Hezbollah "clumsy" in blaming Israel for Hariri assassination: analysts

08:27, August 10, 2010      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah, on last Tuesday blamed Israel for the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. On Monday, Nasrallah is scheduled to hold a news conference to reveal the evidence for his accusation.

Both Israeli and Arab analysts believed that this appears to be a "clumsy" effort to deflect attention away from an upcoming United Nations report that is expected to state that members of Hezbollah's military wing carried out the Valentine's Day hit on Hariri.

Initially, the UN panel suggested that Syrian officials were behind the plot, while now it is thought that the inquiry will name the Hezbollah operatives when its findings are published in September.

Nasrallah's anticipated comments come a week after tensions were heightened between Israel and Lebanon with a cross-border shooting incident left four Lebanese and one Israeli dead.

NASRALLAH'S LOGIC

Just hours following that clash Nasrallah appeared on Al-Manar, Hezbollah's own satellite TV channel, in part to lambaste Israel for what he claimed was its unprovoked attack against Lebanon. The next day, UN said the tree cut down by Israeli troops which caused the clash was on the Israeli side of the shared border, which favors Israel.

During his two-hour address on the TV, Nasrallah said he would speak again in the coming week to present evidence regarding the Hariri killing. Arabic media sources reported on Sunday that Nasrallah will claim this evidence points in Israel's direction.

"Whoever was behind this, it's very unlikely that we'll find out through a speech by Hassan Nasrallah," said Nadim Shehadi, an expert on Syria and Lebanon from the Chatham House institute in London.

For some three years, a UN investigation team has been working independently to try to discover who assassinated Hariri, and Shehadi does not believe that Nasrallah will be able to produce any new material that will in any way have been overlooked or failed to reach the investigators.

"This is a very clumsy diversion tactic on behalf of Nasrallah, " he said on Sunday.

It is a view shared by Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, just outside Tel Aviv.

"It's a very weak tactic if that's the best Nasrallah can do. He's in a bad shape because nobody is going to buy into that story, " said Steinberg.

"We've seen a lot of actions by Nasrallah in the last period of time that show him in an increasingly desperate situation that he seems to have peaked in his ability to have influence and that has created a certain amount of frustration and a little bit of lashing out," he added.

Shehadi is of the opinion that Nasrallah is extremely concerned about the likely findings of the UN panel and is trying to deflect attention away from it.

Some Israeli experts are suggesting that last week's cross- border shooting was orchestrated by Nasrallah to try to provoke Israel as part of his plan to minimize the impact of the upcoming UN report.

EFFECTS OF ARAB RAPPROCHEMENT

Shehadi does not buy into the claims of some Israelis that Hezbollah has major influence over the official Lebanese Army, but he does think that last week's incident suggests a toughening of Lebanon's stance towards Israel.

"It's the first time ever that the Lebanese Army has engaged with the Israeli army to protect its border," he said.

The shooting occurred just days after Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Syrian President Bahsar al-Assad put aside some of their personal and national differences and visited Lebanon to promote stability in the state. Likewise, Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Lebanon a week ago.

Shehadi sees a growing tide of rapprochement within the Arab world, with the moderates losing some of their influence. In his opinion this change stems from the Gaza fighting of some 19 months ago and the subsequent failure of the Israelis to successfully persuade the Arab world that it is serious about the peace process.

"(As a result,) there is definitely a political shift in the whole state of Lebanon towards a confrontational position with Israel," said Shehadi.

The Lebanese firing on Israeli soldiers is likely a reflection of that movement, he suggests.

NERVES ON DISPLAY

Whether that analysis is correct or not, it is clear to all that there is a sense of "nervousness," as Steinberg describes it, on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border.

That tension was thrown into sharp relief once again on Saturday when Israel fired warning shots in the direction of a Lebanese fishing vessel. The Israel Defense Forces said the boat wandered out of permitted fishing waters into a closed zone, believed to be near to the border.

Steinberg maintains that in the wake of last week's deadly incident "Israel's not going to take any chances and I think we'll see that for quite a long period of time," he said.

Israel will deal with any threat that comes from Lebanon " quickly" and "quite lethally," he continued.

While politicians and generals on both sides of the frontier have been making noises ever since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, the determining factor ahead of any confrontation is the facts on the ground.

"The Lebanese shot at Israel for trimming a tree, so that means both sides will be observing the border by the inch," said Shehadi.

As a result, the United Nations force in southern Lebanon is having to be even more vigilant than normal to try to ensure that itchy fingers do not pull too easily on the triggers they touch.

By David Harris, Xinhua

(Editor:梁军)

  • Do you have anything to say?

双语词典
dictionary

  
Special Coverage
  • Premier Wen Jiabao visits Hungary, Britain, Germany
  • From drought to floods
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
  • Staff members watch a screen showing the blast-off of the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module at Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Sept. 29, 2011. Commander-in-chief of China's manned space program Chang Wanquan announced Thursday night that the launch of Tiangong-1 space lab module was successful. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
  • Chinese President Hu Jintao watches the launch of Tiangong-1 space lab module at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 29, 2011. Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, including Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and Zhou Yongkang, are also present. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
  • The graphics shows the launch procedures of the carrier rocket of Tiangong-1 space lab module, Long March-2FT1 on Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Lu Zhe)
  • Image taken from Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows a Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasting off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua)
  • On Sept. 28, tourists travel around the Mingshashan Scenic Area in Dunhuang, Gansu province by camel. With the National Day vacation right around the corner, more and more tourists from home and abroad are going to Dunhuang. Riding on a camel, they travel in the desert to enjoy the cities rare form of natural scenery. (Xinhua/Zhang Weixian)
  • Chinese forest armed forces work together with forest firefighters on Sept. 28. (Xinhua/Chai Liren)
Hot Forum Discussion