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memri
March 14, 2007 No.
333

Lebanese Media Discusses Hizbullah's Status in Lebanon

The February 2007 seizure in Beirut of a truck carrying arms to Hizbullah rekindled, for the first time since the end of the Israel-Lebanon war of July-August 2006, the public debate on Hizbullah's weapons and on the organization's status in Lebanon.

On February 8, 2007, the Lebanese army seized a munitions truck that had been discovered in Al-Hazimiyya on the outskirts of Beirut. A few hours later, Hizbullah announced that the truck belonged to the organization and that the arms it carried were meant for the resistance against Israel in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah demanded that the Lebanese government return the truck and munitions, saying that "the [July 26, 2005] announcement by the [Al-Siniora] government clearly established the right of the resistance to continue its actions to liberate the rest of the occupied lands and the prisoners, and to repel the Zionist threats." [1] Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Al-Murr rejected the demand out of hand, and stated that the confiscated arms are to be used by the Lebanese army on the front against Israel. Sources in the March 14 Forces said that the truck had carried light arms, which suggests that these weapons were meant not for use against Israel but for use on the internal Lebanese front. [2]

In a speech the following week, on February 16, 2007, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah alluded to the confiscated truck, stressing that Hizbullah has full right to bear arms. He added that Hizbullah would continue to transport weapons to the front and that it had no intention of asking anyone's permission in the matter. Other top Hizbullah leaders likewise declared that the organization had no intention of giving up its arms.

Conversely, prominent figures in the Lebanese government and in the March 14 Forces stated that U.N. Resolution 1701, passed in August 2006, changed the rules of the game regarding Hizbullah's weapons, which are a clear violation of this resolution.

According to media reports, after the truck was confiscated, the March 14 Forces demanded that the issue of Hizbullah's weapons be added to the agenda of the current negotiations between the Lebanese government, led by the March 14 Forces, and the Hizbullah-led opposition. [3]

Syria's position on Hizbullah's weapons was reflected in Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem's threat at a press conference with his Belgian counterpart. Al-Mu'allem said that "disarming Hizbullah is a Lebanese affair, and we advise against pressuring Lebanon in this matter, so that the issue will not explode." [4]

Hizbullah: We Have the Right to Bear Arms

For the first time since the end of the Israel-Lebanon war in August 2006, top Hizbullah officials, and most prominently Nasrallah, are publicly admitting that Hizbullah is holding on to its weapons and continuing to smuggle arms to the front against Israel.

Nasrallah: "We in the Resistance Have Weapons, and We Openly Declare [It]; We Are Transporting Weapons to the Front... This is Our Right"

In a speech marking the 16th anniversary of the death of previous Hizbullah secretary-general Abbas Musawi, Nasrallah said: "I want to comment [on the munitions truck incident] and clarify a point that was misrepresented, and has to do with the weapons of the resistance. We are clear and transparent. We do not say we do not have weapons. Others say that they do not have weapons, and at the same time amass and distribute weapons. We are not like that. We do not lie to the entire world. We say: We have weapons. We have a lot of weapons of all kinds. Israel and the others respect that.

"During our steadfastness in the recent war, we did not fight with wooden swords. We fought with missiles, artillery, and so on. We in the resistance have weapons, and we openly declare that we have weapons, that we are completing our preparedness for a greater and more dangerous stage, and that we are transporting weapons to the front. We do not hide this. Of course we are transporting them in secret. We cannot transport them openly. How could we? Some say: Why do you conceal the weapons of the resistance in a truck, and cover them with straw? They made an issue of the straw…

"Let me make it clear that the most important factor in the power of the resistance is its secrecy and clandestine nature. The Israelis do not know where our caches and bases are. In the July war, they bombed 1,000 targets in a single day, and thought that they had destroyed all the bases and caches. But they found out that they were mistaken. The strength of the resistance lies in its maintaining secrecy regarding its weapons, its ammunition, its caches, its cadres, its bases, its plans, its intentions, and so on. So why do you expect us to transport the weapons openly? Even when we felt secure on the domestic level... we did not transport weapons in broad daylight. We used to conceal them... from our enemies. If the trucks transporting the weapons were out in the open, it would have exposed the cadres, the facilities, the caches, the bases, the operation sites and so on.

"We transport the weapons in secret, even though it is our right [to transport them openly]. It is the right of the resistance to obtain weapons, in order to liberate the land and defend the homeland. This is our right; we are not ashamed of it and we are not defensive about it. This right is granted to us by religions, by man-made legislations, by monotheistic laws, by the rulings of the scholars, and by the conduct of human societies throughout history. I will not ask for permission from people who used to bring weapons from Israel [i.e. the March 14 Forces]... I will not ask for permission from those who used to bear arms under the Israeli occupation, or from those who did not fire a single bullet at Israel.

"This is our right. But when we transport weapons in secret, in trucks, and conceal them with straw, we do this to spare you embarrassment, because if it is revealed that we transport weapons, only Allah will save you from the Feltmans, Meltmans, Beltmans and so on [referring to U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman].

"As for the weapons truck, it carried ammunition, [specifically] katyusha rockets. People said that it carried explosives, hand guns, and rifles, [and that these weapons were] meant for various [opposition] parties that could not [smuggle the weapons themselves], so we [did it for them]. Why would parties need katyusha rockets? The customs [authorities] and the army know exactly what [kinds of] weapons were confiscated. They submitted reports to their superiors, yet they continue to maintain [that the truck carried light arms]…

"The weapons confiscated from us were seized unlawfully. They were seized unlawfully, even if they were taken to South Lebanon [to be used by the Lebanese army]. Some people say: Give these weapons to the Lebanese army. My brothers and I are willing to give twice this amount of weapons the Lebanese army, out of our own free will, but we will not allow a single bullet to be seized unlawfully by anybody.

"In the South, nobody can come between us and the army. In the recent confrontation, in Maroun Al-Ras, the resistance fighters were ready to support the army’s officers and soldiers had confrontation developed. The resistance in the South is not a burden on the Lebanese army, but is a real supporter of the Lebanese army. [We support the army] not only with our weapons, our missiles, and our caches. Our men, our fighters, our blood, and our souls will stand side by side with the Lebanese army to defend Lebanon. I want this to be clear. We make no distinction between the officers and men of the Lebanese army and the resistance fighters. Our weapons will be their weapons and their weapons are our weapons in battle. That is how it was and this is how it will be [in the future]…" [5]

Top Hizbullah Officials: "The Weapons Have Not yet Completed Their Function; They Are at the Enemy's Throat"

Outgoing Hizbullah Energy and Water Minister Muhammad Fneish said at the organization's Islamic Resistance Week rally: "The resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] continues to stand fast against the Israeli attacks, and we will not accept any opposition to the resistance or its weapons. No one can challenge the legitimacy of the resistance. [Resistance] is the natural right of any people whose land is occupied. All international agreements have upheld this right, and have established and reinforced it as a natural [part of] fighting occupation.

"Resistance is our right. More than that, it is our obligation to confront the enemy through resistance until all the occupied lands are liberated. The resistance does not stand in contradiction to the function of the official security forces. On the contrary, it complements the Lebanese army in defending the homeland and liberating the [occupied] lands… The enemy is boasting that it defeated Lebanon in the July war, [but] be assured that the missiles and weapons are [still] at the enemy's throat…" [6]

Hizbullah's political leader in southern Lebanon, Sheikh Hassan Izz Al-Din, said at a rally in the village of Srifa marking the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran: "The weapons of the resistance have not yet completed their function and tasks. [Our] weapons remain and will remain [in the future], despite the statements made by [insignificant individuals] who have deteriorated and have overstepped all limits of good manners and morality in maligning these weapons." [7]

The March 14 Forces: Hizbullah's Weapons Constitute a Violation of U.N. Resolution 1701

Senior figures in the March 14 Forces stated that Hizbullah's weapons clearly violate U.N. Resolution 1701, which stipulates that the Lebanese government must extend its sovereignty over all of Lebanon, and that there must be no weapons except for those of the Lebanese state. March 14 sources stressed that this resolution had been approved by a Lebanese government that included ministers from Hizbullah and Amal.

Al-Mustaqbal: Bearing Arms is the Sole Prerogative of the State

An article in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal said: "The Hizbullah munitions truck seized by the customs [authorities] and the security forces has brought the so-called 'weapons of the resistance' back into the spotlight. This matter was discussed in the national dialogue… but the sides failed to reach an agreement about it. [8] This does not mean that [Hizbullah's] weapons will continue [to exist] in the same way… [after Al-Siniora's] seven-point plan, [9] [after the passing of] Resolution 1701, and [after] the renewal of the Israel-Lebanon armistice agreement. The [Lebanese] state has been given the exclusive right to transport, purchase and use weapons against Israel in defense of national security…"

"[The announcement issued by the government upon its establishment] did not grant Hizbullah the right to arm itself and to use its weapons in all Lebanese territories..."

Sources quoted by Al-Mustaqbal stated futher: "Even if we accept Hizbullah's interpretation of this clause [in the government's announcement], the developments... that have occurred since the July war - [namely] Resolution 1701 and [Al-Siniora's] seven-point plan, [both of which] were accepted by Hizbullah - have created a new reality. According to international law, [Security Council] resolutions often [override] legal or constitutional decrees of particular countries... Resolution 1701 ruled on the issue of the weapons, both in its preambular paragraphs and in its operative paragraphs. In an August 16, 2006 session, attended by the Hizbullah and Amal ministers and by [Lebanese] President [Emile Lahoud], the government approved the deployment of the Lebanese army in the South, and established that its role would be 'to prevent the presence of any authority, of any kind, other than that of the [Lebanese] state, and to enforce the laws regarding weapons other than those of the state.' Is there anything unclear in this wording?..."

The sources added: "Hizbullah has accepted Resolution 1701, which, in its third [operative] paragraph, calls on the Lebanese government to 'extend [its] control over all Lebanese territory... so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon...' So what is the meaning of the statements made by some Hizbullah leaders about their right to hold on to their weapons and even bring in more weapons?!

"The resolution requires the [Lebanese] government to 'disarm all armed groups in Lebanon, so that... there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state,' and to prevent 'sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon...' [Operative] paragraph 14 of the resolution 'calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related material.' The resolution also stipulates that all states - including, of course, Iran and Syria - must avoid 'the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types'...

"In conclusion, the weapons seized in Al-Hazimiyya... are illegitimate. [They constitute] a violation of international and [Lebanese] laws and undermine the coexistence [among the ethnic groups in Lebanon]. Furthermore, those who openly admitted that the truck belongs to them will face an investigation... [Including] a legal investigation..." [10]

Walid Jumblatt on the Erosion of Resolution 1701

In an interview for the Lebanese TV channel LBC, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt spoke of the erosion in the status of Resolution 1701, and stated that Hizbullah has control over parts of South Lebanon, where it is amassing weapons financed by Iran. Alluding to the Hizbullah munitions truck, he implied that the weapons it carried were not meant for use against Israel but for use in the internal Lebanese arena: "With all due respect to Nasrallah," he said, "60-mm. mortars, with a range of 500 meters, are meant for [waging] war in the streets and not for firing at Haifa and on what is beyond Haifa…

"There were two other trucks [before the one seized in Al-Hazimiyya]. One carried TNT and entered [Lebanon] after the end of the war, and the other carried rockets. In his 'Divine Victory' speech, Nasrallah declared: 'We had 12,000 rockets and we used 4,000. Now we have 20,000!' Where will [it end]?!..." [11]

Lebanese Minister: Nasrallah Threatened the Lebanese Security Forces

Lebanese Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat of the Al-Mustaqbal party expressed astonishment at the language used by Nasrallah in his statements about the confiscated munitions truck, and said that these statements were "a threat against the security forces that seized the truck." [12]

The Free Shi'ite Movement: The Only Legitimate Weapons are Those of the Armed Forces

An announcement issued by the Free Shi'ite Movement, headed by Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hajj Hassan, said: "...Hassan Nasrallah did not attempt to hide his pride over [the fact] that Hizbullah could drag Lebanon into another round of destruction and death. He [also] openly admits that Hizbullah is violating the international resolutions that brought about the end of the recent war and that ended the 'divine destruction' brought by Hizbullah and its men over the entire Lebanese [people]...

"By [deploying] its air force to repel the Zionist fighter jets that tried to invade Lebanese air space, by seizing the Hizbullah munitions truck, and by thwarting the attempts of the Zionist enemy to cross [Lebanon's] southern border, the Lebanese army has proved that it is the only force defending the sovereignty, security and stability of Lebanon. Hizbullah and Nasrallah, on the other hand, aim to undermine Lebanese sovereignty and stability, and to openly transport arms [for their own use].

"We call upon the legal Lebanese government, and upon all the political groups which care about Lebanon's sovereignty, unity and stability, to do everything in their power to prevent civil war... and to continue pressuring Hizbullah to hand over its war arsenal to the only force that is authorized to possess weapons in Lebanon, namely the Lebanese army, the army of the Lebanese people..." [13]

* H. Varulkar is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 9, 2007.

The exact wording of the announcement issued by the Al-Siniora government was: "The government holds that the Lebanese resistance is a sincere and natural expression of the Lebanese people's natural right to liberate its land, to defend its honor vis-à-vis Israel, and to compete the liberation of [the occupied] Lebanese territories…" (Al-Nahar, Lebanon, July 26, 2005).

[2] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 9, 2007.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 23, 2007; Al-Hayat (London), February 18, 2007.

[4] Al-Safir (Lebanon), March 7, 2007.

[5] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), February 16, 2007; MEMRI TV Clip No. 1386, "Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah: We Have A Right to Amass and Distribute Weapons," http://memritv.org/clip/en/1386.htm.

[6] Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, February 17, 2007.

[7] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), February 18, 2007.

[8] The national dialogue between all the major parties and factions in Lebanon, initiated by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, began in March 2006 and continued until the outbreak of the war with Israel in July 2006. Among the topics discussed were the Palestinian arms in Lebanon, the Lebanese presidency, the Shab'a Farms, Syria-Lebanon relations, the Al-Hariri assassination, and the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the assassination. The issue of Hizbullah's arms was to be discussed on July 25, 2006 under the heading of "Lebanon's defense strategy," but the session was cancelled due to the war.

[9] The seven-point plan was drawn up by Lebanese Prime Minster Fuad Al-Siniora in the summer of 2006, during the war with Israel, with the aim of ending the war. The plan called for an immediate comprehensive ceasefire, followed by a declaration of agreement on the following issues:

"1. An undertaking to release the Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"2. The withdrawal of the Israeli army behind the Blue Line, and the return of the displaced to their villages.

"3. A commitment from the U.N. Security Council to place the Shab'a Farms area and the Kafr Shouba Hills under U.N. jurisdiction until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled...

"4. The Lebanese government extends its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces, such that there will be no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state...

"5. The U.N. international force operation in South Lebanon is supplemented and enhanced in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, as needed...

"6. The U.N., in cooperation with the relevant parties, undertakes the necessary measures to once again put into effect the Armistice Agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel in 1949...

"7. The international community commits to support Lebanon on all levels, and to assist it in facing the tremendous burden resulting from the human, social and economic tragedy which has afflicted the country, especially in the areas of relief, reconstruction and rebuilding of the national economy." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5256936.stm, August 8, 2006).

U.N. Resolution 1701 expressed approval of the seven-point plan and adopted it in part.

[10] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 11, 2007.

[11] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 23, 2007.

[12] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 19, 2007; Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir called to restrict weapons to the Lebanese army, which will allow the Lebanese to live in security without fearing each other (Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon, February 19, 2007).

[13] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), February 22, 2007.