Kassem Kassir, a pro-Hezbollah commenter and political analyst, surprised all as he momentarily stepped out of character during a talk show and underscored the concerns held by many Lebanese in general, and the Shiite community in particular, but have been too afraid to publicly air.
Kassir’s comments unleased a gale of comments by both pro-Hezbollah and anti-Hezbollah voices, with the former attacking Kassir and accusing him of selling out, while the latter embraced his act of repentance as indicative of a much bigger crisis Hezbollah was undergoing.
The truly alarming fact is the zealous manner in which the anti-Hezbollah crowd fully embraced Kassir’s so-called retrospection, without keeping in mind that such statements can be part of a ploy directed by Hezbollah, or that these remarks, if genuine, do not exempt them from fielding a true political front to put Iran’s proxy back into its proper place and to challenge Hezbollah’s alliance with the ruling oligarchs.
These same Kassir zealots were quick to miss his pro-Iranian performance a few days before the release of his clip over the Iranian Arabic-speaking Al Alam news channel, in which Kassir went all out to defend Hezbollah against a fabricated American-sponsored media campaign to discredit it and tarnish Hezbollah’s reputation as a real resistance movement.
“Hezbollah has two main problems it needs to address, first its relationship with Iran as it cannot continue in its current mechanism and keep repeating “I am under the command of the Supreme leader”, second Hezbollah cannot continue alone in its resistance, it needs to fall under a national defense strategy … after the start of the Syrian crisis Hezbollah was forced to go outside Lebanon, but now it is time to come back,” Kassir said on January 6.
For many, Kassir was perhaps thinking out loud when he uttered his few remarks, which might well be part of a larger debate occurring among the Hezbollah milieu, especially given that Lebanon’s dire economic conditions are partly the victim of Iran’s regional expansionist program.
While Kassir was quick to retract his words through a statement published on his social media account, and later in a number of media outlets, the whole affair has much deeper meaning than merely a stray member of the flock who was soon brought in line by the shepherd. Instead, the outburst represents the public airing of a deep internal battle inside Hezbollah, between those that wish for Hezbollah to remain a proxy group at the behest of Iran or those that want to sever the cord with the Islamic Republic.
Kassem Kassir, by his own admission, is a notable Shiite scholar, and an expert on Islamic movement. His pro-Iran credentials are spotless. As such, his remarks on Hezbollah’s current predicament might be part of a tug-of-war between the hawkish and moderate factions within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which Kassir aired out in public to later backtrack.
In reality, Kassir was asking Hezbollah to sever its umbilical cord with Iran, an impossible request which in fact would end Hezbollah as we know it.
Hezbollah was founded by the IRGC to be its executive arm in Lebanon – a role which Hezbollah has outgrown with its involvement in Iran’s various wars in the region and beyond. Any hope of them transforming into the Lebanese party Kassir was peddling is nothing short of wishful thinking, not to say delusional.
Regardless, what Kassir’s two minutes of fame might tell us is that wagering on an Iranian or Hezbollah change of heart is a losing bet, especially given that the logic of armed militias boils down to “might is right” – a fact many still refuse to acknowledge, making Lebanon’s rude awakening a more painful feat.