flourish, or does he have knowledge of sensitive cables on Lebanon that have yet to be published?
Some figures at the leftist Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which obtained advance copies of some cables, are said to be close to Hezbollah, but the paper already appears to have published all the documents in its possession.
It is more likely Hezbollah simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to capitalize on the exposure of its political rivals in some of the WikiLeaks documents, even if it meant coming out in support of the watchdog site after Iranian officials had publicly dismissed it as a "Zionist plot."
The leaked cables quoted several Lebanese politicians, including the defense minister and former telecommunications minister, passing sensitive information about Hezbollah's telecommunications networks and military strongholds to American officials.
America is a close ally of Israel, which Lebanon considers an enemy state. Many Lebanese have accused the politicians of knowingly providing assistance to Israel through a proxy. Hezbollah has so far refrained from making personal attacks, but the scandal has been seen as a vindication of the group, which has justified many of its actions by citing plots against it.
WikiLeaks documents also provided evidence that the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which is expected to issue indictments against Hezbollah members, sought technical assistance from the U.S. Hezbollah has used these documents to bolster its claim that the tribunal is politicized and part of a plan to target the group's weapons.
Hezbollah has made it clear that it will not accept the indictments, attempting -- awkwardly --to draw a red line without leaving itself open to accusations of bullying.
"When we warn of unrest, we are not threatening or intimidating," Hezbollah official Mahmoud Qmati said Saturday. "When we say that the issuance of the indictment might cause unrest or civil strife, that does not mean, as they are interpreting, that Hezbollah and the opposition are plotting a coup."
Of course, Hezbollah is nothing if not an extremely effective security force, and civil unrest could not take place in those areas under the group's control without top-down approval. Qmati and other officials have said that the group would be open to an agreement with its rivals who support the tribunal, but so far the two sides have not publicly come to a consensus.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said important conspiracies against Hezbollah had been revealed in WikiLeaks documents. Credit: Screenshot by Meris Lutz via Al Manar