By: Babak Dehghanpisheh
Hezbollah’s second in command Sheik Naim Qassem speaks with Newsweek magazine on the investigation into Rafik Hariri’s death and Lebanon’s ties to Iran.
Here is the full text of the interview
Leaks from the tribunal investigating the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri indicate that members of Hezbollah may be indicted. What’s your reaction?
We’ve also heard through the media and through people who have relations to the tribunal that there are members of Hezbollah who will be indicted. And that the tribunal isn’t accusing the party but the individuals. We reject this totally because we are absolutely certain there are no individuals from Hezbollah who are involved.
Some media reports have indicated that your name may come up in the tribunal indictment list. How would you react if that happened?
That really doesn’t change anything for me. The tribunal is fabricated and politicized, and its aim is to get rid of Hezbollah.
What role should the U.S. play in Lebanon?
America wants to control Lebanon in order to realize its project of the new Middle East. It will never accept that Lebanon be independent in its interests and its decisions.
Do you have any communication with American officials here in Lebanon?
We have made a decision in the party not to have dialogue with any American official. They have through various means asked to meet people of different ranks within the party, but we have not accepted.
Is there any scenario whereby you would see Hezbollah fighters merging into the Lebanese Army?
I don’t see this scenario happening, neither now nor in the future.
Israeli officials have said that Hezbollah has some 40,000 rockets stockpiled. Is this correct?
We don’t comment on our military capability or our fighters. And we believe that this is one of our strengths as a resistance.
What is the justification for having these weapons?
The resistance is a reaction and a defense. It is a result of the Israeli occupation. And if you look at all the battles between Israel and Hezbollah, from ’82 until now, we have always been on the defense. We never once started a war. Israel always started the conflict and we defended—in ’93, ’96, and 2006.
Israeli officials have accused you of starting the 2006 war. You do see that as a defensive war?
In 2006, we took two people to exchange for prisoners. Israel could have limited their reply or could have replied by releasing prisoners. But what was revealed was that Israel was already planning for this war in September or October of that year. And that just brought the war forward by American encouragement.
If Hamas and Fatah or the Palestinian Authority agreed with Israel on a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, is that something you would accept?
We’ll say that we don’t accept. Palestine should be totally liberated. We don’t acknowledge the Israeli occupation. However, we don’t interfere in their affairs.
In principle, then, what you are saying is a Palestinian state without Israel?
The reason I say there should be a Palestinian state is that they have a right to the land. And Israel is fabricated. Jews should go to the countries they came from. And the Palestinian Jews should stay in Palestine as they were before.
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited recently, and was received by big crowds. What was the importance of his trip for you?
He confirmed that Iran’s political presence in the region is one that is huge, respected, and wanted. And we noticed that the Lebanese officials wanted to solidify the relationship with Iran. The prime minister went to Iran after to profit from the relationship. Iran has its own place in the region, and it is not tied with Hezbollah.
So you had a positive view of Saad Hariri’s trip to Iran?
The enhancing of relationships between the countries is a principal demand for us. And this is for the good of both countries.