TEHRAN: In an extensive interview with Masseer Especial Journal, which belongs to Khamenei.ir, Nasrallah elaborated on previously undisclosed facts regarding the tough war by Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq against the U.S.-backed ISIL.
Here is the text of the interview:
Over the past few years, we have witnessed popular uprisings in some Islamic countries, including Yemen, where the people rose up. We also witnessed popular uprising in Bahrain, but in all of these cases, Saudi Arabia, with its interventions, has been trying to suppress these popular uprisings in the region which seek the establishment of Islamic and anti-Zionist governments. As you know, Ayatollah Khamenei has always emphasized the role of the people in creating a general movement to confront Zionism. That is, even if certain measures are taken by the Resistance movement, he still focuses on the people of the region, and he always raises hope that the people will rise up. Even in the case of Palestine, when some of the Palestinian leaders sign inappropriate agreements for a compromise, he says that the Palestinian people are opposed to this. Accordingly, given his emphasis on the role of the people, how do you evaluate and analyze the role of the people in the developments of the Islamic world in the perspective of Ayatollah Khamenei and based on the meetings you have had with him?
What we heard from the Leader (May Allah protect him) on public occasions, in public meetings or private meetings, was that he emphasized on massive popular movements in all matters. He always emphasized that if you had a certain organization, this organization should always be at the heart of its supporters and the people, and no organization or party should be separated from the involved people; the true power is the power of the people’s presence. Of course, this is what we saw during the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. We have also had such an experience in Hezbollah in Lebanon. Our power as Hezbollah in Lebanon is not only due to military capabilities, but also due to the popularity that this group has gained among various grassroots groups.
In Palestine, too, those who are fighting against Israel’s aggression and conspiracies—including the Deal of the Century—are the people of Palestine. The Palestinian resistance movements were able to resist, fight and take strong positions thanks to the support of the Palestinian people. Today in Yemen, without the presence of the people and the popular support of Ansar Allah, could Ansar Allah, under the leadership of dear brother Sayyid Abdulmalek Al Houthi, be able to enter the fifth year of battle and continue to fight? In many Yemeni cities, like “Saada” and “Sana’a”, we see massive popular presence, while there are many problems, including war and the spread of cholera and other diseases and the siege of Yemen. Yet, all the Yemeni people, men and women, old and young, take to the streets in every occasion, and this popular presence has given the Yemeni army and popular committees the power to resist Saudi-American invasion.
Another example is Iraq. Who stood up against ISIL? In Iraq, people stood up against ISIL terrorists. In Iraq, those who were able to resist ISIL, were the Iraqi people and the Popular Mobilization Force, after the fatwa of the Marja’iah [religious leadership] and support of Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Republic of Iran. If the Iraqi people hadn’t supported the Popular Mobilization Forces, the army and the Marjaiyah, resistance against the Takfiri terrorism and defeating it would not have been possible. It’s the same in all arenas. So the matter of the nations is a fundamental matter.
Now what has actually been the main factor that has been able to keep the Palestinian cause alive—after decades of conspiracy and deceiving—and has defeated the U.S.’s plans and plots against the Palestinians, one after the other in the region, has been the popular support and not the positions of the governments. The popular stance, the uprising of the nations, their attention to the issues, their involvement, their sacrifices, and their resistance has always been the cause of victory. We say in Lebanon’s literature: “The nation and resistance are like the sea, that is, like water and fish.” The fish cannot survive out of water, and this means no resistance movement can resist and win outside the circle of the nation and widespread popular support.
You referred to Iraq; well, we have witnessed very important events in Iraq over the past recent years, and we can say that during this period, two important incidents took place; the first event was the occupation of Iraq by foreigners after the fall of Saddam, and the second was the formation of ISIL terrorist group. After the formation of this terrorist group, Iraq was severely invaded and significant parts of the country were occupied by the members of this group. But, both the American occupiers and ISIL occupiers finally had to leave Iraq. What role did the Islamic Republic of Iran play in the shifts in Iraq? What were the macro-level policies of the Islamic Republic regarding these events and its role in preserving the unity and integrity of Iraq? In recent years, some events also took place in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region that we would like you to talk about, as well.
Firstly, since the start of the occupation of Iraq by the United States of America, the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Leader (May Allah protect him) was quite clear towards the occupiers. The Islamic Republic of Iran rejected the occupation of Iraq by the United States. Even before the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq, Iran’s position was clear. After the occupation of Iraq by the United States, the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a clear position, called for the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq so that the Iraqi people can themselves manage their country. This was a great political stance.
Secondly, after the occupation of Iraq by the U.S., the Islamic Republic of Iran made many efforts to unite Iraqi parties, movements and various groups, so that they form a unified position against the occupiers. Meanwhile, the Americans at that time were trying to take advantage of the internal disagreements in Iraq to stabilize their occupation. Therefore, the second attempt (of IRI) was to coordinate the positions of Iraqi leaders, groups and parties, who had intellectual, political, religious, tribal, and regional differences. In order to achieve this important goal in Iraq—namely to unite different parties—the Islamic Republic of Iran established good relations with all Iraqis, including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmans, Shias and Sunnis.
Thirdly, the Islamic Republic of Iran supported the stance taken by the religious Marja’iah [religious leadership] in Najaf, Ayatollah Sistani (May Allah protect him), the eminent Marja’iah [religious leadership] of the Shias, because the positions of the Marja’iah [religious leadership] in Najaf were very important and had a significant impact on shaping the central and crucial events. For example, after the occupation of Iraq, the U.S. sought to impose a new constitution on the country, to which the Marja’iah [religious leadership] objected and declared that the Iraqis should decide on the constitution and agree on it. This is just one example of the cases when the Marja’iah [religious leadership] intervened.
Among other important factors was that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s support strengthened and inspired the Iraqi resistance groups who resisted the American occupiers. The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran was explicit; they regarded the resistance in Iraq as legitimate and the natural right of the Iraqi people. They believed the Iraqis had the right to engage in armed resistance against those who had occupied their land. Eventually, the U.S. couldn’t achieve its goals in Iraq.
Moreover, in one of the stages, along with the honorable Marja’iah [religious leadership] in Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran worked hard to prevent conflicts among members of different denominations in Iraq. At that time, the takfiris who had entered Iraq, were seeking to cause conflicts between the Shias and the Sunnis by suicide bombings in Shia community areas, such as their mosques, Hussainiyehs, the shrines of the immaculate Imams (a.s.) including the shrine of Imam Hussain (a.s) and the shrines of Imams Askariin (a.s.) in Samarra. Most of the suicide bombers were from Saudi Arabia and their car bombs were also sent to them by Saudi Arabia’s Intelligence services. So although Riyadh endeavored to create religious schism in Iraq, the efforts of the religious Marja’iah [religious leadership] in Najaf and the Islamic Republic of Iran prevented tribal conflicts and a civil war—even if some struggles and contests occurred.
As a result of political resistance and political effort on the one hand, and armed resistance on the other hand, the U.S. found it impossible to stay in Iraq. During the premiership of Nouri al-Maliki, they sought to sign an agreement to withdraw from Iraq, and eventually the signing of an agreement between Baghdad and Washington led to the decision of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Naturally, the U.S. wanted to stay in Iraq for longer. During the negotiations for the agreement, they tried to maintain about 50,000 troops of the total 150,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, but the Iraqis refused to accept. [The Americans were bargaining by diminishing the number]: they accepted to leave 30 thousand, 25 thousand, 20 thousand, and finally, 10 thousand of their forces in Iraq, but still the Iraqis opposed; obviously, not all the Iraqis, but this was the view of the public in general. The Iraqi government rejected the granting of diplomatic immunity to American troops and military forces. Consequently, Washington under President Barack Obama concluded that there was no choice but to leave Iraq.
Yes, the Americans retained their embassy in Iraq and a large number of embassy protection forces, as well as some of their consulates, but their open military presence was over, and the American military bases were closed down and America’s military retreat from Iraq was announced. This was a great victory for Iraq and the Iraqi people. Another incident occurred when ISIL inflicted calamity and pain on the Iraqi people. Everyone knows about ISIL. ISIL took advantage of its presence in Syria, at the east of Euphrates and the Badia (the Syrian Desert). You remember that this group then occupied 40 to 45 percent of the territory of Syria. ISIL’s leaders were Iraqi, indeed, the main leaders were Iraqi, and they paid special attention to Iraq, and therefore they were counted on. The United States of America and some countries in the region, and more than others, Saudi Arabia, were behind-the-scenes players of what ISIL did in Iraq. We all recall that when ISIL arrived in Mosul, Diyala, Anbar and Salah al-Din, many satellite channels affiliated with Saudi Arabia and some Persian Gulf countries reported on the event as a major victory. ISIL dominated a number of Iraqi provinces and facilities in a short time. The Iraqi forces collapsed and ISIL was on the verge of entering Karbala and even Baghdad. The situation was very dangerous. Even ISIL had reached only some hundred meters to Samarra, and it had become a threat to the shrine of Imams Askariin (a.s.).
In the early days, the Islamic Republic of Iran rushed to aid Iraq. Iraq’s religious Marja’iah [religious leadership] decided on certain positions, and Ayatollah Sistani issued the fatwa of jihad kafayee. The Iraqis became prepared to rise up but they needed assistance for managing and commanding, weapons and facilities. At that time, a significant part of the war armaments and facilities of Iraq had been robbed by ISIL. The Iraqis said that many of their firearm warehouses were empty. We remember that in the early days, dear brother Hajj Ghasem Soleimani and the brothers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps went to Baghdad to organize resistance groups rooted in Iraq and coordinate them with Iraqi government forces. Mr. Nouri al-Maliki also cooperated very well. Resistance to ISIL began. After a few days, Hajj Qasem came to Lebanon and met with me. He asked us to send about 120 Hezbollah members to Iraq to command operations. He said that combatants weren’t needed because there were so many combatants in Iraq, but commanders were needed for operations in different areas. So we sent a large number of our brothers to Iraq. The borders between Iran and Iraq were opened so that weapons were provided via the border areas and that there would be no need to send them from Tehran and distant places. Importing armaments started, providing arms for the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces set off, and the fight began.
All Iraqis know the reality. We said that the Islamic Republic of Iran rushed to aid Iraq, while taking firm positions. Rejecting ISIL’s dominance, the Islamic Republic started fighting against the Takfiris openly and unhesitatingly, and assisting Iraq. The best commanders in the Guard Corps went to Iraq to help the Iraqis. All of the facilities of the Iranians were provided for the Iraqi people. Everyone knows that the Leader’s stance on helping the Iraqi people and Iraqi forces to impose a defeat on ISIL was that there was no red lines that would prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from offering the aid.
Praise be to God, thanks to the religious Marja’iah [religious leadership] of Iraq, the fatwa of jihad Kafayee, the firm positions of the Leader, the valuable aids provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the direct involvement of the Revolutionary Guards’ brothers and especially the Quds Force, the measures taken by the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Iraqi forces as well as the national unity and solidarity of the Iraqis, in particular, among the Shias and Sunnis and Kurds in confronting ISIL, after a few years, a great victory was achieved in face of ISIL. This achievement would not have been made without the historic and great positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Leader, the positions of the religious Marja’iah [religious leadership], the actions of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi forces.
Recently, you warned of the re-emergence and reactivation of ISIL.
I highlighted two issues, which the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, also referred to. The threat posed by ISIL—which is called the “Caliphate State”—is persisting in Iraq. Of course, there is no government under this name now. They formed a government between Syria and Iraq, which was a large government; that is, at some point, their government was larger than what was left of the Syrian and Iraqi governments. The ISIL government ended. The ISIL army, that is the big military infrastructure of ISIL, ended. However, the group’s major leader is still alive, and there are naturally questions about his fate as well as the role of the United States in this matter.
Many of ISIL leaders are still alive, and have been saved from the east of Euphrates and various battlefields. ISIL has small groups that are based in different parts of Syria, Iraq and other parts of the region. They carry out anti-security activities: they engage in suicide attacks, bombings, they kill people; and these are the threats we have to counter. This means that if the ISIL and its security infrastructure are not completely eliminated, ISIL will remain as a threat to Syria and Iraq, as well as to Iran, Lebanon and the entire region.
Based on our information, the Americans have taken some parts of ISIL to Afghanistan. Now the question is whether the members of this group will act against the Taliban in Afghanistan or against the countries of Central Asia. The case is open. A part of ISIL was transferred to North Africa. In the future, it will not be surprising if ISIL is used to exert pressure on China, Russia and other countries, because the U.S. resorts to such methods. Another issue, I called attentions to, is related to Trump, the U.S. and Iraq. Trump insists on the U.S. forces remaining in Iraq. The warning I gave was that Trump is trying to fulfil his electoral promises, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes not.
He might not succeed, but he is trying to fulfil his promises. For example, during his presidential campaigns, Trump promised to transfer the U.S. embassy from Quds to Tel Aviv, which he did. He promised to recognize Quds as the eternal capital of Israel, which he did. He promised to retreat from the nuclear deal, which he did. He promised to intensify sanctions against Iran, and he did so. Well, he also made some promises that he failed to realize. For example, he could not build a wall between Mexico and the United States because he failed to gain the Congress’s approval and the funding. Yet, he is still striving to fulfill this promise.
So this man strives to fulfill his promises. Well, one of the promises he made, which he insisted frequently, was that the departure of the U.S. from Iraq during Obama’s administration was a mistake, and that the U.S. should stay in Iraq. This means that he does not want to leave Iraq, although this is not what the Iraqis want. The second issue is that he says, “Iraq’s oil belongs to the U.S., because we spent $ 7 trillion to free Iraq from Saddam Hussain,”—in his words—“and this should be paid back to us”.
He says, “we need to exploit Iraq’s oil and sell it to get our money back”. When asked how, he said, “we would send the U.S. Army to dominate the oil fields, encircle the oil fields and prevent Iraqis from exploiting these fields. We would use their oil for years and then we will deliver it to them”. Can Trump do this? Maybe not, but he will try to do so. Therefore, I warned that the Iraqis should be vigilant about the plots and dangers of this man who has focused on their oil. Just as he is focusing on Saudi’s capital and is plundering it, he also seriously considers looting Iraq’s oil. What can prevent Trump is the Iraqis’ vigilance, their willpower and their diligence.
Trump’s overnight trip to Iraq apparently infuriated him.
Exactly. He says ‘we sent our military forces, we had casualties, we spent a lot of money, and now we have to travel to Iraq overnight. That’s right.
Since the early days following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. officials were angry with Iran. Well, the Shah regime was obliterated, so they lost the regime which was dependent on them, and was their biggest base in the region. Since forty years ago, the U.S. has been faced with resistance on the part of the leader of the Revolution, the Iranian people and the Muslim nations that support the Resistance movement against the Front of Arrogance. Therefore, the Americans are very angry with Iran.
You probably remember the famous quote by martyr Beheshti which was derived from a verse of the Holy Qur’an: “The U.S.! be angry with us, and die of this anger.” In this situation, Ayatollah Khamenei states that U.S. is declining in West Asia and Islamic countries, and this power will go away; and the nations of the region will become victorious. I would like to learn about your opinion on this analysis of Ayatollah Khamenei; and what proofs do you think support it?
Firstly, what Ayatollah Khamenei has said about this issue is based on experience, information and concrete realities in the region. One of the hallmarks is the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, despite the fact that the U.S. had entered Iraq to stay forever, and not to leave it. The United States was unable to stay in Iraq and had to return to the country under the pretext of ISIL. This country cannot remain in Iraq. If the Iraqi authorities and people make the determination to dismiss U.S. forces, they will succeed to do so in a few days. The United States is not strong enough to stay in Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people. Well, this was the first sign and example.
The U.S. was also defeated in Syria. Even eight months ago, Trump announced that the U.S. forces settled in east of Euphrates had plans to retreat. But other officials persuaded him to let the forces stay for six more months. He recently wanted to pull the U.S. forces out again, but he was told that this should not be done, because the departure of the United States was like a major defeat for the U.S., and it would disappoint Washington’s friends in the region. So he decided to let the U.S. forces stay; however, they could possibly leave Iraq any moment. In a telephone conversation with Mr. Erdogan, he said: “the U.S. is leaving Syria; Syria is left for you to do whatever you want with it.” This infuriated Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Therefore, the Emirates embarked on immediately reopening its embassy in Damascus. Well, this was about Syria.
In Yemen, too, it was not only Saudi Arabia that was defeated; rather, the United States also suffered a defeat. The United States became frustrated and despondent in Yemen. Today, the United States cannot impose what it wants on the countries of the region, except in some cases like dealing with the craven among the Al-Saud. The United States is unable to impose its demands on many countries in the region. Washington cannot defend its interests. Remember that 20 years ago, the U.S. went to Somalia and could not stay in that country even for a year, and eventually they left it, humiliated. The United States has become too weak to stay in and dominate over the region; its power is declining day after day. This has happened in the wake of the nations’ awareness and confidence. The obvious manifestation of this failure is that the United States has been trying to encircle the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years, and to overthrow its Islamic system, but it has always failed. They say ‘we are not seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic, we just want Iran to change behavior and method’, yet they failed.
The Islamic Republic continues to adhere to its values, principles and positions, even though 40 years have passed, and its policy has been quite clear since Imam Khomeini (r.a.).
Pompeo came to Lebanon, and met with Lebanese officials. Then, during a press conference, he said to the Lebanese people, “you have to be brave and fight against Hezbollah”. Nevertheless, he did not receive one single positive answer. When Pompeo came to Lebanon, even those who are our rivals told him: “We cannot confront Hezbollah and it is not acceptable for us to cause a civil war in Lebanon.” This means that the U.S.’s demands and decisions are not even accepted by its friends. These are not our friends, they are our rivals. The reason is that, firstly, we are strong, and secondly, our opponents know that pushing toward a civil war negatively affects Lebanon in general. Therefore, they rejected to confront Hezbollah.
Even now that Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are seeking to impose the Deal of the Century on Palestine, we see that the entire Palestinian nation reject this plan. From Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to Fatah, the Liberation Organization, and Mahmoud Abbas are against the Deal of the Century. Mr. Abbas accepts to compromise, negotiate and give concessions, but he says: “this type of contract and compromise is not even acceptable to me; because it is so disgraceful and insulting that no Palestinian can consent to such a plan.” Even in the last meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers, despite the fact that many of the participants were not honest, they stated in a declaration: “We cannot accept political solutions against international agreements and laws.” This means they oppose the Deal of the Century. They said this publicly; but why? Because they know that their nations will not accept the Deal of the Century, even if a person like Trump supports this plan.
Hence, there are plenty of signs indicating the defeat of the U.S. Moreover, now we see the current leaders of the U.S.—namely Trump, Bolton, Pompeo—have no respect for others. They don’t consider diplomacy; and they are greedy, arrogant and haughty. Therefore, they humiliate their friends and allies and damage their relation with them. Their behavior toward the Europeans, the tensions in their relation with Russia and China are examples of these behaviors. Nobody knows to which direction they are leading the world. If you ask the public opinion whether they think the U.S. is a reliable government, you will get a negative answer. Now the U.S. leaves all treaties and agreements; it seeks to impose its demands on the international community. This kind of behavior has disrupted and weakened America’s image. Therefore, the signs of the U.S.’s defeat are very clear in many countries.
One of the signs of this major U.S. failure in the region is, in my opinion, the situation of Hezbollah and Lebanon today. I traveled to southern Lebanon two days ago and went as far as the frontier with the occupied Palestine and visited the area. There was a time when the Zionist forces would enter the Lebanese territory whenever they wished, and even advanced up to Beirut in 1982, committing many crimes and killing many people and even many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In short, they did whatever they wanted to and committed any crime with impunity. During the 33-day war, they attacked from air and ground. Two days ago, I saw the Lebanese people live in peace and security in the area, and they were not at all worried about being attacked by the Israeli enemy. I saw there, that now it is the Zionists who have built walls to protect themselves. All this shows that Hezbollah, which grew and evolved over the course of about 35 or 40 years, has become a great power today, against the will of the Zionists and the U.S. So much so, that it has given Lebanon a special credibility and this is a national pride and power for Lebanon. Those scenes show that during these years, the U.S.’s plan to completely eliminate the resistance movement has completely failed, and today, the Israelis consider themselves defeated in this region.
That’s right. At least since 1982, when the Zionist aggressors invaded Lebanon, this was part of an American project for Lebanon and the whole region. Since then, every U.S. plan and project has failed in Lebanon. These failures occurred in 1982, then in 1985, and later in 2000, 2005, and 2006, and finally in the current period. Today, the U.S. cannot impose their will on the Lebanese people and their attempts have failed, by the grace of God. The same is true about the Israelis. As you have seen and said, southern Lebanon is in peace and security, which is unprecedented for the past 70 years; that is, since the creation of the Israeli usurper and cancerous regime. You know that southern Lebanon and the border with the occupied Palestinian have always been insecure. The Israelis carried out military invasions and bombarded it. They crossed into the region, kidnapping army men, security forces and even ordinary people.
They ridiculed the Lebanese. For example, in the 1967 war, when Israel sent separate army units to the Sinai, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan, Israeli war minister was asked if an army unit had been sent to Lebanon. He replied: “No, it is not necessary. It’s enough to send a music band to occupy Lebanon.”
That is the extent they disparaged Lebanon. That period ended by the grace and help of God the Almighty. Today, in southern Lebanon, they do not dare bombard, kidnap, kill, or even trespass. They are very cautious and constantly in fear; because they know that in the event of any aggression, the resistance gives them a decisive answer, which in our view signifies observing the rule of the game and the conflict.
Southern Lebanon has always been frightening [for Israel], and today northern Palestine is the same. Colonialists, settlers, and Israelis in northern Palestine—and not the people in our towns and villages—are scared. This time, it is the Israelis who are building walls and defensive lines, when before, they were always in an offensive position. We were always in a defensive position, but today, we are in an offensive position. It is us who threaten them today; that we will one day enter the occupied Palestine by the grace of God. Hence, thank God the equations have changed, and this has been achieved in the wake of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, through the leadership of Imam Khomeini and the Leader (May His Oversight Last), constant support, and unwavering positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran alongside Hezbollah and the resistance groups in the region.
The image of Hezbollah and the Islamic resistance of Lebanon—in the minds of most people who are not familiar with it—is the image of a military organization. They think Hezbollah is just a military organization. In addition to its defensive and military dimensions to protect Lebanon and to undertake the responsibilities it has defined for itself in that regard, what services has Hezbollah offered to the Lebanese people? We have heard a lot about the progress that Hezbollah has made in science. Besides, there has also been progress in terms of education and literacy rates in that region, especially as compared to before the formation of Hezbollah. These facts have been little publicized. Please tell us more about it. Given the emphasis placed by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution on the progress and investment in the scientific fields of Iran, do you feel you are among the addressees of this remarks?
Naturally, we consider ourselves to be the addressee of these words too, and believe that this is part of our duty, and we work towards this goal. Regarding Hezbollah, from the very beginning, we were concerned with this issue, but today it has become more important and we are paying more attention to it. Hezbollah is not just a military organization, but a popular movement. This group is a popular movement rather than a [political] party, but it is called the Party of Allah. Hezbollah acts like a national and popular movement. In addition to armed resistance and military activities, Hezbollah engages in various activities. Hezbollah has religious activities, and has scholars and missionaries in religious seminaries who carry out promotional activities in different areas. This is a great change. If today you look at the number of religious students in Lebanon compared to the past, you will realize that the proportion of the Lebanese population who are students of religion is significant. If we include our brothers in the holy cities of Qom and Najaf al-Ashraf too, it will make for a spectacular number. This is unprecedented in Lebanon’s history. Regarding religious activities, in many towns and villages of Lebanon, there was not a mosque before. But today, there is no village in which there is not a mosque. There are also mosques in different parts of cities. For example, in Southern Dahieh, even though hundreds of thousands of people live there, there were only 3 or 4 mosques; but today, praise be to Allah, there are mosques in most of its neighborhoods.
Today there are seminaries in different regions. Seminaries for women, as well as cultural, scientific, and religious studies institutions for women can be found in different regions. Organizing religious ceremonies during Muharram and the holy month of Ramadan, organizing Qur’an recitation gatherings, and holding Muharram processions—which are getting more traction year after year—are among other religious activities of Hezbollah. People are keener on religious occasions and activities in Ramadan and the nights of Qadr.
Beside religious activity, Hezbollah has academic and educational activities. We have the strongest student organizations in universities. The most powerful student organizations at universities are those affiliated with Hezbollah and include both boys and girls; they have a significant presence in universities. They have a strong and active presence at universities among university professors, and school teachers in middle schools and high schools. Hezbollah Group is one of the strongest and largest student and educational groups in Lebanon’s schools. They carry out the same activities as those carried out by Hezbollah student organizations at universities.
Therefore, there are cultural, intellectual, media, political, and scientific activities. In the official examinations, we see that girls and boys who are members of Hezbollah, always rank top and are successful in government and official examinations. We have diverse cultural and social activities for different groups. For example, we have a large division called “Women’s Councils” in Hezbollah. Women’s societies are found in all villages. They communicate with all women; organize cultural classes, and ceremonies on religious and political occasions; provide social aid, and govern women’s affairs in different places. We also have a division for teenagers called “Imam Mahdi (as) Scouts”. This organization, in terms of the number of male and female members, is the largest Scout organization in Lebanon. This is another cultural, intellectual, religious, social and, of course, recreational activity.
We have schools under the name of Imam Mahdi (as) Schools, from kindergarten to secondary school, in different regions, including Beqaa, Beirut and the south. A few years ago, we also set up a University of Religious Education. This university has diverse colleges. We also have a radio station. Al Nour radio is one of the strongest radio channels in Lebanon. Al-Manar TV station also belongs to us; in this field, the range of our activities go beyond television. There are also some institutions of social and service activities in Lebanon that belong to Iran, but are run by Hezbollah brothers. For example, the Martyr Foundation, the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, and others. These institutions provide services to the families of martyrs, disabled war veterans, and underprivileged families. We take care of many poor families in need, and a large number of orphans.
Another important area of activity is medical care. We have hospitals, surgery, and therapeutic clinics. We also have a large civil defense organization that helps emergency patients. All of this is supervised by Hezbollah, and not the Lebanese government. All these institutions provide people with health, medical, social and financial services. We have an extensive institution called Imam Kazim (as) Qard al-Hasan [interest-free loan] Institute, which is known as the ” Bayt al-mal of Muslims”; but called the Imam Kazim (as) Qard al-Hasan [interest-free loan] Institute. This institution has branches in most districts and has given tens of thousands of interest-free loans to the people. This is also one of the important and well-known matters in Lebanon.
In addition to all the service centers mentioned, Hezbollah also runs other institutes, such as “Constructive Jihad,” which basically helps people in agriculture. We provide a great deal of assistance in this regard. I may have forgotten some other things. Among other important issues is the participation of Hezbollah in municipal elections. Today, Hezbollah is present in most municipalities and many of the heads of municipalities are among our brothers. These municipalities also particularly serve the people. So, if you go to different cities of Lebanon today, you’ll see the situation there is quite different compared to 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
Well, we get to the participation of Hezbollah in parliamentary elections and the presence of our members in the parliament. Naturally, the number of Hezbollah members of Lebanese parliament does not reflect the true size of this group; that is, this number is not proportionate to the true size of Hezbollah. Because, we tend to form a coalition and hand over several seats to our allies so that they also have a strong presence in the parliament. Our representatives serve the people of their regions in the parliament. We participate in the government and have ministers, and we hold ministries such as the Ministry of Health which are naturally to provide services. The current health minister is among the most active ministers of the government. Therefore, apart from the military dimension, Hezbollah is also politically, socially, and culturally active. We have institutions that are active in communications, and even poetry, literature, painting, and music.
But what the media usually concentrate on is the military dimension, since the most important action by Hezbollah since 1982 was defeating Israeli occupiers and achieving the first manifest Arab victory. This was a huge and great action. That is why Hezbollah’s military dimension is often highlighted. Also, Hezbollah went to Syria to fight against the Takfiris and against a project of foreign domination over the whole region. As a result, its military dimension has been wide and essential. However, other activities of Hezbollah continue strongly; even though they are sometimes not adequately portrayed in the media.
I was listening to your speech on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution; I noticed you pointed out some of the problems the Lebanese people face such as the problems with electricity. When we come to Lebanon sometimes, we see the problem of electricity is very serious, and in fact, it is a concern for the Lebanese people. I heard that Saudi Arabia is one of the obstacles. Please tell us about the needs to solve this problem in Lebanon, the government’s lack of serious action to solve the problem and how it is Hezbollah’s concern.
We follow these cases. Not just Saudi Arabia; the main problem is the United States. For example, what disrupts cooperation between the Lebanese government and the Islamic Republic of Iran? Threats posed by the U.S. Some in the Lebanese government are afraid of the U.S. and their sanctions against Lebanon. Otherwise, a few years ago, delegations from Iran came to Lebanon with offers of help and loans. But they are afraid of U.S. threats and sanctions. The U.S. block [cooperation between Iran and Lebanon]. The U.S. prevents Lebanon from cooperating with not only Iran, but also with Russia and even China. For example, the Lebanese government can buy weapons and use Russian military equipment and armaments, but it does not do so because the U.S. has threatened the Lebanese government saying: “If you buy arms from Russia, we will cut all our aid to the Lebanese army.” Well, China has plenty of opportunities and is willing to cooperate with Lebanon. But why do Lebanon’s doors not open to China? The main reason is the U.S. threat of sanctions. The United States now does not threaten Lebanon of occupation and does not send military forces to it. Because they know that if they enter Lebanon, they cannot occupy and dominate this country. The U.S. knows that in this case, their experience in Iraq would be repeated in Lebanon; as it has already had such an experience in Lebanon in the past. But now the United States resorts to sanctions. When they threaten a country with banking, foreign currency, and trade sanctions, the other party gets scared and back off.
But in any case, we are pursuing in the government, along with the officials, the issues concerning Lebanon and the Lebanese people to the extent of the authorities’ capabilities. To this date, the U.S. has supported Israel in the south, preventing the Lebanese from extracting oil and gas in southern Lebanon; because Israel has threatened [them]. Naturally, we are also threatening [them]. But the companies come looking for a guarantee, and the United States penalizes any company that comes to extract oil and gas in that region, of course, if any company dares to come in the first place. So, the main problem is the United States. Of course, Saudi Arabia is also pushing to prevent serious cooperation with the Lebanese government. For example, Lebanon needs to work with and interact with Syria now, but some Lebanese government officials who count particularly on the relations with the United States and Saudi Arabia do not try that, although the interests of Lebanon require to do so.
Lebanon is an interesting example for those who think cooperation with the United States can solve their problems, and sometimes complain, asking why the Islamic Republic does not resolve its issues with the U.S. government to help resolve its problems. Well, Lebanon has no political problems currently with the United States, and has a good political relationship with it; but the main obstacle to Lebanon’s progress is the United States. I read somewhere you said “we are superior to the Zionists in three areas.” One of the areas you mentioned was in intelligence and information. Well, it’s said that the intelligence system of the Zionist regime is one of the most advanced information systems.
Even during the reign of previous regime in Iran, when they wanted to organize very high levels of intelligence training, they either sent SAVAK agents to the occupied territories, or they brought some trainers from Israel to hold courses in Iran and strengthen Iran’s intelligence systems. Now, you have said that you are superior to Israel in terms of the intelligence system. Based on the points I mentioned and that there are people who might not accept your remark, what explanation do you have in this regard?
I do not remember saying that we are superior. That is, I do not remember saying that we are superior to them. I said we have some information about the situation of Israel that helps us defeat it. We cannot claim to be superior to Israel in terms of intelligence. It is not true. They have some capabilities both technically and in terms of their services. Currently in Lebanon, the services of the U.S. and the services of the European and Arab countries are all at the disposition of Israel. They are technically powerful, and their drones are always flying in our skies, but we do not have such superiority. What I said was that in the past, we had no information—or very poor information—about Israel. But now our strength is that we have much information about Israel, and we know about its bases and barracks, the strengths and weaknesses of its army and its capabilities. We can collect this information by use of various methods. What we need to be able to strike the enemy is this amount of information that we have today, but it is not correct to say we have superiority.
So I would like to ask a question related to the point you mentioned, and then you could continue your words.
That we managed to launch a psychological war against the enemy and affect the enemy’s people showed that my information and the news and issues I was talking about were true and real. The Israelis said: “Wow … they have got so much intelligence.”
One essential point in the context of military confrontation with the Zionist regime is an intelligence surveillance over the enemy, and to use this intelligence in various fields, both in defense of yourself and in planning attacks against the enemy. How much intelligence surveillance has Hezbollah currently gained?
We have an excellent intelligence surveillance that is unprecedented. Hezbollah obtains the necessary intelligence using various methods. The most important intelligence is what we need for any future war or confrontation, or to face any possible threat from Israel. We have an excellent intelligence surveillance and keep track of every development on the enemy’s side. We track the intelligence about the developments related to the enemy, whether obtained through public or confidential methods. But the important thing is to analyze this intelligence; that is, it is important that we evaluate and investigate the intelligence, even when obtained through public means, in order to arrive at a conclusion. This is important.
Hezbollah’s strong point is that it always examines ideology, culture, traditions, customs, weaknesses and strengths as well as the developments related to Israel. This always puts Hezbollah in the context of what goes on within this regime; so that we know how they think, what they like or dislike, what affects them and what problems they are facing. We also know what political, religious and partisan divisions and discords exist within this regime and what the differences between the personalities are. We also evaluate the enemy’s political and military commanders and possess such information. This increases our power to a great extent, and helps us face and confront the enemy through various strategies.
Throughout what you said, you made some remarks about Ayatollah Khamenei on different occasions. I would like to ask you a bit more specifically, considering that you have been in contact with Ayatollah Khamenei for nearly forty years; what are his most prominent personality traits in your opinion? Especially since you have naturally known other important personalities, what makes him singular in comparison?
Firstly, whatever I say in response to this question, I might be accused of bias out of the passion and love that I have for him. Because of this, it may be said that I have brought these issues forward out of affection and love for the Leader. But, realistically and far from the emotional aspects, I have to say that after this extensive experience I have found the Leader possessing exceptional character traits. Sometimes you talk about someone and say that they have good characteristics, of which one or more are excellent and extraordinary. But regarding the Leader, I have to say that he has many exceptional characteristics. For example, his intense sincerity towards God, Islam, Muslims, the underprivileged and the oppressed is an awesome and remarkable devotion. Perhaps this is one of the indications that he is approved by God. This sincerity is very deep and uncommon. When I speak of sincerity, I do not just mean his personality; I have lots of evidence for this. This sincerity lies in his intrinsic personality, in his leadership and in his authority, and does not stop at a certain limit. He always preferred the interests of Islam, Muslims and the public over any other issue.
For example, one of the most prominent features of the Leader is his piety and righteousness. This is a well-known matter. Recently, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and elsewhere has been trying to attack the Leader’s personality. But, idiotically, they have focused on an aspect of his character that nobody would believe their words. For example, they propagated that the Leader’s personal wealth reaches $200 billion.
One of the distinctive features of the Leader is his moral character and his personality traits. Whenever we meet him, we can see humbleness in his face. Every Lebanese who has travelled to Iran and met with the Leader, in private or in public, has been amazed by his humbleness and modesty. Here in Lebanon, we see that even the head of a small municipality in a small area, is not as humble as the Leader before the people and his visitors.
Others feel that rather than an Imam, a Leader, and a sovereign, they are meeting a loving, caring and affectionate father. Regarding his modesty, and paternal behavior, I told you before that whenever we expressed our views, he would weigh in by saying “my suggestion is …”, and asked us to evaluate it for ourselves. This is one of the signs of the modest, kind and paternal behavior of the Leader. This behavior is fatherly because it teaches us how to mature, and make decisions, and it is kind because he does not want to put us in a difficult position and force us to decide.
Another one of his characteristics, is his extensive political and historical knowledge. The Leader knows our region, despite the region and its developments being very complex. I am referring to the West Asia region, also known as the Middle East, and in particular Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and of course specifically Lebanon. The issues in the region are extremely complicated and even many regional politicians and thinkers make mistakes in analyzing the situation. Meanwhile, we have found every analysis by the Leader to be accurate and reasonable over the past 40 years. Every stance he has made towards the countries of the region, even countries where their own people have been unable to analyze their own issues, has been correct. This is extraordinary.
One of his distinctive features in my opinion, is his absolute trust in the Almighty God. We are not talking about someone who has isolated himself to pray or someone who is active in teaching or in scholarly activities and claims to trust God absolutely. The real test is to have a responsibility as important as that of the Leader, to lead the Islamic Republic, lead the Ummah, confront the U.S., the imperialists on Earth, and the arrogant powers, and to support the oppressed and the underprivileged, go to the most difficult battles, and say I trust in God, and really do have trust in God. That is the difference. This is the true faith in God and the ability to nurture it in others. What is meant is not just claiming to have this trust, but to create and nurture it in the hearts and minds of others like the Hezbollah of Lebanon. It is in the shadow of this trust that progress, consciousness, endeavor for the sake of God, and victory will be achieved. It is through this trust that the Iranian nation and the Iranian youth have stood against the U.S. and faced challenges. If the Leader himself had not achieved such a great level of trust in God, he could not pass it on to others.
In the intellectual realm, today there are very few Muslim thinkers in the Muslim world. There is a difference between a thinker and an educated person. We have many Muslim scholars who have written many books and delivered many lectures, but there are not many Muslim thinkers, the like of the martyr Motahhari, or the martyr Sayyid Baqir Sadr who are among the thinkers of the Muslim world. Today, the number of Muslim thinkers in the Muslim world is very small. There is no doubt that someone who listens to the Leader’s speeches, reads his books and listens to his statements and advice, especially during the month of Ramadan, when he meets with different groups, realizes that he is a great Muslim intellectual leader. Perhaps there is no other thinker in the Muslim world of his stature. That is, no Muslim intellectual is currently comparable to him.
Regarding the subject of jurisprudence and fiqh, naturally, the Leader’s scientific character, and his status among scholar has not been adequately presented. I do not claim to be a scholar, but I know many knowledgeable and mujtahid brothers who are scholars themselves and have attended the Leader’s fiqh classes, and have given solid testimonies about his mastery of Islamic law, and his command of jurisprudence and fiqh. When providing testimony regarding his authority in fiqh, this testimony has gone through testing, investigation, and serious scientific examinations, and not based on an emotional stance or the like.
Today, the struggle continues. Who is conducting this struggle, and its requirements, including science, knowledge, thought, and real identification of the issues in every political, economic, social, cultural, military and security dimensions? Who is conducting this struggle which requires deep insight and courage? One may have insight, but lack the courage and spirit of sacrifice with his soul, life, and blood. Which leaders possess all these features all together? This was a summary of the Leader’s characteristics. Although, if one wants to study his exceptional and distinctive features, one would learn about many of them.
You pointed out his courage. In your opinion, what was the most courageous decision by Ayatollah Khamenei regarding the issues of the region?
You know that after the events of September 11 in the U.S., George Bush and the neoconservatives in the U.S. were outraged. They misused the anger of the American people as a pretext to break every legal boundary and international norm. On that day, George Bush declared that the world is either with us or against us. He sent U.S. troops to Iran’s neighbors. We are not talking about U.S. troops deployed to, [let’s say] Brazil. We are talking about forces deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and countries surrounding Iran and its neighboring waters. Bush did this to show his blunt and fierce hostility.
Anyone standing in his way, he would try to destroy. Many in the region were in a state of great fear and horror; because they thought that the U.S. would come and take over the region. I remember, at the time articles were written claiming the region would enter an American era for 200 or 300 years, and no one can stand up to the United States and defeat it. Who stood up to the United States? The Leader. This stance does not only require historical wisdom, political knowledge, piety or sincerity. It also requires a great deal of courage. He stood against the only arrogant imperialist superpower in the world; a fuming superpower that does not abide by any rule. He stood up to them, not in a subdued state, but taking an attacking posture. In conclusion, the person who has led the fight against the American project in the region over the past years has been the Leader.
When we were talking outside of this interview, you described the decision to get involved in Syria also as a very courageous decision.
Of course; there is no doubt that all of these decisions have been courageous. But you asked me about the most courageous decision. The most courageous decision was to stand against the stupendous, fierce and utterly mad tornado of the United States, and to reject any kind of kneeling or surrender to this tornado and ultimately vanquish it.
About the book “Certainly, Victory Comes with Patience” that you also referred to, during the ceremony marking the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution; please tell us if you remember an interesting point or remarks from this book.
First of all, when this I received this book before its final edition, I read it the same night. It was sunset when I received this book. That night, I read it with great enthusiasm. I first read the introduction written by the Leader in his own handwriting. An introduction in Arabic, which is obviously, also in Persian alphabet. I was surprised. I knew that the Leader is fluent in Arabic, but the text I read was of the highest level of rhetoric and was very eloquent and expressive. I do not think that today, any Arab native could write a text of such beauty and eloquence in Arabic. This was the first thing I noticed at the beginning of the book.
Likewise, what was said in the introduction of the book, regarding its language and expression was very significant. Because I had heard from a brother, Dr. Azarshab that: “This text – i.e. the Arabic text – is written by the Leader, and I have only made simple modifications to it “. The text of this book is a great and very important text in Arabic literature and rhetoric. Many Arab literary figures, not scholars, but literary figures, cannot write a text with such excellent rhetoric and eloquence.
Another feature is a clear, detailed description of the events. The Leader has narrated the events beautifully, in a way that many of them are new to the Arab world, although this may not be the case for the Iranians; because there is of course a Persian version of this book. I had read some books about the Leader’s memories and his life; a collection of many books. But this was the first time I read a book in Arabic written by the Leader himself, which includes extensive details. It was very effective. And, of course, the amount of oppression, pain, suffering and solitude that the Leader and other brothers endured became apparent to the people. But anyway, he narrates his personal recollections, and not those of the others, who are not the subject matter here. Obviously, the Iranian nation, religious leaders, officials, and even those who took up responsibilities later suffered a lot and made many sacrifices for the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
In your meetings with the Leader, what language are the meetings held in?
I speak Arabic and he speaks Persian. But sometimes, at the beginning of the meeting, he asks some questions in Arabic. For example, he asks about how we are, and about our families and brothers in Arabic. But he continues in Persian. Indeed, it was an agreement at the beginning of his leadership and even during his presidency, but mostly during his leadership. Because I understand Persian. But some of my brothers in the Council, understood Persian to a certain degree. So, they used to bring an interpreter to the meetings with the Leader. He said in the beginning that we should rely on an interpreter. At a meeting where the Leader, the Lebanese and some Iranian brothers were present he said: “We will not rely on an interpreter from now on. The Iranians must learn Arabic to understand what you say, and the Lebanese must learn Persian, so they do not need an interpreter.” Since then, there has never been an interpreter present at any of our meetings with the Leader.
Clearly, you have many memories of your meetings with the Leader. These memories are related to politics, military discussions, etc. some of which have been explained. Now, at the end of this conversation, if we ask you to share with us one memory that is very sweet and interesting for you, of the many memories that you have, which one would it be?
(Sayyid Hassan laughs) Now, we need to search. They are all good memories. (Sayyid Hassan laughs) It’s difficult to choose one. You know that in the 1990s, i.e. in 1997 or 1998, we were going through a difficult period because of all the hardships, challenges and many dangers and we were very tired. We were in a very difficult position, both domestically in Lebanon, and in our foreign affairs, and the issues related to Israel and our neighbors. Naturally, at that time, I was young. My beard was completely black, and the burden I had on my shoulders was beyond my capacity. I sometimes travelled to Iran. To the Leader I said: “Our Leader! What do I do? “At that time, the Leader answered:” You are still young and your beard is still all black. What complaint should I make about fatigue, with all my beard grey?” He said: “It is natural for anyone to face challenges, difficulties and dangers, sometimes coming from enemies and sometimes from friends. Often, the hardships coming from friends are heavier than those from the enemies, and it causes more pain. Well, ultimately there are limitations in many things. Sometimes a man gets tired mentally and needs someone to guide him and show him the way forward. Sometimes a person needs someone to hold his hand; sometimes he needs someone to calm him down and give him spiritual and moral relief; sometimes he needs someone to increase his strength and reinforce his determination. Well, for all the things we need, we have God the Almighty and do not need anyone else. We have God the Almighty. God the Almighty, through His Kindness and Compassion, has allowed us to call Him and talk to Him at any time and place.”
These words were all by the Leader, stated without any formalities. He continued: “For that reason, whenever you feel tired or overwhelmed, I recommend the following. Enter a room alone, and for 5 or 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour, talk to God the Exalted. We believe that God is present, hears, sees and knows, and He is capable, rich and wise. That is, God has everything we all need. So talk to Him, and for this purpose, there is no necessity to read the Prophet’s (PBUH) or the infallible Imams’ invocations. No, in your own language, say what weighs on your heart and minds, using your everyday language. God will hear and see, and He is generous, benevolent, forgiving, merciful, and the source of guidance and knowledge. If you do this, God gives you peace, confidence and power, and takes your hand and leads you. I say this from experience. Try it and see the result. ”
Then I told them that God willing, I will follow his advice. Since then, I have done this occasionally, and seen the blessings of this advice and guidance from the Leader. No matter how great the hardships, if we resort to this means, the doors of the great divine blessing will open to us. This was the most important thing we did during the 33-day. Whether I, or my brothers, we each sought a secluded corner, and we would resort to God the Exalted and ask for guidance, support, determination, power, courage, and so on. God the Exalted is so generous.