Speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on February 16th, 2018, during the commemoration of Hezbollah’s martyred leaders (Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Sayyed Abbas Musawi, Hajj Imad Mughniyeh) – transcript by ‘Sayed Hasan’, for FRN.
First, regarding the battle currently underway, and the challenge that now monopolizes the minds of the Lebanese, (ie the demarcation) of the (Lebanese-Israeli) land and sea border, the (Exclusive) Economic Zone and Lebanon’s hydrocarbon deposits, especially in southern waters.
First, it seems that the whole region – I speak about the global perspective, not just the issue of the Lebanese EEZ and Block 9 (claimed) by the Israeli War Minister Lieberman –, it seems that the whole region has entered openly in the heart of the battle for oil and gas. And our case (in Lebanon) is not distinct from this general framework. With this introduction, I want to say that no one should treat this as a separate issue.
Of course, the battle for oil and gas in the region has several well-known causes, that does not need to be explained, namely greed. But at this stage, what gave a strong impetus to this battle is the presence of an administration like Trump’s, with this materialistic mentality, their greed and lust openly put forward, without any discomfort. Trump said openly that he is greedy, avid, he is not ashamed of it. The battle opened by Israel against Lebanon’s maritime rights, Block 9, etc., that’s the first point.
Today, inside occupied Palestine, newspapers, media, Israeli specialists, research centers, everyone speaks of and writes reports and studies about huge amounts of oil and gas in the occupied Syrian Golan. And it must be assumed that because of the vicinity, it is also the case in the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills (Lebanese territories occupied by Israel). This is why (the need to perpetuate the occupation) is not discussed in Israel. And that is why we see Israel trying to build on the Trump presidency and the current US administration, and the weakness of the overall situation in the Arab world and the war in Syria to obtain US or international decision awarding the Golan to the Israeli entity, because now the Golan is not only a matter of national security or huge water resources, but also became part of the battle for oil and gas.
Similarly, apart from the Golan, considering the situation in Syria, there are several reasons why these events happened (for 7 years). But now, if you follow the situation, some Arab and foreign leaders, as well as some great generals, for several months and also in the past year, have published various reports about the fact that Syria has huge oil and gas resources in its territory and waters. And it is therefore one of the reasons of the battle fought in Syria.
The main reason is the issue of the Resistance, the Resistance Axis, the (Syrian) regime resisting American dominance and not submitting to Israel, all these considerations have prevailed, but they said, and now say, and this issue will take more importance in the future, that one reason is oil and gas in Syria, on the land and at sea.
The US occupation of eastern Syria, Eastern Euphrates after Boukamal, towards the Iraqi border up Hasakah, Qameshle, towards the West to Manbij, there are currently US bases (all over there). The Americans have promised in the past that when ISIS would be eliminated, they would leave the area. ISIS is no more but they have not left. Only a small group of ISIS is left, and they are the ones protecting it. They are the ones that guarantee them full security and prevent anyone to attack them. They prevent the Resistance, they prevent the Syrian Arab Army, they even prevent the Russians (from striking ISIS remains). And the latest confrontation (US strikes against Syrian forces) is due to this.
And moreover, the Pentagon has spent… – when I speak of money, I can’t find my words – the Pentagon spent, as we can read, 500 to 750million dollars in aid to Syrian Democratic Forces and under the claim of protecting the Kurds. We already reached almost 750 million dollars in one year alone, 2018. All this for what? Promoting democracy in Syria? Protecting the Kurds?
It is unfortunate that … The Kurds should, and I make a parenthesis to give this advice, learn from all previous experiences. Americans use you as instruments in their struggles and battles, whether against the Syrian regime, the Islamic Republic (of Iran), against Russia, against the Resistance Axis, and even for other purposes, and ultimately, the Americans only care about their interests, they give up on you and sell you in the slave market.
Well, why this colossal sum of money? And they say they will stay (in Syria). Even on the basis of Al-Tanf, they will stay. But ISIS is over. ISIS was completely extirpated from the Syrian towns and cities. They remain only close to the base of al-Tanf and East of the Euphrates. Why? Because the most important oil and gas fields in Syria are East of the Euphrates.
The Trump administration now sees Iraq with eyes (greedy) of oil.
With eyes (greedy of) oil. Trump and his administration see Iraq only as oil fields. They do not see them as a people, inhabitants, a State, a regime, a future, a (desire for) safety, a country (just) emerging from a terrible and disastrous war which left very dangerous consequences for its infrastructure, its society and its people, and had to make (considerable) sacrifices. For Trump, Iraq is only oil and oil fields. And he clearly announced it for a whole year during his election campaign, he was only repeating “Oil! Oil! Oil! Oil!”. I remember that word, although I have forgotten my English basics. He kept saying “Oil !” and “We were wrong, we have to send our forces back (to Iraq), we have to grab the oil fields, we must get the oil.”
This is why the Iraqis have to be very vigilant, (this very) Trump (is now in power). And the man keeps his campaign promises. What he did with the issue of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is far from being a secondary measure. He insulted and assaulted the dignity of hundreds (of millions)… Two billion Muslims and Christians, to say the least. Two billion Muslims and Christians. We are equally offended. And that is why today, what did the Trump administration say about Iraq? They say they will not repeat the same mistakes as in the past, those of the Obama administration. Their approach towards Iraq is that of oil, (only) oil.
Well, let us add that between Turkey and Cyprus, a dispute began over oil, and in recent months, the Gulf crisis about which it is said, and that may be true, that the real reason is a fight, between some Gulf countries, to control Qatar’s resources in oil and gas, and you know that Qatar has really considerable gas reserves. A battle for oil and gas is underway. And who leads it? For I do not say all this to pass the time. This is our battle today. It is the Americans who run this battle. East of the Euphrates, it is the US who pull the strings. In Iraq, the US have an eye on the situation. In the Gulf, it is the US who lead the dance. And the whole world knows that the problem between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, between the UAE and Qatar, if Trump wanted to, it would be settled in 2 hours. The whole world knows that. On the Israeli issue, too, the question today is conducted according to the same considerations and the same mentality.
I wanted to start with this introduction to say to all the Lebanese… For we are now facing a battle that we must approach differently. When the Israeli enemy occupied South Lebanon (in 1982), or when he retreated to the border line in 2000, maybe some Lebanese considered that (the liberation of Lebanon) was not their battle. It was (according to them) the battle of the southerners, or inhabitants of the Bekaa, for example. Maybe some people who couldn’t have cared less whether (the Southern occupied city of) Bint Jbeil went back to Lebanon or not, whether (adjacent) cities of Marjayoun, Hasbaya, Jezzine, Ayt al Sha`b got (liberated from Israeli occupation) or not. All that is the past. There is no use to reopen old files.
Today, the oil resources present in the South, like other hydrocarbon wealth present in Lebanon, belong to all the Lebanese. It is owned by the Lebanese people. And this money will go into the coffers of the Lebanese State. And the Lebanese people, on whom a huge debt accumulated, which may have exceeded 80 billion, to which will be added 16 or 17 billion of debt, to reach 100 billion or more within a few years, Lebanon has no wealth, he has no resources. It may be that our only hope is the oil and gas resources present in our waters and in our sea. And by the way, also present on our land (occupied by Israel), and this file must be opened. Why? We’ll talk about it later. But here is what we (Lebanese) already agree upon.
So this wealth belongs to Lebanon, it is a hope for Lebanon, it is the way of (economic) salvation for Lebanon. This is an opportunity that can bring the Lebanese economy and the standard of living of the Lebanese on a promising and different path.
Well, how should we behave in this battle? Is Block 9 the battle of South Lebanon? No ! This is the battle of all Lebanon. Is the battle of the border of the (Exclusive) Economic Zone in the South, next to Occupied Palestine, the battle of South Lebanon? No ! This is the battle of all Lebanon. That’s the first point.
Second, we must know that the essential point in the current struggle is not the land border. The resolution of the dispute over the land border is simple. The key point is the sea border of the (Exclusive) Economic Zone , of (territorial) waters. The Americans and others want to grant us our “simple” rights (without high stakes), namely the contentious points on the land border, to take away our “difficult” (strategic) rights in the sea, in the waters and regarding hydrocarbons. And we must also be vigilant on this point.
What is happening now is that Israel is building a (defensive) wall (on its border). As long as it does not build the wall on Lebanese territory, and stands on the territory of Israe… sorry, on (occupied) Palestinian territory, this is part of the occupation (of Palestine) and operations of occupation. Israel builds a wall inside occupied Palestine. This is a different question. So far it has not encroached upon Lebanese lands. This is why it is necessary that the media avoid confusion in these issues. If it is said that the State and the High Defense Council made a decision (to retaliate in case of transgression) and that Israel continues to build the wall, there is no contradiction. Because the wall is still constructed outside Lebanese land. The problem will arise if the wall encroaches on the so-called disputed Lebanese land. The Lebanese State and the High Defense Council received the three Presidents (of the Republic, the Government and the Assembly). They agreed and made the decision that Lebanon would respond (to any transgression). If that day comes, we’ll see what happens.
But now, the question is not that of the land border. The question is about the maritime boundary and (territorial) waters.
Third, so far, the Lebanese were and remain united in this battle, the battle of the maritime border and oil rights and… whatever… gas. When I say oil, I mean both oil and gas (hydrocarbons), it’s easier that way. United in the preservation of the rights of Lebanon, of its borders, in the refusal to give up on them. We must remain united. Because the unity of the official Lebanese position and of the popular position is the most important – and I mean THE most important, and not one of the most important –, this is the most important factor in winning this battle, the one that will enable us to win and achieve our goals there.
It is necessary that the Lebanese officials and political forces do not allow the devils to fool the Lebanese, to sow dissension among them or destroy their common position, and when I say devils, I mean the United States. They are the devils that come whisper us their evil words in this file.
Fourth: we have previously stated, and we were committed since 2000, and this commitment is still valid : the position of the Resistance, is that we do not intervene in the delimitation of the land or sea borders. This is the responsibility of the State. And that’s why we informed the officials of our view and position, and we said that we do not interfere (in this delimitation), neither in meters or kilometers, nor in length or width, this is the responsibility of the State.
In 2000, I remind you that I said, on the very evening of the victory, that as a Resistance, we are committed (to liberate or defend) all Lebanese land defined as such by the Lebanese State. It is not us, the Resistance, who determine which territory is Lebanese or not. Of course, Hezbollah has its own vision in this issue, and I do not want to talk about it (now) but this is our position.
Today, while we are in the middle of this battle, we renew (our position) and declare that we are not involved in that dispute. The land border, maritime border and Lebanon’s rights should be determined by the State and its institutions. And that means – because this is not an exception, I do not make an exception, it’s their responsibility. Even the Resistance, the country’s defense is the responsibility of the State. The (Hezbollah) Resistance appeared only in its absence (the Lebanese State couldn’t defend itself) and fill that void. It is not an exception, it is the responsibility of the State. But on the field, this responsibility implies that the current leaders of the State and its organs, in this historical, economic, vital and sensitive file for the Lebanese, should be at the required level of trust and reliability, have a lot of courage, and bear that responsibility. And the people of Lebanon now has its eyes on you.
We are all concerned and have a duty to help the State and his position, to support it and stand by his side, in everything it does and everything it asks. But the State also should have a firm stand, a strong and intangible position (on this issue).
Fifth, and this is a very important point. The Lebanese State, alongside the Lebanese people, should behave in this issue from a position of strength. (We must consider that we are the strongest), and not that we are weak. If the Lebanese consider themselves weak, it is a fatal mistake, and our defeat is assured. As we say, the party is over. If, in their innermost, leaders and official Lebanese officials have a sense of fear, weakness or helplessness, the feeling that we are unable to do anything, or that there is huge international pressure on us that we can not resist, or that we have to renounce our rights, our borders, our resources, our sovereignty, this is the first confession of impotence and the path of failure.
I want to tell everyone that we, Lebanon – I do not speak only about the Resistance –, if we are united, with our means and capabilities, we are the strongest. And we need to negotiate from a position of strength. We must follow up this file from a position of strength. And this Israel that is threatening you, you can threaten him. If the US says that you must yield so that they prevent Israel from attacking you, you can argue that it is rather for them to fulfill your requests if they want you to prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel! [Audience : At your service, O Nasrallah!] Israel knows, the United States know well, those who came (to Lebanon) about the (problem supposedly represented by) Hezbollah, they know, I want to tell the Lebanese that they know (very well) that your only strength, with all the consideration due to the golden equation (Army-People-Resistance) but in this battle, in this battle precisely, the battle for oil and gas, the only force that you have, O Lebanon, is the (Hezbollah) Resistance.
Because it is forbidden for the Lebanese army to own ground-ground, surface-to-sea and surface-to-air missiles. This is not because the army is (intrinsically) weak. The Lebanese army, its leaders, its officers, its ranks, the soldiers, have a very high level of courage, dignity and responsibility. But access to these weapons is (formally) prohibited to them. Who is prohibiting the Lebanese army to get these weapons? The United States ! I’ll get back to them in a moment.
Therefore, today, Lebanon and all the Lebanese can stand up and say “No, beware! If you prevent us (from our resources), we will prevent you (from yours)! If you bomb us, we will bomb you! If you strike us, we will strike you!” We have the courage, the strength and the capacity for this, and our enemy knows that. Today is no longer the time of (thunderous but vain) Arab speeches, it is not the time of Arab impotence. These are not empty threats. Israel knows it. This is why we hope that the government will act in a position of strength: you are the strongest, and you just have to make the decision (to act from this position).
In this case, we are at your orders. Let us try, by God, let us make the experience! We are the strongest! Let the Lebanese High Defense Council decide that such oil and gas facilities in the Palestinian sea usurped by Israel, the enemy entity, does not have the right to operate, and I promise you that within a few hours, they will not be active (because Hezbollah will strike them). They will cease all activity. [Audience: At your service, O Nasrallah!]
We have to consider that these are our (exclusive) rights. Nobody would be doing us a favor by giving them to us (as they are already ours). Those are our rights and we must seize them, and we are in a strong position and able to get them. That is all for the fifth point.
Sixth, regarding the current intermediary (between Lebanon and Israel). The State may well accept whoever he wants. We will not use our veto. Not even as a political force (via our MPs) or our ministers in the Lebanese government, we will not use our veto. You welcomed the United States, you have accepted them as intermediaries and you negotiate with them, very well. But we must be well aware of one thing: the United States are not an honest broker (neutral or disinterested), especially if the other part of the negotiation is the Israeli entity. And if you want proof, listen to the Palestinian Authority, to the organizations for the liberation of Palestine and to all the Palestinians, who reported openly and publicly, everywhere, that the United States are not an honest broker.
After what Trump did with Al-Quds (Jerusalem), is there still room for discussion? The United States are not an honest broker. And you have to behave with the US intermediary on the basis that he is only here to protect Israel (and its interests). In reality, there is not even 3 (interlocutors). Lebanon is negotiating directly with Israel, which is represented by Tillerson, Satterfield or X. This is the reality.
This is why we must not count on (the neutrality or honesty) of this intermediary. The United States do not want the interest of the Lebanese. They only care about Zionist interests. And they want to take the maximum possible of our waters and resources for the benefit of Israel. We must be well aware of this reality and be especially vigilant when negotiating with the United States.
And moreover, O my brothers and sisters, O Lebanese people, you all know what happened this week. No need for confidential insight to know what happened (between the representatives of the United States) and the Lebanese Presidents, leaders and ministers, because the Americans themselves have publicly stated it. The United States do not even come as intermediaries, they do not act as mere intermediaries (between Lebanon and Israel). The United States came only to communicate (their wills), (give) orders and threaten (us): “O Lebanon, if you do not accept this and that – I will not go into details – then you will have no borders, no oil, no water, no (foreign) company will come (help you get your resources)…” Is this the way intermediaries behave? They only came to deliver a message of threats to the Lebanese! “And you have to accept this, otherwise you will suffer this and that…” It is not (the ways) of an intermediary. Anyway… Even the forms of the intermediary, they have not complied with them.
I want to conclude this part of my speech by saying that we are facing a major historical and economic challenge for Lebanon, for its future and its sovereignty, and we Lebanese must all act with unity, consciousness, responsibility, courage, reliability. We must believe in our right and our strength, and not be fooled about our rights, nor yield to intimidation, nor threats, and we will be victorious by God’s grace, in all certainty. Unity, endurance and perseverance, sincerity and attachment to the rights undoubtedly bring victory. Of course, these things take time, there are obstacles and difficulties, but things eventually turn out for the best.