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Former German intelligence chief details meetings with Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

Published: Updated:

Former German intelligence chief August Hanning said in a recent interview that he had “a lot of contact” with Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah during his time in office.

Hanning was Germany’s State Secretary in the Federal Interior Ministry from 2005 to 2009 after serving as the Director Federal Intelligence Service (BND) from 1998 to 2005.

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His meetings with Nasrallah were part of his work to find and repatriate the remains of Ron Arad, an Israeli air force pilot who disappeared after his plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986.

“I was responsible for different negotiations with Hezbollah in the Ron Arad case for Israel. It was a years-long, very difficult negotiation with Hezbollah, Iran and Israeli intelligence on the other side,” Hanning was quoted as saying in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Hanning stopped short of praising Nasrallah but said he was “an interesting person” who always surprised the German about his knowledge of Israel.

“He closely followed Israel,” Hanning said.

An image grab on May 25, 2021 shows Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (AFP)
An image grab on May 25, 2021 shows Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (AFP)

And through his meetings with the head of the Iran-backed militant group, Hanning said he learned that Nasrallah “had a lot of different balls” to juggle at the same time. “He was successful. I do not want to praise Hezbollah, but Nasrallah is, of course, very impressive,” Hanning said.

But the former German intel chief explained how difficult negotiations were. “I had a lot of contact with him. If you negotiate, you have to regard the other person as a partner [of sorts] to get to solutions. If you [merely] regard the other side as the enemy, you cannot achieve anything,” he was quoted as saying.

US-Iran nuclear deal

Hanning voiced his opposition to the resumption of the 2015 nuclear deal between the US and Iran.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat for the whole region,” he said, adding that allowing Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon would to an arms race in the Middle East.

 A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage during the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. (Reuters)
A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage during the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. (Reuters)

Criticizing Iran’s regional interference and destabilizing behavior, Hanning was quoted as saying: “Iran’s role in the region is not very positive. We see this problem with its missile program. If you are carrying out such an ambitious missile program, and they have had some successes … very clearly, you do not develop these missiles for protection, but for military purposes.”

The Biden administration rushed into indirect negotiations with Iran to resume the 2015 nuclear deal, but talks have been put on hold by the Iranian leadership.

Tehran has said talks could resume after a new president takes office on Aug. 5. But on Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei lashed out at the US, calling it “the enemy” and saying that “trusting the West does not work.”

Read more: Biden slams Iran’s support for Hezbollah; US extends national emergency for Lebanon