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Sheikh Qassem to Al-Ahed: Lebanon’s Starvation is Overseen by the US & Designed to End the Resistance

Sheikh Qassem to Al-Ahed: Lebanon’s Starvation is Overseen by the US & Designed to End the Resistance
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By Fatima Deeb Hamzah

Beirut - On the fourteenth anniversary of the July 2006 aggression against Lebanon, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, His Eminence Sheikh Naim Qassem, sat down with Al-Ahed. 

He spoke about the role of the commander of the Quds Force, martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani, who was one of the people in the central operations room where he fulfilled urgent and necessary requirements. He lent his expertise on some military plans that were implemented during the confrontation with the enemy.

Sheikh Qassem used the occasion to tell Al-Ahed that "the process of starving Lebanon is run by America and its allies in order to impose policies on Lebanon that are not in its interests but are designed to achieve the goals that "Israel" needs to pressure Lebanon. This means that the continuity of the resistance is disturbing "Israel" and posing a threat to it. And America wants to end the resistance.”

"There is no one in Lebanon who is not fully aware that the problems of the dollar and the economy in the country are primarily caused by the US because of the policies adopted that include restrictions on the entry of cash into Lebanon, attempts to interfere in reforms and administration, and pressuring the International Monetary Fund so that loans and aid are not easily released,” he added

Sheikh Qassem explained that “the words of the American ambassador are retorted. They stem from the feeling that their media and all their propaganda to hold Hezbollah responsible have failed.”   

Sheikh Qassem also responded to unfounded allegations about Hezbollah taking Lebanon hostage.  

"If Hezbollah is keen on the independence of Lebanon and there are those who do not want Lebanon's independence, it is an honor for us that we are contributing to its independence. If Hezbollah does not want Lebanon to be subordinate to anyone and not to join the “Israeli” project and in the course managed to persuade other parties not to be under the “Israeli” umbrella, it is an honor for Lebanon, and we do not shirk from it. And if Hezbollah is maintaining the army, the people, and the resistance trio while many political leaders as well as the Lebanese people support it in order to protect Lebanon from the “Israeli” threat, we are proud that it exists, and we do not disavow it. Let them tell us what is the negative thing that Hezbollah did in Lebanon."

Below is the full transcript of the interview:

The fourteenth anniversary of the July 2006 aggression will be marked for the first time with the absence of one of the pillars of the resistance, Hajj Qassem Soleimani. How would you describe Hajj Qassem’s role with the resistance during the war?

The July 2006 aggression was a real “Israeli” war on Lebanon that was aimed at crushing the Islamic Resistance as the “Israelis” put it. But thank God, there was preparation and readiness. There was a wise leadership represented by His Eminence the Secretary General, may God protect him, as well as the main jihadist military leaders, such as Hajj Imad Mughniyeh and others. Hajj Qassem Soleimani also provided daily support. He refused to leave Lebanon during the fiercest battles and the most intense wars that were waged against Lebanon. During the July war, he was one of the people in the central operations room where he fulfilled urgent and necessary requirements and lent his expertise on some military plans that were implemented in the confrontation with the enemy until victory was achieved and the enemy’s project was thwarted.

Because of his presence in the operating room, the meeting was limited to jihadi work. After that, we met with him as a consultant, and there were discussions about how to help people and how to capitalize on the results of the war and the victory that prevailed in Lebanon.

Hezbollah talks about the role of Hajj Qassem in the July 2006 war. What about his role alongside the resistance in Syria, especially in the battle to liberate the Jaroud in 2017 (the second liberation)?

Hajj Qassem Soleimani was appointed commander of the Quds Force in 1998. The Quds Force is designed to prepare an army of twenty million to liberate Al-Quds. This army would be made up of all the resistance fighters from the whole region, whether in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Therefore, he was supervising the preparation, readiness, and training at the level of the whole region. Hence, when the war broke out in Syria in 2011, it was only natural that Hajj Qassem oversee this file directly. First to save Syria from this global war waged against it, secondly to confront Daesh and takfiri groups, and thirdly to support the different forces – Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, Iranian, and others. He oversaw it to support Syria and also to stand by the Hezbollah forces that were present in Syria.

So, he was the actual commander of all the forces inside Syria – apart from the Syrian army. They were able to eliminate Daesh in this region, save Syria, and restore order to most of Syria and bring it back under the control of the Syrian state.

- When the name of martyr Soleimani is mentioned, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

The first thing that comes to my mind when mentioning the great martyred leader Hajj Qassem Soleimani is humility and attachment to the Prophet’s household (peace be upon them), the state of fusion with the wilaya [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist] and the commands of Imam Khamenei, and the way of life that he used to live with the Mujahideen in all arenas.

Also, he possessed an important characteristic. He was politically savvy. He was a military commander with a political strategic vision. His assessments and follow up produced a unique set of results that went beyond the military aspects.

Martyr Qassem Soleimani imposed himself as an exceptional figure. The millions of people who came from various regions in Iran and elsewhere to pay tribute to him in his martyrdom was proof of this. He had a great impact on people.

- After the July 2006 aggression, the Islamic resistance faced more than one critical internal and external challenge. It fought battles and sacrificed martyrs on more than one front. How did the resistance benefit from these experiences in terms of raising the level of its readiness?

The Islamic resistance grew gradually and naturally. It gained experience throughout its past, whether through the aggression in July 1993, the aggression in April 1996, the battle of liberation in 2000, or the decisive battle in 2006 and in confronting the takfiri groups in 2017. 

During all these wars, the resistance was not limited to jihadi action and only striking the enemy. There were other responsibilities related to the situation of people who were displaced from their homes because of the war. There was also the mobilization process – new jihadist elements were required whether to take care of the families of the martyrs, the wounded fighters, and the prisoners or to fight in the ranks of the resistance.

There was also the need to create social solidarity that had both a moral and material nature at the same time. These were all the experiences that we benefited from in the resistance work along different stages. And with the grace of God Almighty, we were able to create an integrated jihadist situation at the social and popular level, which led Hezbollah to form the nation rather than a party separated from the nation.

- Lebanon today is facing a blockade and a starvation plot. What are the weapons of the resistance in the new confrontation? Who are its enemies?

The process of starving Lebanon is run by America and its allies in order to impose policies on Lebanon that are not in its interests but are designed to achieve the goals that "Israel" needs to pressure Lebanon. This means that the continuity of the resistance is disturbing "Israel" and posing a threat to it. And America wants to end the resistance.

Lebanon’s continuing solidarity with Syria, Iraq, and the region is bothering the US because they want Syria to fall into the trap and change its policies. 

From here, we know that the magnitude of the attack is substantial, but we decided to strive to build the state and work through the government and state institutions to save the economy as much as possible and try to present proposals that help improve the situation, including what we recently proposed and what His Eminence the Secretary General said about the need to go East in an attempt to diversify options. 

That is, not to remain under the mercy of the West. When we have contact with the East, be it China, Russia, Iran, or any country other than the West, that can provide us with aid or loans, then the pressures imposed by the global arrogance on us will ease. 

We consider that our endeavors through the government as well as our activities eastward as one of the options, in addition to social solidarity in the areas of our influence are all factors that help improve the reality. This, however, requires a lot of patience. God willing, we continue in this direction.

- US Ambassador Dorothy Shea accused Hezbollah and its Secretary General of threatening Lebanon's stability, obstructing economic progress, and transferring billions of dollars of state funds to favor the party. How do you respond to this?

For US ambassador Shea to twist facts and label America’s economic and social aggression against Lebanon as Hezbollah’s doing, does not convince anyone, and no one will believe it.

There was tension in the US administration  and among Secretary of State Pompeo, his assistant Schenker, and the ambassador when accusations and condemnations were directed at America when it was revealed that it was behind the attempt to starve Lebanon, raise the price of the dollar, and prevent the currency from entering Lebanon.

They wanted to defend themselves by attacking Hezbollah. But there is no one in Lebanon who is not fully aware that the problems of the dollar and the economy in the country are primarily caused by the US because of the policies adopted that include restrictions on the entry of cash into Lebanon, attempts to interfere in reforms and administration, and pressuring the International Monetary Fund so that loans and aid are not easily released.

We consider the words of the American ambassador retorted. They stem from the feeling that their media and all their propaganda to hold Hezbollah responsible have failed. They are making up for it this way.

We even heard from some friends that one of the reasons why the American ambassador replied was because America's friends, as she put it, did not move in the right direction, forcing the American ambassador to take the lead.

- Recently, the appearance of organized propaganda in some media outlets is accusing Hezbollah of taking Lebanon hostage and "changing its face". How do you respond to that?

Whoever is claiming that Hezbollah is taking Lebanon hostage to a specific place or a specific policy, let them say where it is taking the country. 

If Hezbollah is keen on the independence of Lebanon and there are those who do not want Lebanon's independence, it is an honor for us that we are contributing to its independence. If Hezbollah does not want Lebanon to be subordinate to anyone and not to join the “Israeli” project and in the course managed to persuade other parties not to be under the “Israeli” umbrella, it is an honor for Lebanon, and we do not shirk from it. And if Hezbollah is maintaining the army, the people, and the resistance trio while many political leaders as well as the Lebanese people support it in order to protect Lebanon from the “Israeli” threat, we are proud that it exists, and we do not disavow it. Let them tell us what is the negative thing that Hezbollah did in Lebanon.

All the things we did were positive. We are advocates of state building, of strengthening the government and helping it succeed. We are advocates of protecting Lebanon and confronting “Israel” so that it does not control our land. We are advocates of opening up to the East and West for the sake of Lebanon’s interests. Are these charges against the party? I consider these praises and positive signs. Some do not like these positives for the party. This is his problem. Let him solve it.

- Internal divisions are deepening, which brings us back to before the July 2006 war. Would the desperation of the enemy from obtaining an internal concession through the siege push us into a new aggressive military war?

The atmosphere does not point to an “Israeli” war against Lebanon because "Israel" is busy with the coronavirus. It is also preoccupied with the possibility of annexing part of the West Bank and fears the Palestinian reaction.

It is also confused about the military capabilities of the resistance, which produced balance and deterrence in the past. It is now more of a deterrent than ever. So, how can "Israel" go forward with a war where results are not guaranteed! 

There is even a cry within the “Israeli” entity that the home front is not prepared to endure a war. There is also a report by the army inspector that the ground forces are not qualified to fight a real war. So, all these factors add to the readiness of Hezbollah and its continued preparedness and rejection to any pressure that might stop the process of readiness. All of these factors exclude the possibility of a war against Lebanon.

However, we always act based on the worst-case scenario. Our readiness remains high. Should a war occur, we face it with the confidence that victory is for the resistance because they are righteous and the owners of the land and because they are also prepared.

And God has promised us victory – {And prepare against them whatever you are capable of power and of any war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy}.

Hence, war is not being prepared now. In any case, the resistance is ready on all fronts, praise be to God Almighty.

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