Sheikh Qassem to Al-Ahed: Berri Taking Steps to Form Government; the Syrian Elections Are a Success Story
By Mayssaa Moukaddem
Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is taking steps to form a new government. That’s according to Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, His Eminence Sheikh Naim Qassem, who said that “hopes for solution” are resting on these steps.
“We need the results to appear directly this week,” Sheikh Qassem said in an exclusive interview with the Al-Ahed News.
"The country carrying on without a government means the continuation of economic and social chaos and a continuous deterioration," he added. "Forming the government is the natural, necessary, and exclusive approach to the beginning of the solution in Lebanon."
Sheikh Qassem also responded to the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, in relation to the Al-Qard Al-Hasan Association. Hezbollah’s deputy chief explained that “Al-Qard Al-Hassan Association is a charitable social institution that does not deal with banking matters and is not part of the banking system in Lebanon. Therefore, any observation that may be made by any party that considers itself to have the authority can follow it through the normal, legal channels and will find that this institution is a charitable institution, to which the accusation claimed by some does not apply.”
Regarding the elections in Syria, Sheikh Qassem asserted that “the massive turnout is proof of Syria’s recovery, and that the regime has a well-established position. This scene completely contradicts all previous bets on displaced Syrians serving as a tool to vote for someone other than President Assad, and having the president removed in a democratic and constitutional manner."
Regarding the restoration of the relationship between Hamas and Syria and the role of Hezbollah in this regard, Sheikh Qassem noted that "the relationship was a subject of follow-up in recent months.”
“There has also been progress towards the possibility of restoring relations between them. But the honorable battle of Al-Quds Sword accelerated these steps. God willing, we will soon see a normal return of relations and repair the rifts."
Sheikh Qassem affirmed that "the work of the resistance against ‘Israel’ does not belong to a sect, but rather belongs to the honorable Islamic, patriotic, national, and humanitarian resistance."
"Anyone who is trying to drive a wedge between the resistance movements is acting in an absurd manner."
Below is the full text of the interview:
1- First, all the supporters of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah are asking about the health of His Eminence, especially after his recent speech. Did you have contact with him after the speech? How can you reassure his supporters?
The Secretary-General of Hezbollah, His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is fine, praise be to God Almighty. He was diagnosed with a mild condition in recent days that required him to rest for two to three days. But since his supporters have been waiting for his speech on May 25, failure to appear would have raised unnecessary questions. It was better for him to make an appearance, despite not fully recovering, to be on the side of his supporters who were waiting for his speech at this important and sensitive stage. And the Secretary-General is fine, God willing.
2- The head of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Yahya al-Sinwar, stated that "the rockets and planes deployed during the battle were sent in complete coordination between the resistance in Lebanon and Gaza." What do you have to add regarding details of coordination between the resistance in Lebanon and Gaza?
It has become known that the level of cooperation between the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah, and the resistance in Palestine is high at the level of preparation, capabilities, training, and manufacturing. Therefore, any other details related to the coordination mechanisms remain a security matter, and we cannot disclose their details. However, it is clear that the battle that took place unfolded with close follow-up and permanent cooperation, thank God.
3- How did you read yesterday’s press conference where Al-Sinwar challenged the “Israeli” enemy to assassinate him, and then he publicly walked through the streets of Gaza despite the declared “Israeli” threats?
The “Israelis” usually make many threats in order to leave a psychological effect on their enemies, but it seems that they have not yet understood what the resistance and the resistance fighters are. They are confident in the victory of God Almighty and stand in the front row during confrontations alongside the honorable mujahideen. Hence, the public appearance of Al-Sinwar is a clear challenge to the “Israeli” enemy that their threats could not affect the resistance and its leadership.
4- To what extent can the equation referred to by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, "Al-Quds versus a regional war," be enforceable in the foreseeable future?
It is not possible to define anticipated times for wars that "Israel" might initiate or for developments that could lead to a comprehensive regional war. This matter has to do with field data that are not currently available, and the conditions are not favorable to them, but it must remain clear that we, as Hezbollah, are in a state of constant readiness for any calculated or unpredictable development.
5- Did the Al-Quds Sword battle contribute to repairing rifts that appeared between some Palestinian resistance movements and Syria? Does Hezbollah have a role in this?
The relationship between the Hamas movement and Syria has been the subject of follow-up in recent months, and there has also been progress towards the possibility of restoring relations between them. But the honorable battle Al-Quds Sword accelerated these steps. This was highlighted by the announcement of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to receive all the resistance fighters in Damascus, as well as the response of the Hamas leadership about expecting this from Syria, which has always been on the side of the resistance. God willing, we will soon see a normal return of relations and repair the rifts that have risen as a result of developments in Syria in the last stage.
6- What is your response to those who are trying to play on the sectarian chord to divide the resistance factions in the area?
The work of the resistance against "Israel" does not belong to a sect, but rather belongs to the honorable Islamic, patriotic, national, and humanitarian resistance. Therefore, whoever tries to drive a wedge within the relations of the resistance movements is acting in an absurd manner because the level of interaction and integration in the resistance work has been evident at various stages, especially at the last stage, where the level of interaction between the resistance fighters throughout the region is extensive without any sectarian dismissions.
7- After 21 years since the liberation of Lebanon, to what extent can it be said that the resistance is able to deter “Israeli” aggression and attacks?
Talking about Hezbollah's resistance deterring "Israel" doesn’t need any further verification. "Israel" committed an aggression in 2006 with the expectation that it would crush the resistance in Lebanon, but it failed miserably. For the last 15 years (from 2006 to 2021), "Israel" is still deterred in every sense of the word. This is evidence of the effects that the liberation and the victory in the 2006 aggression left on "Israel"; it does not dare to launch an aggression in any way or form because it is fully aware that the resistance’s response will be very harsh, especially since its capabilities and methods developed extraordinarily in recent years. It is now in a much better position than it was during the liberation or following the 2006 aggression.
8- In the last two years, Lebanon entered an unprecedented phase of economic and monetary deterioration. In your view, does the path of salvation begin from the formation of the government? Do you bet on this matter, especially since there are those who doubt that a government will be born under the current circumstances? Following the disagreement between President Aoun and Hariri, [the government] will not be productive but tensions and mutual obstacles will move to the cabinet table.
There are two options in Lebanon, and there is no third. There is the option of the country carrying on without a government, and this means the continuation of economic and social chaos and a continuous deterioration without reaching any solution. The second option is to form a government so that there is an official body responsible in the country. Even if this government does not achieve everything that the Lebanese people aspire for, at least it introduces the first rescue steps on the path to a solution and begins with efforts to stop the deterioration we are in. Therefore, the formation of the government is the natural, necessary, and exclusive entry point for the beginning of the solution in Lebanon. Then, we must follow up so that the solution is effective. We must also address the gaps that slow the solution down or affect it. There are no other options in Lebanon.
9- After the Secretary-General of Hezbollah confirmed that Speaker Nabih Berri is the only party capable of solving disagreements between President Aoun and Hariri, do you know what he is preparing in this regard?
There are steps that Speaker Berri is now taking, which he hopes will create an opportunity for a solution, and we are helping and cooperating so are other parties. We need the results to appear directly this week.
10- While waiting for the formation of the government, who will the citizens that are looking for fuel, medicine, and basic needs turn to? Does Hezbollah have an alternative plan to protect societal security in Lebanon? Is there anyone who can guarantee that the street will not explode again in light of the continuous deterioration?
Social security is the responsibility of the state and not the responsibility of a particular party. No matter what any party does, it will not be able to achieve social security for the people. It may fill some gaps and address some problems, but there must be a responsible government that the Parliament will hold accountable and follow up with in order to take us to steps for social security and resolve chaos. Any betting outside the framework of forming a government is futile and a waste of time and unrealizable hopes.
11- Does Hezbollah have a project to benefit in a way from the continuous Iranian offers to Lebanon to help in several areas, including electricity, in case Lebanese officials continue to refuse or escape from it?
It is better to wait for the formation of the government, and we will try to help the state cooperate with Iranian, Russian, Chinese, and Western offers, which can speed up dealing with the electricity problem or other problems.
12- In an interview with Al-Hadath channel a few days ago, the Governor of Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, said, "We learned from Washington about Al-Qard Al-Hasan’s connections, and we will investigate this, and the activity of this institution harms the banking system." What is your response?
Al-Qard Al-Hassan Association is a charitable social institution that does not deal with banking matters and is not part of the banking system in Lebanon. Therefore, any observation that may be made by any party that considers itself to have the authority can follow it through the normal, legal channels and will find that this institution is a charitable institution, to which the accusation claimed by some does not apply.
13- Does Hezbollah support the removal of Riad Salameh from his position?
Any matter related to the governor of the Bank of Lebanon, remaining [in his post] or being ousted, requires a government to make this decision. Discussing this subject is a mere form of entertainment if it is not translated into a discussion within the government, which must take the right position on this issue according to the data presented to it.
14- How is Hezbollah's relationship with Bkerke today?
The liaison committee between Hezbollah and Bkerke continues its regular and periodic meetings, and there is nothing new in this regard.
15- The Saudi media maintains that Hezbollah is part of the drug trade, and these allegations intensified among Gulf countries preventing Lebanese trucks from passing through their territories. Some Lebanese parties recommended accusing Hezbollah of harming Lebanon's image and Lebanese production, what is your response?
The link between Hezbollah, drugs, the Gulf states, accusations, and evidence must be dismantled. First, Hezbollah does not trade in drugs and has nothing to do with it, neither from near nor from afar, and it prohibits drug trade and consumption. And the Lebanese security services are fully aware of the extent of Hezbollah's contribution in providing aid and support when it comes to arresting people or raiding groups in different regions, where we have the ability to help the security services to do so.
As for Western allegations that talk about drug trafficking at the international level, they lack evidence. All the reports they announce say, "This person is close to Hezbollah, "it was leaked to us that Hezbollah may have a relationship," and "here is an analysis saying that Hezbollah is the one benefiting.” No report dares to accuse Hezbollah directly because it has not been proven to anyone. But they are trying, in a twisted way, to pin it on Hezbollah, and so far, internationally and locally, this matter has not been proven and will not be proven because we are against drugs, drug trade, and anything related to drugs.
Secondly, the drugs seized in pomegranate shipments belongs to one or some drug traffickers, and it has absolutely no connection to Hezbollah. The measures taken by Saudi Arabia, or some Gulf countries are measures related to the shipment of drugs or other shipments. What does this have to do with Hezbollah and the position of the Gulf states with Hezbollah? Linking the matter to Hezbollah is part of the political rivalry and an attempt to tarnish the party's image. We no longer comment on such accusations because we considered them both frivolous and degrading at the same time and based on unjustified hostility and accusations that do not have the slightest basis. So, if this matter is mentioned repeatedly and Hezbollah did not respond, it is because it has become one of the issues that do not concern us, and the people concerned know very well that we are outside the circle of drugs or the likes.
Does Hezbollah intend to file lawsuits against the media that deliberately insist on placing Hezbollah's name in this file?
We may need to activate the entire judiciary in Lebanon if we wish to prosecute for every accusation because some throw around accusations a lot without evidence. We do not have the conviction to pursue every matter through the judiciary. We may pursue very specific and very restricted matters if we find that there is a benefit, but this is not our approach.
16- What is your reading of the high turnout in the presidential elections in Syria? And how did you interpret the tension between Lebanese factions over the turnout of the Syrians in Lebanon?
The massive turnout is proof of Syria’s recovery, and that the regime has a well-established position and that people, contrary to what they say about them in the West and some Gulf countries, are supporters of the structure and continuation of the regime. They are opposed to chaos and the fragmentation of Syria. This scene completely contradicts all previous bets on displaced Syrians serving as a tool to vote for someone other than President Assad, and having the president removed in a democratic and constitutional manner.
It became clear to all of them that this bet was unrealistic because even in the centers outside Syria where people have been displaced, the huge turnout was in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. I consider this a success and a victory at the same time for Syria's continuity and stability in the future. Anyone looking for a solution in Syria must deal with the regime and not with America, "Israel," and those on their side, including Daesh and others who destroyed Syria.
As for those who tried to attack some voters in Lebanon, Hezbollah issued a statement and made it clear that these people attacked others who have the right to express their opinion. Therefore, this attack is unacceptable and rejected, regardless of their arguments. Unfortunately, some feel that the aggressor has a justification because the voter passed in front of him. This justification is illogical and unreasonable. In any case, they have offended themselves with this attack and highlighted the ugly racist image that no one embraces.