BEIRUT — Against a backdrop of significant regional developments, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech Friday evening.
The speech marks the commemoration of the 2016 assassination of Mustapha Badreddine, a military cadre of the Shiite party, in Damascus.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon had issued an arrest warrant for Badreddine, describing him as the "mastermind" of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination, but the case against him was lifted after his death.
Nasrallah's speech is also concurrent with military escalation in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, where violence continues for the fourth day in a row.
Hezbollah's leader also speaks just days after Syria rejoined the Arab League after 12 years of isolation, a decision made by the pan-Arab organization nearly two months after the normalization of Iranian-Saudi relations.
Locally, Lebanon remains without a president.
Here are Nasrallah's main statements:
About Lebanese politics
- "From our point of view, the presidential file is advancing and it is looking positive."
- "We do not impose a candidate on anyone. Let each party nominate any name it wants, and let us go to Parliament to elect a president."
- "Former minister Sleiman Frangieh is not a coincidental candidate for us. Rather, he is a natural and serious candidate and is not outside of the Lebanese formula."
- "The caretaker government in Lebanon must continue its work despite all the difficulties."
- "We hope that Parliament performs its legislative duties normally, not just necessary legislation, and this does not affect the necessity of electing a president."
Hezbollah and the Amal Movement formalized their support for Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, who faces a veto from the main Christian parties (the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement). The opposition camp, for its part, remains divided.
France implicitly supported a swap between the presidency, which would go to Frangieh, and the premiership, which would go to Nawaf Salam, a judge at the International Criminal Court who is close to the opposition. According to some observers, however, France backtracked in the face of Christian opposition to Frangieh.
On an ongoing tour with Lebanese politicians, Saudi Ambassador Walid Boukhari is conveying the same message: Riyadh will not interfere in "a sovereign Lebanese affair" and will endorse the election of any agreed-upon candidate. He met with the Marada Movement leader on Thursday.
Relations between the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and its only ally, Hezbollah, have been tense for months, amid disagreements over the presidential election. On Sunday, FPM leader Gebran Bassil positioned himself between what he calls "the camp of moumanaa" (Hezbollah and its allies) and that of "confrontation" (opposition).
To Bassil, the election of Frangieh would be a symbolic victory for the March 8 camp, led by Hezbollah.
- "We do not support the appointment of a new governor for Banque du Liban. The caretaker government does not have the prerogative to appoint [this position]. This did not happen when the mandate of the former director of the General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, ended."
- "There will be no appointment or extension of the mandate of Riad Salameh. We must therefore find solutions in accordance with the prerogatives of the caretaker cabinet."
Riad Salameh's mandate will officially come to an end in July. Nasrallah mentioned Ibrahim's retirement, after which the vice-director of General Security, Elias Baissari, started managing, per interim, the security organism. BDL vice-governor is currently Wassim Mansouri, a Shiite.
Normalization with Syria
- "It is natural to find some people changing their rhetoric towards Syria and Iran because they understood [things] wrong."
- "We cannot look at Lebanon in isolation from the developments in the region. The question is whether we can approach the events in Lebanon in isolation from the events in the region."
- "Syria's return to the Arab League and President al-Assad's invitation to the Arab summit is an important indicator."
- "Syria has remained in place and did not change its position or its axis. Syria today is strongly present in the Turkish elections, where candidates compete to present their perceptions of Damascus."
- "The Iranian president's visit to Syria is an affirmation of the Iranian-Syrian strategic relations at various levels."
- "In the Arab situation, there are no permanent enmities. I call for Lebanon to benefit from the positive political climate."
Arab foreign ministers reinstated Syria into the Arab League on Sunday. The country was sidelined in 2011 after a popular uprising was suppressed and degenerated into civil war. Riyadh invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Wednesday to the next Arab summit, scheduled for May 19 in Saudi Arabia.
The links between Lebanon and Syria
- "Lebanon is required to restore natural relations with Syria. Had Hezbollah been in control of the decision-making process in Lebanon, relations with Syria would have been restored a long time ago."
- "The issue of [Syrian refugees] should not be dealt with through social networking sites or through permits and statements, because [this] leads to discord and hatred against a community that is considered a neighbor."
- "The change in the position of some political forces towards displaced Syrians confirms that their previous position was political and inhumane."
- "The news about Hezbollah's association with drug smugglers in Syria is a lie, injustice and slander."
- "Without the help of Hezbollah, the Lebanese authorities would not have been able to confront a number of drug dealers in Lebanon."
- "Netanyahu's motives for launching the Gaza battle include restoring deterrence, which has eroded on all fronts [in Israel], but his attempts were a failure."
- "We know that the one who started this round of aggression in Palestine is Netanyahu, by assassinating the martyr leaders of the al-Quds Brigades and their families of women and children. But the world has remained silent about this crime."
- "Netanyahu's motives for this aggression are clear, namely restoring deterrence, escaping from the internal impasse, addressing the disintegration of his government coalition, and improving his political and electoral status."
- "[Hezbollah] is in constant contact with the leadership of the resistance in Gaza and we won't hesitate to offer help at any time needed."
Israel and armed groups in Gaza have been exchanging missile and rocket fire since Tuesday, despite mediation efforts to end the outbreak of violence that has left dozens dead. Egypt, the traditional mediator, is working to obtain a truce while international calls for peace are multiplying. Speaking about this escalation, the most serious violence since August 2022, Hamas representative in Lebanon Ahmed Abdel Hadi said there will be a two-part response to "the Zionist attack on Gaza."