UAE’s Secret Mission to Iran

UAE’s Secret Mission to Iran

By David Hearst – Middle East Eye

Tahnoun bin Zayed, the national security adviser of the United Arab Emirates and the crown prince’s younger brother, has been in Tehran for the last 48 hours on a secret mission aiming to defuse the Gulf crisis, a senior security source in the UAE told the Middle East Eye.

Tahnoun’s secret mission is the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the crisis broke out.

It comes amid multiple signs of the UAE following its own, softer line with Tehran, after four tankers were attacked off the Emirati port of Fujairah earlier this year.

Although Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the US Joint Staff, said US intelligence had concluded that Iran’s revolutionary Guard Corps was “directly responsible” for the attacks, the UAE itself has never pointed the finger of blame at Iran for that attack.

Instead, it sent navy officers to meet their counterparts in Iran, a visit that was announced. This weekend’s mission has been kept secret.

When the UK, Germany and France attempted to counter US efforts to step up the military confrontation in the Gulf, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash praised their diplomatic efforts.

Gargash said: “At every turn, the UAE has avoided conflict with Iran. We will continue to take all measures to de-escalate tensions and reduce the potential for hostilities. When necessary, we are prepared to act in self-defense, but always proportionately, judiciously and with restraint. We seek a pragmatic, diplomatic path to lowering tensions and creating an opening for meaningful talks.”

The secret mission comes amid of flurry back channel attempts to get talks going between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis have called on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to pass messages to Tehran.

As the MEE revealed on 1 October, Abbas al-Hasnawi, an official in the Iraqi prime minister’s office, confirmed that Abdul Mahdi was mediating between the leaderships in Riyadh and Tehran and had communicated each side’s conditions for talks to the other.

Since then, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has become involved and is to shuttle between Tehran and Riyadh this week.

Two senior Pakistani government officials confirmed to Reuters that Khan was going to Tehran to try to defuse tensions between the two rivals, after US President Donald Trump asked for his help.

Khan had told reporters last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly: “President Trump asked me if we could de-escalate the situation and maybe come up with another deal. So, I did convey this [to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani] and yes, we are trying our best. It’s an ongoing thing so I can’t reveal more than that.”

The UAE has recently shown more than one sign of pursuing its own path with Iran. It recently announced it was pulling its troops out of Yemen, and has publicly backed southern separatists in southern port city of Aden splitting the country in two.

…Recently, the Yemeni Ansarullah and the Emirati-backed southern separatists took part in a prisoner exchange, which has not happened with forces loyal to Hadi.

On Friday, the Pentagon said that about 2,000 additional troops would be sent to Saudi Arabia, along with jet fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing and air defense personnel. This would be the second troop increase related to recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

The Pentagon said it was also sending two additional Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system [THAAD].

“Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

Russia’s kidnapping problem

Russia’s kidnapping problem

The Saker

October 09, 2019

[this article was written for the Unz Review]

No, this will not be an article about Russians kidnapped in Chechnia (that was a very long time ago) or somewhere in a combat zone.  I will be talking about the USA and Iran.  First, here are a few links for context:

Quick update: the Iranians have declared that the detention of Iuzik was not an espionage case, but a visa violation which will be resolved very soon.

Next, I would like to clarify a few things before discussing what I think is “Russia’s kidnapping problem“.

In the case of Iuzik, I do not think that she was a spy for anybody, including the Israelis.  Why?  For one thing, I read that she entered Iran with a passport stamped with an Israeli visa.  That is not very smart, especially for a putative ‘spy’ and, besides, even the Israelis are not that arrogant (or incompetent).  Furthermore, if the Iranians (who have truly world class security services!) had really suspected Iuzik they had many other options including:

  1. Setting up a sting operation and film her doing something illegal
  2. Feed Iuzik all sorts of bad info to confuse her bosses and smoke out any spies in Iran
  3. Contact the FSB and warn the Russians about her real professional profile

These are just the three most obvious ones.  There are many more.

Finally, spies are not arrested immediately upon arrival, this really makes no sense whatsoever (what would be the point?).

[Sidebar: some have noted that Iuzik is closely linked to all sorts of toxic Russian “informal” or “non-system” opposition groups.  That is absolutely true and I am sure that Iuzik has no more love for Putin than she has for Iran.  And maybe she truly loves Israel.  But that does *not* make her a usable spy while this could have made her a “victim of Putin’s regime and hatred for real journalists“, at least if the Russian Foreign Ministry had not acted immediately and firmly.  The truth is that these Kodorkovskii-type of “journalists” are no threat to Putin or his “regime”.  That is precisely what makes them so angry and why they have to invent “persecutions” ex nihilo]

So what happened here?

My guess is (and I hope and ask my Iranian friends to correct me if I am wrong!) that this is not about Iuzik herself.  I see two possibilities:

  1. The Israeli visa really infuriated somebody at the IRGC and that person acted impulsively
  2. This is the result of internal infighting in Iran

The first one is obvious, so let me explain the second one.

A lot of Iranians harbor plenty of reservations about Russia, some are even outright hostile or suspicious.  They are not alone, there is also plenty of Russians who do not trust the Iranians.  In the first case, the history of wars and Russian interventions (not to mention the Soviet support for Saddam Hussein’s war on Iran!) is the cause.  In the Russian case, the Iranian attitude towards Afghanistan, Chechnia and, especially, Bosnia created a bad image of Iran (and, to a lesser degree, Islam) in some circles in Russia.  There is nothing new here, other countries have had the same problem (France and Germany, Russia and China, etc.).  My guess is that somebody somewhere in the Iranian power structure saw this as a way to create problems between Russia and Iran. The telltale sign for me is that Iuzina was arrested, according to various reports, by a IRGC special forces team (that is what is done with real spies to prevent them from killing themselves or destroying evidence).  Thus a REAL anti-spy method was used on somebody who was self-evidently NOT a spy.  If so, that plan failed, since the Russians immediately summoned the Iranian ambassador who immediately promised to solve this issue.

The case of Iumasheva is much more primitive.  This is simply the latest attempt of the US deep state to try to make the Russians do something in retaliation which could then be used to prove how evil and devious the Russians are.  As for offering her to grab a coffee on the way out, it is simply a lack of education of the FBI agents involved.  Maybe they wanted to hit on her, or brag to their pals about taking her out, or maybe they simply wanted to show some kindness and did not realize how this kind of clumsy “kindness” would be seen in Russia (where women have a very different status than the poor women of the United States).

So these two cases are completely unrelated and do not form a pattern.

Except they do, alas, and this is the real Russian kidnapping problem.

Where whining will get you in Russia

In the public opinion (both in Russia and outside Russia) Russia simply looks weak and easy to bully.  Now, of course, inside Russia these kinds of views are mostly held by pro-US “liberals” who are just waiting to fan any flame against Putin and the Kremlin.  Most people inside Russia do actually understand the reasons why Russia does not retaliate in kind (Maria Zakharova just repeated it all on TV recently, Russian speakers can listen to her here).  She summed it all up by mentioning the Russian proverb “На обиженных воду возят” whose direct translation into English makes no sense whatsoever: water is carried on the backs of offended people.  This proverb comes from the times of Peter I when canalizations were not available everywhere and when some dishonest employees of the state who were supposed to deliver the water by carriage for free began charging money for this.  When Czar Peter heard about that, he punished these crooks by making them pull the horse-carriages themselves.  Nowadays the word “offended” takes a different meaning of “pouting” or “whining”, so I would (very freely) translate it as “whiners get screwed” or something to that effect.  An even freer translation could be “don’t bitch and you won’t be treated like one”.  Simply put, concepts like “oi vey!” or “gwalt” are not Russian ones 🙂

When westerners are outraged, they typically do a lot of talking.  They threaten, they complain, they protest, they denounce, etc.   Russians typically say nothing, take the pain and concentrate.  Furthermore, complaints, threats or protests are seen as signs of weakness in the Russian culture.  For example, the advice given to anybody going to jail in Russia is “не верь, не бойся, не проси” which means “don’t trust, don’t fear and don’t ask/beg”.  If the so-called “Russian studies specialists” and other experts in the West understood this key feature of the Russian mindset they would not misread Russia so often.

So this is what happens: each time somebody in the West kidnaps a Russian citizen (or does not respect their diplomatic status) the Russian officials very boringly and vapidly protest, mostly behind closed doors and publicly repeat the canned sentences about “US obligations under international law”, about how the boorish behavior of the USA will end up boomeranging and even further discredit the country which modestly fancies itself the “city on the hill”, “indispensable nation”, the “land of the free”, “home of the brave”, etc.

This all simply reeks of weakness to non-Russians (just see Paul Craig Robert’s article above!).

And that is a REAL problem for Russia.

In Asia, everybody “gets it”.  The Iranians understand that absolutely perfectly and do not mistake politely smiling diplomats with Russian weakness (Iran’s future is, in so many ways, becoming dependent on Russia and the Iranians know that very well; just as with the Putin-Xi alliance, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Putin also understand each other perfectly).  Hence their immediate reaction.  As for the Russians, they also understand that this was not a hostile act on the part of Iran as a country but either a bureaucratic screw-up, or a case of Iranian infighting (which happens in Russia too!).

But in the West, Russia’s apparent passivity and even taste for pain only triggers bewilderment and frustration and I believe that Russia needs to address this problem for the following reason:

Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Obama and Trump, the AngloZionist Empire is tanking much faster than anybody (including myself) would have ever thought.  True, Europe is still a US colony, but the “natives are being restless” and there are all the signs that at least the “Old Europe” (aka “western Europe”) is slowly coming to its senses and realizes that the US not only fails to deliver much, but even cannot really punish very much either.  Not only that, but the “Old Europeans” will vitally need Russia’s help to deal with the “New Europeans” (aka “eastern Europeans), wannabe colonial servants and full-time Empire-brown-nosing regimes when the EU finally tanks (which, at least to me, is not an issue of “whether” but only a question of “when”).

So far, and as long as Russia continues to look like a willing punching ball of the USA, future potential allies will always wonder whether Russia is a paper tiger or, even worse, a “pretend-resister” and a pushover in reality.

Europe and the Americas are no more a Russian foreign policy priority, if only because right now the US is “not agreement capable” while the EU is trying to find some middle-path between the US, Russia and the nutjobs in the East.  True, Russian foreign policy priorities are now in the South, the East and the North.  But let’s not confuse cause and effect here.  A truly sovereign USA or EU would be an superb partner for Russia in so many ways that she cannot but do everything she can to try to change current US and EU perceptions.

So what could Russia do?

I will immediately exclude all actions which would be illegal under international and Russian law.  The fact that a political Neanderthal acts like a thug is no reason for civilized people to emulate him or retaliate in kind.  Each country, each nation, has to decide for itself whether the rule of law (national or international) is something which matters to it or not.

However, I believe that there are legal actions the Russians could take.

For one thing, the Russians could get much, much more assertive at the UN.  I get it, Lavrov had to say that he was sure that Trump and Pompeo had nothing to do with the latest illegal denial of visas of Russian officials to the UN: he was trying to help Trump who probably really had nothing to do with this.  But Pompeo?!  Of course Lavrov and everybody else understand that this could not have happened without Pompeo’s go-ahead.  How much did Lavrov’s diplomatic talk help Trump?  I don’t think that it made any difference.  And it did make Lavrov look plain silly (a very rare case indeed!) in the eyes of the western public.  Was it worth it?  I don’t think so!

Next, so far the Russians have failed to really put pressure on the USA worldwide, but the reality is that she has plenty of options to hurt US security, political and economic interests. For example in Africa where Russia (and China) have gained a lot of traction in recent years or in Latin America where Russia could provide much more political support to opposition groups to local comprador regimes (say in Brazil, Colombia or even Mexico!).  I don’t mean do what the USSR did and waste millions on local Communist parties or by single-handedly supporting the local economies.  But the Russians could begin using political methods (covert and overt) to being showing the US intelligence community (which will immediately detect this) that there is a price to pay.

What would be important in this case would be to start very “low”, with a few actions here and there, just enough to get the US Americans to notice and then to protest in back-channels.  Once this happens, the Russians could simply say “you treat us as hostiles, fine, but there will be a price to pay”.  The first time around Uncle Shmuel is unlikely to notice, but once this become a pattern, especially an increasing one, trust me, he will notice!

And, consider this: the USA is already, and has been since at least 2013, engaged in a full-spectrum aggression on Russia and they have pretty much exhausted all nasty measures which the USA could implement more or less safely.  Escalating further by, say, disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT, or try to impose a no-fly zone over Syria or try to disconnect Russia from the Internet, or blockade Russian ships – these are all measures which are often mentioned, but which would definitely trigger a dangerous Russian retaliation.  The Russians have made several (very uncharacteristic) warnings about that and the US Americans most likely understood that perfectly.  This is also what happened when the Ukronazis were on the verge of an attack on Russia and Putin decided to (again very uncharacteristically) warn Kiev that any such attack would have major “consequences for the Ukrainian statehood“.  All the Ukrainians, most of them being either Russian or understanding the Russian political culture, immediately understood what that meant and the much announced offensive was scrapped.

Conclusion: Russians still often suck at PR

Yes, RT was huge progress, and even Sputnik probably has a function for the western audiences.  And ladies like Zakharova sure are a HUGE progress compared to the stone-faced Soviet spokesmen.  But, simply put, this is not enough.

Furthermore, even inside the Russian society there are real patriots (not just western agents) who are getting mighty fed-up with the Kremlin’s, let’s kindly call it “meek” or “hyper-polite” attitude.  Meekness is a great quality, so are good manners.  But other attitudes and actions are needed when faced with rogue thug-like regimes, especially when those regimes are both self-worshiping and appallingly ignorant.

I have already mentioned in the past that I believed that the “retirement age reform” was a mistake and that it would create a new, patriotic, opposition to the Kremlin’s policies and even, but to a lesser degree, to Putin himself.  This did happen, even if Putin’s last-minute intervention kinda softened the blow and, eventually, this topic was if not forgotten, then at least not the top issue.

Then there has been, for years now, a weird policy of apparent appeasement of the Nazi regime in Kiev.  Since Putin’s very public threat, since he refused to even take phone calls from Poroshenko and since the Russians have FINALLY begun handing out passports to the Ukrainians, things have somewhat improved on that front.  But for YEARS the Russian opposition (patriotic or not at all) was warning about an imminent “sellout” of Novorussia and that hurt the Kremlin (even if that sellout never happened).

I think that it is high time for Putin or Lavrov to start “not taking calls” from Trump or Pompeo, initially figuratively but, if needed, maybe even literally.

As for the patriotic opposition to Putin, there would be a very easy way to deal with it:

  1. start listening to it and show much more firmness
  2. finally give the boot to some of the more toxic 5th columnists in the government
  3. invite that opposition for a real national debate in various public forums (Valdai, TV, radio, etc.)

I think that many of these patriotic opponent of the Kremlin would be glad to fully support Putin if he did that.  If he fails to do so, this opposition will only grow.  Right now the Kremlin is “lucky” that this patriotic opposition has not succeeded (yet?) in presenting a single halfway credible political figure to lead it.  To my great regret, most of the folks involved are angry, bitter and deeply resentful that they have been almost completely ignored by the Kremlin.  But this will inevitably change, especially if the current government continues to look weak, indecisive and not truly patriotic at all.

Thus, I believe that, both for external and internal reasons, the Kremlin needs to develop and implement a much firmer policy towards US-ordered kidnapping of Russian citizens.  I also believe that this will happen once the political costs for the Kremlin of its current “politeness” become even higher.

One more thing – remember the US seizure of Russian diplomatic buildings in the USA?  Putin’s response was very typically Russian: he invited the children of US diplomats to Christmas ceremony in the Kremlin.  For a short while, he did look like the proverbial “better man”.  But what since?  NOTHING!  Another President sits in the White House and the buildings are still under illegal US control.  Did Putin’s “better man” attitude do anybody any good?  Especially in the long term?  I sure don’t think so.  There is a simple truth that every cop knows: narcissistic thugs do not appreciate good manners.  There is a lesson here.

The Saker

PS: I just saw this video of Iumasheva explaining what happened to her:

Time: Imam Khamenei Emerged As the Most Powerful Person in the ME

Time: Imam Khamenei Emerged As the Most Powerful Person in the ME

By Staff, Time

Amid the escalating tension in the Middle East, the American Time magazine chose to shed light on the power of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

Admitting in the title that US President Donald Trump might not win his war on Iran, Karim Sadjadpour stated that Leader of the Islamic Revolution his Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali “Khamenei has quietly emerged as the most powerful person in the Middle East, with uniformed military fighting in Syria and loyal proxies dominant in Lebanon, Yemen and [despite a US investment of $1 trillion and thousands of lives].”

In this context, the writer claimed that: “He [Imam Khamenei] has also presided over an audacious and escalating campaign to raise uncertainty and global oil prices, shooting down a $176 million US drone, blowing holes in tankers and bombing the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, all without drawing a US military response.”

Reflecting Imam Khamenei’s wisdom in dealing with tensions, the Time mentioned: “For years, he has carefully calibrated Iran’s reaction to US pressure: an insufficient response might project weakness and invite more pressure. An excessive response, on the other hand, could trigger a serious US retaliation and risk outright war.”

“[Imam] Khamenei has shown a lifelong commitment to his: resistance against “global arrogance” – his moniker for American imperialism – is both ideology and strategic doctrine for the theocracy,” it added.

In this context, the magazine recalled that in June, Imam Khamenei told the Prime Minister of Japan, who had come bearing a message from the White House, “I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with.”

Moreover, Sadjadpour also highlighted “in more than two decades researching Iran, both in Tehran and the US, I have learned the most important indicator of the regime’s behavior is in the speeches of the Supreme Leader.”

“Iran is the only nation in the world simultaneously fighting three cold wars – with “Israel”, Saudi Arabia and the US,” he added, pointing out that “Khamenei manages those conflicts with two crucial tools: Qasem Soleimani, the charismatic commander of IRGC operations abroad, is Khamenei’s sword. FM Javad Zarif is his shield, deflecting Western economic and political pressure. Soleimani deals with foreign armies, Zarif with Foreign Ministers.”

On the personal level, the daily underscored that “[Imam] Khamenei is a reader. He has frequently said Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is the greatest novel ever written, and his Instagram feed shows him smiling as he reads a Persian translation of Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s unflattering account of Trump’s first year in office.”

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Syrian War Report – October 4, 2019: Iran Foils Attempt To Assasinate Commander Of Qods Force

South Front

Turkey is fortifying its border with the Syrian province of Idlib with cement blocks, barbed wires, and other military-style structures. According to Ankara, Idlib is in the hands of the so-called moderate opposition. However, it is for some reason concerned over the presence of these moderate activists in the border area.

During the past months, the Turkish military deployed notable forces, including heavy military equipment, on the Turkish side of the border with the Syrian province. Most of these forces are located near the opposition-controlled border crossings.

Meanwhile, the situation once again escalated in the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone. On October 3, the Syrian Army shelled militant positions near the town of Kafr Nabudah and Baarbu in southern Idlib with heavy rockets. On the same day, helicopters of the Syrian Air Force delivered a fresh round of strikes in northern Lattakia targeting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham near Kabani.

Pro-militant sources also reported that the Syrian Army shelled area near a Turkish observation point in Maarat.

Despite efforts of Turkey, Iran and Russia in the framework of the Astana format, Idlib militant groups continue shelling positions of the Syrian Army along the contact line in southern Idlib and northern Lattakia on a regular basis. This forces the army to respond and fuels instability in the area.

The Intelligence Service of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that it had foiled an “Israeli-Arabic” plot to assassinate Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of the IRGC. According to Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb, the assassination squad bought a house next to the shrine of Gen. Soleimani’s father, prepared 350-500kg of explosives and planted them in a tunnel under the shrine. The squad planned to carry out the attack on September 8 or 9, which are the 9th and 10th days of the holy Islamic month of Muharram. Gen. Soleimani was supposed to visit his father shrine on one of these days. The IRGC arrested the entire squad consisting of 3 operatives. G_3

Iran is yet to name the side responsible for the supposed assassination attempt. However, most likely, Teheran will accuse Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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IRGC’s intelligence unit thwarts Arab-Israeli plot to assassinate Gen. Soleimani

Major General Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)

Major General Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)

Press TV

Thu Oct 3, 2019 11:36AM [Updated: Thu Oct 3, 2019 12:15PM ]

The intelligence unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has thwarted an Arab-Israeli plot to assassinate Major General Qassem Soleimani, a globally famous defense strategist who played a key role in the counter-terrorism operations that led to the collapse of the Daesh terror group in Iraq and Syria.

Hossein Taeb, the head of the IRGC’s intelligence unit, said on Thursday that plot — hatched by Hebrew-Arab intelligence services — would see a team of terrorist recruits enter Iran to pave the way for a bomb attack targeting Soleimani, who commands the IRGC’s Quds Force, in the country’s southeastern province of Kerman.

According to Taeb, the terrorists were supposed to buy a place next to a Husseiniyah (religious hall) belonging to General Soleimani’s late father, plant 350-500 kilograms of explosives beneath the place, and blow up the site during Tasu’a and Ashura mourning processions marking the martyrdom anniversary of  Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam, on September 8-9.

The plotters were, however, under watch since they transferred the terrorist cell’s members to a neighboring state for high-cost training programs before carrying out the terror plot, the IRGC official said.

Following a “precise and smart intelligence operation,” the IRGC’s intelligence unit “succeeded in arresting the three-member team,” he said, adding that the “Hebrew-Arab services” had spent several years to draw up the plot for such crime.

“Through this ominous act, they were after igniting a religious conflict and portray it (assassination) as a domestic revenge case; however, with God’s blessing, despite several years of planning, they encountered the barrier of diligence and vigilance of the Iranian nation’s children and were trapped by the IRGC’s intelligence unit before [being able to] carry out the plot,” he added.

He also pointed out that members of the team had confessed after their arrests that they had wanted “something big” to disrupt the internal order and public opinion.

Major General Soleimani successfully led Iranian military advisers backing the national armies of Syria and Iraq in their fight against terror groups, many of which had the backing of the Israeli regime and certain Persian Gulf Arab regimes.

General Soleimani was present on the ground to supervise the decisive stages of Iran-backed operations against Daesh, which lost in late 2017 all the territories it had seized in Iraq and Syria.

Earlier this week, the senior IRGC commander gave an interview to the website of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, during which he gave an insight to his key role during Israel’s 33-War on Lebanon in 2006.

According to a 629-page Winograd Report by the Israeli regime itself, Hezbollah resistance fighters involved in defending Lebanon against the Israeli war alongside the national army defeated the enemy and Tel Aviv was compelled to withdraw without having achieved any of its objectives.

General Soleimani topped Foreign Policy (FP)’s 2019 list of Global Thinkers in the defense and security field.

In November 2018, The New York Times revealed a March 2017 meeting in Riyadh to assassinate Iranian officials, namely General Soleimani.

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Iran prevails over the USA, twice, but this is far from over

Iran prevails over the USA, twice, but this is far from over

The Saker

September 26, 2019

[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]

An Iranian official has announced that the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero was free to leave.  Remember the Stena Impero?  This is the tanker the IRGC arrested after the Empire committed an act of piracy on the high seas and seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1.  Col Cassad posted a good summary of this info-battle, blow by blow (corrected machine translation):

  1. Britain, at the instigation of the US, seizes the Iranian tanker Grace 1 and demands from Iran guarantees that it in any case does not go to Syria.
  2. Iran, in response, captures the British tanker Stena Impero and says it will not retreat until the British releases Grace 1.  British ships that guarded merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz were warned that they would be destroyed if they interfered with the IRGC’s actions.
  3. After 2 months, Britain officially releases Grace 1, which is renamed Adrian Darya 1. It raised the Iranian flag and changed the crew.
  4. The British government says the tanker is released under Iran’s obligations not to unload the tanker at the Syrian port of Banias or anywhere else in Syria. Iran denies this.
  5. The US officially requires Britain and Gibraltar to arrest Adrian Darya 1 and not let him into Syria, as it violates the sanctions regime. Britain and Gibraltar refuse the US.
  6. Adrian Darya 1 reaches the coast of Syria and after a few days on the beam of Banias, unloads its cargo in Syria. The Iranian government says it has not made any commitments to anyone.
  7. After Adrian Darya 1 left Syria, Iran announced that it was ready to release the British tanker. The goal has been achieved.

This is truly an amazing series of steps, really!

The USA is the undisputed maritime hyper-power, not only because of its huge fleet, but because of its network of bases all over the planet (700-1000 depending on how you count) and, possibly even more importantly, a network of so-called “allies”, “friends”, “partners” and “willing coalition members” (aka de facto US colonies) worldwide.  In comparison, Iran is a tiny dwarf, at least in maritime terms.  But, as the US expression goes, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” which decides the outcome.

And then there is the (provisional) outcome of the Houthi strike on the Saudi oil installations.  The Saudis appeared to be pushing for war against Iran, as did Pompeo, but Trump apparently decided otherwise:

Some have focused on the fact that Trump said that it was “easy” to attack Iran.  Others have ridiculed Trump for his silly bragging about how US military gear would operate in spite of the dismal failure of both US cruise missile attacks (on Syria) and the Patriot SAMs (in the KSA).  But all that bragging is simply obligatory verbal flag-waving; this is what the current political culture in the USA demands from all politicians.  But I think that the key part of his comments is when he says that to simply attack would be “easy” (at least for him it would) but that this would not show strength.  I also notice that Trump referred to those who predicted that he would start a war and said that they were wrong about him.  Trump also acknowledged that a lot of people are happy that he does not strike (while others deplored that, of course, beginning with the entire US pseudo-liberal & pseudo-Left media and politicians).  The one exception has been, again, Tulsi Gabbard who posted this after Trump declared that the US was “locked and loaded”:

Whatever may be the case, this time again, Trump seemed to have taken a last minute decision to scrap the attack the Neocons have been dreaming about for decades.

I think that I made my opinion about Trump pretty clear, yet I also have to repeat that all these “climbdowns” by Trump are, just by themselves, a good enough reason to justify a vote for Trump.  Simply put; since Trump came to power we saw a lot of hubris, nonsense, ignorance and stupidity.  But we did NOT see a war, especially not a major one.  I will never be able to prove that, but I strongly believe that if Hillary had won, the Middle-East would have already exploded (most likely after a US attempt at imposing a no-fly zone over Syria).

We are also very lucky that, at least in this case, the rapid every four year Presidential election in the USA contributes to keep Trump (and his Neocon masters) in check: Trump probably figured out that a blockade of Venezuela or, even more so, a strike on Iran would severely compromise his chances of being re-elected, especially since neither theater offers the US any exit strategy.

Still, following these immensely embarrassing defeats, Trump and his advisors had to come up with something “manly” (which they confuse with “macho”) and make some loud statements about sending more forces to the Persian Gulf and beefing up the Saudi air defenses.  This will change nothing.  Iran is already the most over-sanctioned country on the planet and we have seen what US air defense can, and cannot do.  Truth be told, this is all about face-saving and I don’t mind any face-saving inanities as long as they make it possible to avoid a real shooting war.

Still, the closer we get to the next US election, the more Trump should not only carefully filter what he says, he would be well advised to give some clear and strict instructions to his entire Administration about what they can say and what they cannot say.  Of course, in the case of a rabid megalomaniac like Pompeo, no such “talking points” will be enough: Trump needs to fire this psychopath ASAP and appoint a real diplomat as Secretary of State.  After all, Pompeo belongs in the same padded room as Bolton.

Now if we look at the situation from the Iranian point of view, it is most interesting.  First, for context, I recommend the recent articles posted by Iranian analysts on the blog, especially the following ones:

  1. War Gaming the Persian Gulf Conflict” by Black Archer Williams
  2. Karbala, The Path of Most Resistance” by Mansoureh Tadjik
  3. Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again” by Aram Mirzaei

I also recommend my recent interview with Professor Marandi.

I recommend all these Iranian voices because they are so totally absent from the political discussions on the Middle-East, at least in western media.  Williams, Tadjik, Mirzaei and Marandi are very different people, they also have different point of views and focuses of interest, but when you read them you realize how confident and determined Iranians are.  I am in contact with Iranians abroad and in Iran and all of them, with no exception, share that calm determination.  It seems that, just like Russians, Iranians most certainly don’t want war, but they are ready for it.

The Iranian preferred strategy is also clear: just the way Hezbollah keeps Israel in check so will the Houthis with the KSA.  The Houthis, who are now in a very strong negotiation position, have offered to stop striking the KSA if the Saudis do likewise.  Now, the Saudis, just like the Israelis, are too weak to accept any such offer, that is paradoxical but true: if the Saudis officially took the deal, that would “seal” their defeat in the eyes of their own public opinion.  Having said that, I can’t believe that the Saudis believe their own propaganda about war against Iran.  No matter how delusional and arrogant the Saudi leaders are, surely they must realize what a war against Iran would mean for the House of Saud (although when I read this I wonder)!  It is one thing to murder defenseless Shias in the KSA, Bahrain or Yemen and quite another to take on “the country which trained Hezbollah”.

Speaking of delusional behavior, the Europeans finally did fall in line behind their AngloZionist overlords and agreed to blame Iran for the attack under what I call the “Skripal rules of evidence” aka “highly likely“.  The more things change, the more they remain the same I suppose…

It is pretty clear that all the members of the Axis of Kindness (USA, KSA, Israel) are in deep trouble on the internal front: Trump is busy with the “Zelensky vs Biden” scandal, especially now since the Dems are opening impeachment procedures, the latest elections failed to deliver the result Bibi wanted, as for the Saudis, after pushing for war they now have to settle for more sanctions and radars, hardly a winning combination.

The Saudis are too weak, clueless and obese (physically and mentally) to get anything done by themselves.  But the USA and Israel are now in a dire need to show some kind of “victory” over, well, somebody.  Anybody will do.  Thus the US have just denied visas 10 members of the Russian delegation to the United Nations (thereby violating yet another US obligation under international law, but nobody in the US cares about such minor trivialities as international law); and just to show how amazingly powerful the Empire is, the Iranian delegation to the UN received the same “punished bad boys” treatment: truly, a triumph worthy of a superpower!  Last minute update: the US is now revoking Iranian student visas and denying entry to Venezuelan diplomats.

This “war of visas” is the US equivalent of the “war on statues” the Ukrainians, Balts and the Poles have been waging to try to distract their population from the comprador policies of their governments.

As for the Israelis, I now expect the Israelis to strike some empty building in Syria (or even in Gaza!).

Conclusion: facts don’t really matter anymore, and neither does logic

Ten years ago Chris Hedges wrote a book called “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle ” and, a full decade later, this title is still an extremely accurate diagnostic.  What Hedges politely called the “end of literacy” can be observed in all its facets, listening to US political and military leaders. While most of them are, indeed, morally bankrupt and even psychopaths, it is their level of ignorance and incompetence which is the most amazing.  First, the Russians spoke of “non-agreement-capable” “partners” but eventually Putin quipped that it was hard to work with “people who confuse Austria and Australia“.  This all, by the way, applies as much to the Obama Administration as it does to the Trump Administration: their common motto could have been “illusions über alles” or something similar.  Once a political culture fully enters into the realm of illusions and delusions the end is near because no real-world problem ever gets tackled: it only gets obfuscated, denied and drowned into an ocean of triumphalist back-slapping and other forms of self-worship.

Post scriptum: the US goes crazy but Trump just might survive after all

So the Dems decided to try to impeach Trump.  While I always expected the Neocons to treat Trump as the “disposable President” which they would try to use to do all the stuff they don’t want to be blamed for directly, and then toss him away once they squeezed him for everything he could give them, I am still appalled by the nerve, the arrogance and the total dishonesty of the Dems (see my rant here).

My gut feeling is that Trump just might beat this one for the very same reason he won the first time around: because the other side is even worse (except Tulsi Gabbard, of course).

Of course, an attack on Iran would be a welcome distraction à la “wag the dog” and Trump might be tempted.  Hopefully, the Dems will self-destruct fast enough for Trump not to have to consider this.

The Saker

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Interview with Masseer Especial Journal [Part 1]

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Interview with Masseer Especial Journal [Part 1]

Translated by Khamenei.ir

Masseer Especial Journal, which belongs to Khamenei.ir, has conducted an interview with His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is published for the first time.

The following is part one of the interview:

I would like to start the interview by asking you how the situation in the region was, at the time when the Islamic Revolution became victorious. How was the situation in the West Asian region? Particularly given that one of the important dimensions of the Islamic Revolution is its regional and international implications, what changes occurred in the regional equations following the Islamic Revolution and what events have we witnessed? With the Islamic Revolution gaining victory, what took place in the region in general and in Lebanon in particular?

In the name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful. First, I would like to welcome you. If we go back to the past and observe the developments, we will find that, very shortly before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, a very significant incident took place in the region, namely the withdrawal of the Arab Republic of Egypt from the Arab-‘Israeli’ conflict and the signing of the Camp David Treaty. This event—due to the important and effective role of Egypt in the aforementioned conflict—had a very dangerous impact on the region as well as on the Arab-‘Israeli’ confrontation over the issue of Palestine and the future of Palestine.

After that incident, in the first place, it seemed that the confrontation was going on largely in favor of ‘Israel’. This was mainly because other Arab countries and Palestinian resistance groups were not able to confront major powers without the help of Egypt at that time. So, firstly, the occurrence of such an incident led to the emergence of a deep division among Arab countries.

Secondly, you remember that at the time, there was a US-led Western bloc opposing the USSR. Therefore, there existed a split in our region: the gap between the countries associated with the Soviet Union—that is, the Eastern bloc—and the countries depending on the United States, the Western bloc.

Accordingly, we could see a deep divide among the Arab countries in the region, and this gap had devastating consequences for the nations and of course, also had an impact on the Arab-‘Israeli’ conflict. At the time, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States essentially affected our region and its developments.

In the case of Lebanon, it should be said that Lebanon is also part of this region, and thus, it has been severely affected by its developments, including ‘Israeli’ actions, the Arab-‘Israeli’ conflict, and the divisions in the region. At that time, Lebanon faced domestic problems as well, and was suffering from the civil war. The ‘Israeli’ enemy occupied parts of southern Lebanon in 1978, that is one year before the Islamic Revolution, and then created a security zone called the “border strip” on the Lebanese-Palestinian borders. The ‘Israeli’ enemy, through this security zone, continued its daily aggression against Lebanon, its cities, villages and people. Indeed, we faced a very serious problem: the ‘Israeli’ occupation in parts of southern Lebanon and its daily aggressions. ‘Israeli’ warplanes and their artillery bombed southern Lebanon; abduction operations and multiple explosions by the Zionist regime continued in its worst form, and people were displaced following these brutal acts. These events also took place between 1977 and 1979; that is, not long before the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Did they use the Palestinian presence in Lebanon as the pretext?

Yes; the ‘Israelis’ objected the existence of Palestinian resistance and operations carried out by Palestinians. However, this was just an excuse because ‘Israeli’s’ runs of aggressions in southern Lebanon began in 1948, when Palestinian resistance was not present in southern Lebanon. Palestinian resistance set base in southern Lebanon in the late 60s and early 1970s, especially after the events in Jordan and the arrival of Palestinian groups from Jordan in Lebanon.

It was in those circumstances that the Islamic Revolution of Iran gained victory. This victory came at a time when an atmosphere of despair was dominant in the Arab and Muslim world and concern for the future was widespread. Egypt’s withdrawal from the Arab-‘Israeli’ conflict and the signature of the Camp David Treaty, the imposition of a humiliating political process on the Palestinians and Arabs, as well as the weakness of the rulers of the Arab countries all provoked the despair, grief, hopelessness, disappointment, and worry for the future at that time. Therefore, the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in such an environment, revived the lost hopes in the region and among the nations to begin with, particularly the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

This victory (the victory of the Islamic Revolution) also brought about the resurgence of the hopes of a nation that had been cornered by the existence of ‘Israel’. Because the position of Imam Khomeini (Q.S. – May his spirit be blessed) regarding the Zionist project, the necessity of the liberation of Palestine, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Palestinian resistance groups was clear from the beginning. Imam Khomeini (r.a) believed in supporting the people of Palestine, liberating every inch of the land, and obliteration of the ‘Israeli’ entity as a usurping regime in the region. Therefore, the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran created a growing hope for the future and increased a hundred fold the moral and motivation of the supporters of the resistance as well as the resistance groups in the region.

The victory of the Islamic Revolution also created a balance of power in the region. Egypt fled the fight against ‘Israel’ and the Islamic Republic of Iran entered. Therefore, the balance of power in the Arab-‘Israeli’ conflict was restored, and for this reason, the resistance project in the region entered a new historical phase. This was the starting point for the Islamic movement and jihad in the Arab and Muslim world and among Shi’as and Sunnis alike.

Imam Khomeini (Q.S.) introduced several mottos regarding various subjects such as the question of Palestine, Islamic unity, Resistance, facing and confronting the United States of America, stability and sustainability, trust and confidence of nations in God and in themselves, revival of faith in one’s own power when confronting the arrogant powers and towards the realization of victory. Undoubtedly, these mottos had a very positive and direct impact on the situation in the region at that time.

In addition to the general atmosphere created by the Islamic Revolution and the new spirit that Imam [Khomeini (r.a)] inspired in the hearts of the people of the region, resurrecting the resistance, what memory do you specifically have of Imam Khomeini and his stances regarding the resistance in Lebanon and by Hezbollah?

Yes, in the year 1982. If we want to talk about it, we should consider the liberation of Khorramshahr in Iran. The ‘Israelis’ were deeply concerned about the war between Iran and Iraq, or Saddam’s imposed war against Iran. For this reason, after the liberation of Khorramshahr, the ‘Israelis’ decided to attack Lebanon. Of course, this action had its own root causes, and there was a profound connection between the victories in the Iranian front and the ‘Israeli’ aggression against Lebanon. This was how the ‘Israelis’ entered Lebanon, Beqaa region, Mount Lebanon Governorate, and Beirut suburbs. At that time, a group of scholars, brothers and fighters had decided to form the Islamic Resistance and establish the Islamic-Jihadi foundation of [the movement of] Resistance, corresponding to the aftermath of ‘Israeli’ invasion.

By then, ‘Israel’ had not penetrated in all of Lebanon and had only reached about half of Lebanon—that is 40% of Lebanon’s total area. 100,000 ‘Israeli’ soldiers entered Lebanon. They brought with them American, French, English and Italian multinational forces on the pretext of maintaining peace. Meanwhile, there were militias in Lebanon who were involved with and collaborated with the ‘Israelis’. By pointing to these facts, I mean to picture how very, very bad the situation was at that time.

Subsequently, a group of scholars (ulema), believers, and Mujahid brothers decided to launch a new movement for Jihad in the name of Islamic Resistance, which shortly afterwards was renamed “Hezbollah.” The formation of this front coincided with the decision of Imam Khomeini (Q.S.) to send Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces to Syria and Lebanon to oppose and confront ‘Israeli’ aggression. Initially, the intention was for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops to fight alongside Syrian forces as well as Lebanese and Palestinian resistance groups. But after some time the scope of ‘Israeli’ attacks became limited, so this was no longer a classic battlefield, and the need for resistance operations by popular groups was felt more than ever.

It was at that time that Imam Khomeini (QS) replaced the mission of direct confrontation by the IRGC and Iranian forces, who had come to Syria and Lebanon, by offering help and providing military training to Lebanese youth, so that they—i.e. the Lebanese youth themselves—would be able to deal with the occupiers and carry out resistance operations. This is the first [of Imam Khomeini’s positions].

Therefore, the mission of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in Syria, as well as the Lebanese Beqaa region—in Baalbek, Hermel and Janta, that is, where there were training bases—was changed to providing military training to the Lebanese youth. They taught the Lebanese youths the methods of warfare and provided them with logistic support. The mere presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon at that time gave the Lebanese youth and Resistance groups a purpose and a high spirit to stand up to ‘Israel’.

As I said earlier, it was decided that a large group would be formed and nine representatives were selected on behalf of the pro-resistance brothers, including the martyr Sayyed Abbas al Moussawi (r.a), to pursue this important issue. Naturally, I was not among these nine people, because at that time I was young, about 22 or 23 years old. These 9 people travelled to Iran and met with the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They also had a meeting with Imam Khomeini (QS). During their meeting with Imam Khomeini (r.a), while offering him a report on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, they presented their proposal for the formation of an Islamic resistance front. They said to Imam Khomeini (r.a): “We believe in your guidance, your authority (wilayah) and your leadership. Tell us what we need to do.”

In return, Imam Khomeini (r.a) insisted that their duty was to resist and stand against the enemy in full force, even if you have limited means and are in smaller numbers. This is while Hezbollah had a smaller number of members then. He said: “Start from scratch: trust in the Almighty God, and do not wait for anyone in the world to help you. Rely on yourself and know that God helps you. I see you victorious.” It was an amazing thing. Imam Khomeini (r.a) regarded this path as auspicious, and thus, the meeting during which our brothers met with him, laid the foundation stone for the formation of the Islamic resistance front, under the auspicious title of ‘Hezbollah’, in Lebanon.

At that time, our brothers told Imam: “We believe in your guidance, authority and leadership, but in any case, you are very busy, and you are at an old age, and we cannot allow ourselves to continuously disturb you about different issues and problems. For this reason, we are asking you to name a representative to whom we can refer on various issues.” Then he introduced Imam Khamenei (May God continue his oversight), who was the president at the time, and said: “Mr. Khamenei is my representative.” Consequently, the relationship between Hezbollah and Ayatollah Khamenei (May God protect him) began from the very early hours of the establishment and foundation of this group; we were always in contact with him in different times, we met with him frequently and gave him reports on the latest developments and he always praised the resistance.

I remember the issue of several Hezbollah martyrdom-seeking members. You know that the first experience of a martyrdom-seeking operation took place in Lebanon, and was conducted by our brothers. The brothers sent a video file—before publicizing it in the media—containing oral testaments of those fighters seeking martyrdom, who had carried out a major martyrdom operation in Lebanon, and had shaken the invaders to their core. This video was played for Imam Khomeini, and he watched it and discussed it. The testaments were very beautiful and full of enthusiasm, mysticism and love. After watching the testaments, Imam Khomeini (r.a) said: “These are young [chivalrous] people. All of them were young.” He then said: “These are the true mystics.” The fact is that the Imam was strongly affected by the testaments.

Imam Khomeini’s collaboration, support for, and attention to the resistance and Hezbollah of Lebanon continued until the very last day of his auspicious life. I remember about one or two months before the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a), when he was ill and rarely met with domestic officials and even less with foreign officials, I went to Iran as a member and an executive official of the Hezbollah council and met with Ayatollah Khamenei, late Ayatollah Rafsanjani and other Iranian officials, and asked if I could have a meeting with Imam Khomeini. I was told that he is ill and does not meet with anyone. I asked them to try and they agreed to do their best. Then I went to the office of Imam Khomeini (r.a) and put in a request for an appointment. At the time, one of our friends among Imam Khomeini’s household, Sheikh Rahimian (May God protect him)—who paid particular attention to the Lebanese—shared the matter with the late Sayed Ahmad Khomeini (r.a), and I was informed on the second day to get ready for a meeting. Naturally, we were all surprised. I went to meet Imam Khomeini (r.a) and nobody else was there, not even Sayed Ahmad; not even any of the Foreign Ministry’s officials or IRGC staff, who would usually attend the meetings, were there. Sheikh Rahimian accompanied me to Imam’s room but then went and left me alone with Imam. I was overwhelmed and awed by his presence.

Imam Khomeini was sitting on a high chair and I sat down on the floor. Awestruck by his grandeur, I could not say a word. Imam asked me to get closer. I went closer and sat next to him. We spoke and I handed to him a letter I had brought with me. Imam answered the questions I had shared with him regarding the developments of that time in Lebanon, then smiled and said: “Tell all our brothers not to worry. My brothers and I in the Islamic Republic of Iran are all with you. We will always be with you “. This was my last meeting with Imam Khomeini (r.a).

I wish we had time to hear more extensively from you about that time. Thanks again for the opportunity you gave us. You said that, Hezbollah was formed and began its activities during a very difficult time. You correctly mentioned that Iran itself was dealing with an invasion of its borders. In Lebanon, the Zionist regime periodically attacked the people and committed murder and plunder, and in any case, Hezbollah began its work in such a difficult situation. You also said that Imam Khomeini referred you to Ayatollah Khamenei to be in touch with him. I would like to ask you to point out some of the important pieces of advice that Ayatollah Khamenei (May God continue his oversight) gave you after the passing of Imam Khomeini, and let us know the measures that he guided you to take during his presidency. What we mean to make clear, when we reach the time of Imam Khamenei’s leadership, is the history of why Hezbollah was very pleased and reassured with his election as the leader of the Islamic Republic. What has happened that made you feel that way?

From the very first moment of our relationship with Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, I call him, in my own words, Mr. Leader. So let me use the same word, the Leader, to refer to him. My brothers had a Hezbollah Council within Hezbollah, with 7-10 members—changing at each stage. The members of this council always met with the Leader during his presidency. What I wish to say about that time, almost 7 years of Ayatollah Khamenei’s presidency before the passing of Imam Khomeini…

Was there a specific person to go between Hezbollah and Ayatollah Khamenei?

I get back to this point. The fact is that the Leader particularly valued Lebanese groups and provided them with sufficient time. I remember meetings that sometimes lasted for 2, 3 or even 4 hours. He listened carefully to what we had to say. Our friends and brothers also described the issues for him in details. As you know, at the time, they were not all on the same wavelength, and our brothers had different views. The Leader listened to all the comments, views, and opinions. Naturally, there was no Arabic language problem either, because he was fluent in Arabic and spoke it well. He spoke Arabic beautifully.

Nonetheless, he preferred to be accompanied by an Arabic translator; He usually spoke in Persian, but had no need for translation when the Lebanese spoke in Arabic. His full mastery of Arabic language contributed greatly to his deep understanding of the problems and the views of our Lebanese brothers. The important point is that, despite having full authority from Imam Khomeini, the Leader tried to play the role of a guide, and helped us make the decisions ourselves. I always remember that in every meeting, at that time and after being appointed as the Leader, whenever he wanted to comment, he would indicate ‘my suggestion is’. For example, he had reached a conclusion, but he would ask us to “sit down, consult with each other, and make the correct decision.

Indeed, the Leader at that critical stage managed to play an important role guiding the group in cultivating Hezbollah leaders and commanders intellectually, scientifically, and mentally, so that our brothers could make decisions confidently and by relying on their own capabilities even during the most difficult situations. He would make comments but he would refer to a Persian proverb that said: the expediency of a country is recognized by its owners. His Eminence would say: you are from Lebanon and thus have a better command of your affairs. We can only make a few comments and you can apply them, but it is you who will make the final decision. Do not wait for anyone to make decisions on your behalf. Therefore, the role of the Leader in the training, growth and swift development of Hezbollah was very significant.

In the first years, our brothers went to Iran two or three times a year—that is, they would travel to Iran about every 6 months—to learn about the Iranian officials’ viewpoints regarding the developments in the region, as at that time, developments in the region were taking place very rapidly. Naturally, at that time there was also the war; the 8-year imposed war against Iran and its implications for the region. Therefore, our brothers constantly needed to exchange information, consult with and get support from Iran. At that time, if our brothers were faced with an immediate and urgent problem, they would send me to Iran. Because I was younger than the others, and there was no systematic protection, or anything similar in place for me. I was alone, carrying a bag with me. This means that my trips to Iran, since I was not well known, were not complicated and there was no security threat around me.

On the other hand, I was acquainted with Persian language more than my other brothers in Hezbollah, and for this reason, they preferred me to travel to Iran. From the very beginning, there was compassion and affection between me and my Iranian brothers. My brothers in Hezbollah would tell me: you like Iranians and the Iranians like you too. So you should travel to Iran. On behalf of my brothers in Lebanon, I met with the Leader for one to two hours. Even when all issues had been discussed and I was prepared to leave, he would say: “Why are you in a hurry? Stay, and if there’s anything left, let’s discuss it”. That stage was very important for Hezbollah, because Hezbollah had focused on fundamental issues, fundamental approaches and fundamental goals. They made a collection of varying opinions, but we eventually managed to compile a single united book. Now I can say that we have a unified viewpoint in Hezbollah. Different perspectives have been unified and consolidated due to the events and experiences that we have gone through, and thanks to the guidance, advice, and leadership of Imam Khomeini (r.a) while he was alive and of the Leader after the passing of Imam Khomeini.

I wish there was more time to listen to your memories at length…

You will at some point say ‘I wish’… [laughs]

Anyways, our time is very limited. Putting that period a side, now let’s talk about 1989, when Imam Khomeini passed away to the mercy of Allah, and our people and every devotee of the Islamic Revolution were mourning. Those moments were naturally critical moments for both our country and the devotees of the Islamic Revolution. Please explain briefly what the state of your affairs was, at the time when Ayatollah Khamenei was chosen as the successor to Imam Khomeini? Also tell us more about the events that you encountered at that time, after Imam Khomeini’s passing away, in the regional and international arena.

We had a very critical period at that time, because that era coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the beginning of American unilateralism and the end of the Cold War. At the same time, we saw that the Zionist regime started talking about peace negotiations, and on the other hand, the Islamic Revolution was in a particular situation. Obviously, the Americans had plans for the post-Imam Khomeini (r.a) era. We would like you to talk about those circumstances and describe them to us, and about how the Leader responded to the important developments that took place at regional and international levels?
As you know, during the lifetime of Imam Khomeini, members of Hezbollah of Lebanon and the supporters of the resistance, had close ties with him, both intellectually and culturally. However, Hezbollah members were also emotionally and passionately dependent on Imam Khomeini. Like many Iranians who fought against Saddam’s war on Iran, they really loved Imam Khomeini (r.a). Members of Hezbollah of Lebanon regarded him as an Imam, a leader, a guide, a Marja’, and a father. I have never seen the Lebanese love anyone so much. Consequently, the demise of Imam Khomeini on that day brought about a mountain of sadness and grief to the Lebanese; a feeling definitely not less intense than the sadness and grief of the Iranians. This was the emotional connection between the Lebanese and Imam Khomeini (r.a).

But on the other hand, there was a major concern at that time, and it was that the Western media were constantly talking about the post-Imam Khomeini era (r.a), claiming that the main problem was this man and that Iran would collapse after him and a civil war would break out; that there would be no substitute for the leadership of the country. In this regard, a very intense psychological warfare had started in those years, in the last year of the glorious life of Imam Khomeini (r.a), [particularly in the light of other incidents including the dismissal of Late Ayatollah Montazeri and other issues]. For this reason, there were concerns. At that time, we were being told that your source of support—i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran, upon which you rely and in which have faith—will start a downfall and collapse after the passing of Imam Khomeini. That was for the second issue.

The third issue, regardless of the psychological warfare, was our lack of information about the situation after the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a). We did not know what was going to happen after him, and what turn the events were going to take; so we were worried. We were following up on the events after the death of Imam Khomeini (r.a) on television, and when we saw national security and the calm in Iran as well as the glorious presence of the Iranian people at his funeral, we regained some confidence and peace of mind.

We were reassured that Iran would not go towards a civil war, nor would it collapse, and eventually the Iranians would choose a suitable leader in a reasonable and sincere atmosphere. We, like all Iranians, were waiting for the decision of the Assembly of Experts on this matter. The fact is that the election of Ayatollah Khamenei as the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Assembly of Experts was unpredictable for the Lebanese. Because we did not know Iranian figures properly and we did not know if there was a better, more knowledgably and more competent person to replace the Leadership. We only knew the Iranian officials that we were in touch with. Electing Ayatollah Khamenei for this responsibility, surprisingly and unusually, made us feel happy, fortunate and confident.

In any case, we passed through this stage. We started our relationship and this relationship continued. After a short time, we traveled to Iran and offered our condolences for the passing away of Imam Khomeini (r.a) and we met with the Leader. He was still at the Presidential office and received people there. We pledged allegiance to him in person and directly. Our brothers told him: “During the lifetime of Imam Khomeini (r.a) you were his representative in the affairs of Lebanon, Palestine and the region as well as the President of Iran, so you had time [for us]. But now you are the leader of the Islamic Republic and all Muslims, and therefore, perhaps you do not have enough time as before. So, we would like to ask you to appoint a representative, so that we do not disturb you continuously.” At this moment, the Leader smiled and said: “I am still young and I have time, God willing. I pay special attention to the issues of the region and the resistance and therefore we will remain in direct contact with each other. ”

Since then, unlike Imam Khomeini (r.a), he has not appointed any representative to refer to about our issues. Naturally, we did not want to bother much, and did not require much of his time. Especially because in the first years, the early years of the establishment of the movement, he was involved in everything. The principles, goals, foundations, criteria, and guidelines that we had, provided a solution to every issue. All of this was a divine blessing; the blessing of guidance was quite clear and we did not need to constantly refer to him. So, we continued to do the same as the Leader had told. This should answer that part of your question about our relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei after his election as the Leader and the authority for Muslims [wali amr al muslimin] after the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a).

But regarding the events that happened, it should be noted that the events after the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a) were, naturally, very critical and dangerous. At that time, the important issue for us was to continue the path of resistance in Lebanon, an issue that the Leader had emphasized from the outset. The Leader provided the officials of the Islamic Republic with many recommendations and words of advice, to attend to the Resistance in Lebanon and the region, saying that, just as during the lifetime of Imam Khomeini (r.a), when we followed this path with the thoughts, methods, principles and culture of Imam Khomeini (r.a) on our agenda; today I persist on this path and insist on the need for it to continue.

Therefore, as a blessing from the Almighty God, there was no change in the position of the Islamic Republic in its support for the resistance in the region, especially in Lebanon, not even in the face of changes within ministries and official entities in Iran as well as some differences in their political policies. Therefore, not only such a change did not happened, rather things went on in a better way; because these stances were strengthened after each president’s and each official’s term and this happened as a result of direct attention by the Leader to Hezbollah of Lebanon and the resistance in the region.

Now we can enter the discussion on the events that took place. Where would you like me to start from? I am ready. I mean, we can now address the political events; because we have already elaborated on our relationship with the Leader and how we kept working with him after the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.).
The most important issue for us at that time, i.e. during the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei, was the issue of domestic problems of Lebanon. At that stage, as you know well, there were some problems between Hezbollah and the Amal movement, and the Leader paid special attention to this matter. Hence, the most important thing that happened to us during the early years of Ayatollah Khamenei’s leadership was the resolution of discords between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. This blessed resolution, was brought about as a result of special guidance and advice by the Leader, as well as contacts between the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leaders of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, including the current chairman of the Lebanese parliament Mr. Nabih Berri and Syrian officials. Subsequently, Resistance groups in Lebanon got united and this was accomplished thanks to the Leader and his strong emphasis [on unity].

The Leader opposed any issue, any conflict or dispute among Lebanese groups and constantly stressed the need for extensive relations between them as well as achieving peace by any means necessary among them. These efforts took years to bear fruit. That is to say, it took 2 or 3 years for us to pass through that stage. The foundation of the close relations between Hezbollah and Amal that we see today were laid by the guidelines of the Leader, and today the relationship between Hezbollah and Amal is not strategic, but beyond strategic. Through the resolving of the problems between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement and the cooperation between the two, we were able to continue the resistance and attend to defending Lebanon and the south of Lebanon. The achievement and the great victory of 2000 against the Zionist regime were realized as a result of this unity. In 2006 and during the 33-day war of the Zionist regime on southern Lebanon, this unity helped us again, and we were able to resist during the “July War” and impose a defeat on the enemy. Today, political victories in Lebanon and the region continue to be achieved. One of the fundamental factors of Hezbollah’s political, national, and military power is this coherence, unity and friendly relations.

I recall that at that time, after the martyrdom of Sayyid Abbas al-Musawi (r.a), our brothers chose me as the secretary-general. Later, we met with the Leader. He brought up some issues, saying: “If you want to make the heart of Imam Mahdi (May Almighty Allah Speed His Reappearance) and also the hearts of all the believers happy, you have to work hard to preserve the calm in your country. You have work with each other, especially Hezbollah, Amal, Allama [scholar] Fadlallah and Sheikh Shams al-Din.” At that time, Sheikh Fadlallah and Sheikh Shams al-Din were both alive and the Leader strongly stressed reinforcing internal unity in Lebanon. His emphasis was on maintaining unity among the Shi’as, as well as between Shi’as and Sunnis and other Muslims. He also emphasized on the necessity of unity among Muslims and Christians and would insist on it during internal meetings; that is [he promoted] an open door policy for all Lebanese. This was the second issue. The primary issue was the relationship between Hezbollah, Amal and the domestic situation of the Shias. Another important issue that he emphasized was the open door strategy of Hezbollah towards other Lebanese political groups, despite religious, political, and ideological differences. The realization of this important project was also on account of his wise leadership.

There was an emphasis on continuing the resistance, confronting belligerence and determination to liberate southern Lebanon. That’s why the Leader also focused on the issue of resistance and its progress. He always insisted that resistance should progress, grow, and ultimately take back occupied lands. Hence, he always diligently encouraged the Resistance to persist on the path it had taken. You know that at that time there was a problem that some resistance groups, other than Hezbollah, had got entangled with internal political affairs, and thus, they had been gradually distracted from the mission of resistance. This would make the resistance limited to Hezbollah and the Amal Movement—chiefly Hezbollah. Even inside Hezbollah, there were some of our brothers who were inclined to get involved with domestic politics. But the Leader always emphasized the need to give priority to the mission of resistance and Jihadi tasks.

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