Is Hezbollah ‘sleeping with the devil?’
Nasrallah is portraying Hezbollah as an enemy of takfiris, but is that so?
An explosion that targeted Beirut's southern suburbs on Feb. 19 came 48 hours after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said: "Takfiris threaten the region as they don't accept those whom they ideologically, politically and intellectually disagree with, and they seek to eliminate them and cancel them."
Nasrallah is portraying Hezbollah as an enemy of takfiris, but is that so? The first incident linked to political Islam in Lebanon happened in May 2007 in Tripoli, where a battle erupted between the Lebanese army and the Fatah al-Islam organization. The latter was established by Palestinian guerrilla Shaker al-Abssi, who was serving jail time in Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad released him under a special amnesty.
Abssi came to Lebanon and established his takfiri organization, which defected from the Fatah al-Intifada organization. Assad wanted to weaken Sunni leader Saad Hariri by attracting the Sunnis of northern Lebanon to a takfiri organization that derives power from the tough economic and social situation there.
Ever since the army emerged victorious from its battle with Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared, northern Lebanon, the group's members have been in Roumieh prison in eastern Beirut. They have not been tried, nor will they be until Assad is toppled. He who made the decision to eliminate this takfiri group was then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, while he who objected to this move was Nasrallah when he declared Nahr al-Bared a "red line."
In Aug. 2008, Hezbollah signed a memorandum of understanding with the Salafi movement. It wanted to build an alliance to weaken Hariri's Future Movement, but this attempt failed. Hezbollah, which had signed agreements with certain parties, now considers them a regional threat financed by Saudi Arabia and the Future Movement.
The role of Qatar
Relation between Hezbollah and takfiri groups cannot be understood without pointing out the Qatari role in Lebanon. Following the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, Qatar had an opinion different from all Arab countries. It supported the parties of political Islam rather than the March 14 coalition. This led Qatar to side with the Syrian-Iranian axis in Lebanon and the region.
The end of the Nahr al-Bared battle was a signal for Qatar to infiltrate Sunni society in northern Lebanon via Salafis and political Islamist factions. Funds came in, and figures and institutions that later allied with Hezbollah against the Future Movement were invited to visit Doha. During that time, the presence of a controversial figure in northern Lebanon increased.
It was Sheikh Omar Bakri Fustok, who came from Britain after he made statements sympathizing with those who carried out the London attacks in 2005. "Assassinating Rafiq Hariri served Islam and Muslims because he did not serve as God [ordered]," said Fustok, who joined Salafi institutions in northern Lebanon. He built relations with Salafis - even those who were rivals among each other - and was a source of advice to them.
His visits to Doha continued, as did his bragging about the comprehensive Qatari support for him financially and morally. Qatar hired an army of lawyers to defend Fustok amid the detentions and cases filed against him. His compass is in total harmony with the Qatari radar in Lebanon and the region.
When he arrived in Lebanon, Fustok considered Hezbollah an infidel. When Hezbollah allied with Qatar, he considered them good Muslims like himself. When Qatar's policy turned against Assad after the Syrian revolution began, he again categorized the party as an infidel.
Hezbollah's alliance with Qatar was a means for the movement to ally with takfiri groups. Hezbollah wanted to target the Future Movement, and Qatar wanted to protest against Saudi Arabia in the region and to weaken Riyadh's influence in Lebanon. Relations between Doha and Hezbollah ended, so rivalry erupted between takfiris and Hezbollah.
Not long ago, Qatar produced another version of political Islam that suits its new orientations: Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir in Sidon, southern Lebanon. Before Assir went into hiding, no Arab country minded him except for Qatar, which invited him to visit Doha.
Former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, despite his rivalry with Saudi Arabia, described Assir as "a Qatari project aiming to sabotage Lebanon." Lahoud knows well that since the Sept. 2001 attacks, Riyadh has excluded political Islam from its tools of international activity.
Hezbollah's upper hand
Nasrallah's speeches, and his decision to go against the Syrian revolution, prove that he and his party know Syria and Iran well, but they know nothing about Lebanon. Hezbollah, which accuses takfiris of aiming to eliminate others, has accused all its rivals of being traitors and Israeli agents. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has accused Hezbollah of political assassinations that targeted its Lebanese political rivals.
The movement has never missed a chance to humiliate and weaken Saad Hariri, to the extent of toppling his cabinet. This is how Hezbollah - directly during the period of alliances, and indirectly during the period of rivalry - supported Salafis who want to turn everyone against Saad Hariri.
The parties that are targeting Hezbollah are the same ones that were allied with it to target the Future Movement. Qatar financed these parties and Hezbollah armed them. Hezbollah wanted a battle to erupt between Salafis and the Future Movement, but instead Hezbollah's men are being assassinated in Lebanon and Syria.
This article was first published in Al-Arab Online on Feb. 22, 2014