‘Faith in Israel’s strength has been shaken’: RT speaks with Hezbollah about Gaza war

5 months ago 88

The conflict will lead to the fall of US tyranny and the advent of a multipolar world, the group believes

Lebanon has not officially entered into war with Israel, but the Israeli army is constantly shelling the country’s southern regions where Hezbollah fighters are entrenched. Today, this Shia movement is the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon, which its enemies – both within the country and outside – have to reckon with. 

The party’s armed group has about 100,000 fighters, a giant missile arsenal, and a large variety of weapons and military equipment. Over the years, this influential organization has become an integral part of Lebanese politics and economy. It is also Iran’s main ally which spreads the ideas of the Islamic Republic in the region and defends common values – particularly those concerning Jerusalem. Hezbollah considers the liberation of Jerusalem a sacred goal, and the members of the ‘Party of God’ perceive the events in Palestine in the same way. 

Our meeting with Hezbollah spokesman Hajj Mohammad Afif has become a tradition. Just like last year, and the year before that, and three years ago, we met at his office in the south of Beirut. Afif’s office looks the same, and so does the man – as always, he is wearing a shirt and sweater with a blazer over them. At least in some aspects, life in Lebanon remains stable. 

Israel is not winning

RT: Mr. Afif, how does the situation in Palestine affect Lebanon in economic and political terms?

Mohammad Afif: Even before the war in Gaza, the economic situation in Lebanon was very bad for many reasons. I’m talking about the collapse of the national currency and the banking sector, growing public debt, and so on. Last summer, there were some signs of economic recovery since Lebanon welcomed many tourists and the Central Bank adopted certain economic measures. But then the Israeli aggression in Gaza started, which affected not only our country’s economy but the economy of the entire region, since it paralyzed the region’s trading system. Lebanon is essentially at war. However, we expected things to be worse. And we are pleased that these events have affected Israel a lot more than the neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Egypt, or Lebanon.

Politically speaking, there have been greater complications. The political processes related to the presidential elections have slowed down as the focus shifted towards the confrontation with Israel and the consequences of this conflict. 

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RT: In your opinion, has Israel achieved anything in the course of this war?

Mohammad Afif: In the 2006 Lebanon War, the Israelis were determined to defeat Hezbollah and free the hostages without any preconditions. In 2023, they decided to repeat this unsuccessful plan with Hamas. In the 60 days of fighting, the Israeli army has failed to achieve any goals. The only results are massive destruction and civilian deaths. This will seriously impact how the world views Israel, and the United States is practically isolated in this regard [i.e. supporting Israel]. The UN secretary general invoked Article 99 for the first time [in decades] to exert pressure on Israel. The whole world is talking about saving Gaza. This global reaction is difficult to ignore. So, regarding Israel’s achievements in this war, there are none. 

RT: Do you consider the Hamas-led Operation Al-Aqsa Flood successful? 

Mohammad Afif: We aren’t the only ones to consider the operation a success, the Israelis themselves say so. And now, the Israelis don’t doubt that Hamas is capable of carrying out another such operation. At some point, they felt completely safe since Gaza was partially besieged in 2008 and then completely besieged since 2014. However, this did not prevent the Hamas attack and strategically, its consequences will be serious. All the old concepts have collapsed, and half a million Israelis were forced to leave [the country]. How many of them will stay abroad after the war ends?

Faith in Israel’s strength has been shaken, and Israeli politicians are to blame. After all, Hamas managed to carry out this [operation] relying only on its own forces located in besieged Gaza, which has an area of just 360 square kilometers. Imagine what the resistance in Lebanon could do. Just to confront Hamas, Israel called up 300,000 reservists and sought the help of the Americans and the entire West. In 75 years, there has not been a harder time than the one [they are] living through today – that is what they say in Israel. Therefore, I believe that the operation was successful at the strategic, tactical, and intelligence levels. The success will be complete when Palestinian prisoners are freed from Israeli prisons.

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The war is already here and we are a part of it 

RT: After the last speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, many people expected Hezbollah to become fully involved in the war. Is such a scenario likely?

Mohammad Afif: We are a part of this war, and what is happening in the south [of Lebanon] is a real war. You ask me why we don't employ all our forces. This is normal. Hamas is not utilizing all its forces either. And the Russian army is not using all its military forces in Ukraine, right?  So far, we have employed only five percent of our forces. But we are still at war, and we regularly attack the Israeli army. Unfortunately, our people are dying too. Tens of thousands of Lebanese people were forced to leave their homes.

This is not a large-scale war yet, but the war is real. Hassan Nasrallah constantly assesses the situation in Gaza and every day, we communicate with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. We will maintain the current pace of the war, which we call the war of support and solidarity with the Palestinian people.

RT: What do you think of Russia’s role in resolving this conflict?

Mohammad Afif: First of all, I want to say that we are aware that Russia is currently concerned about the war in Ukraine. Secondly, we admire Moscow’s position and its support of the Palestinian people. We have heard statements by President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and many officials in the Russian administration who condemned the Israeli aggression in Gaza. 

And, of course, Russia constantly speaks out about ending the escalation in the region. 

We have always believed that Russia should play a major role in the Middle East crisis and in the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. But the United States monopolized everything and left no room for other [players], and so many influential countries, like Russia and China, have been assigned less important roles than we would have liked. We need to remember that the United States governs Israel’s decisions, and therefore, the US gets to decide everything at the political level. We had hoped that Russia would play a more important role in the ceasefire efforts, in opening checkpoints for the delivery of food to Gaza, and that it would be able to work more effectively in the UN Security Council together with other regional players. But the US is invalidating all these attempts. However, we highly appreciate Russia’s position and its attempts to influence the course of events. 

RT: President Vladimir Putin recently met with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. How would you assess these meetings?

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Mohammad Afif: I have no insider information regarding the matters that were discussed at these meetings. But I think that Russia faced strong pressure after the [start of the] war in Ukraine. [The West] tried to isolate it. Russia and its president are trying to find ways out of this situation, including [by establishing ties with] the Middle East. Russia has many common interests with the UAE, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, especially in the field of energy resources. This is natural. So there is nothing surprising about such meetings. 

Interestingly, relations between Russia and these two countries have improved in recent years, although the UAE and Saudi Arabia are in the US sphere of influence. Russia’s role in the region is very important. Perhaps, working together within the framework of the UN, the Arab group will propose a ceasefire in Gaza, as it had done earlier. As for relations with Iran, in my opinion, they have become strategic. The two countries share a common position on the Ukrainian issue and a common political stance on the Gaza issue. They also have important economic, trade, and military relations. Cooperation is developing at all levels. I think such visits are important, especially since Russia and Iran have common interests in the Caspian Sea region, and they also have common concerns in Syria.

After all, regardless of its practical role in various issues, Russia is a great world power with a great past and present. As one of the greatest strategists, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad once said, “The time will come when we will put an end to the unipolar approach and will return either to a bipolar or multipolar world order. The more Russia rises in the international arena, the smaller America’s role becomes.” And very soon, we will attain the long-awaited multipolar world order without the tyranny of the United States.

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