Elias Muhanna, whose blog I followed yesterday while simultaneously listening to the speech by Sec. Gates -- honestly, can't Hassan Nasrallah and Bob Gates coordinate when they're going to be speaking so I can listen to both? -- has a good inst-analysis of Nasrallah's speech up on Foreign Policy. I think he more or less nails it here:
The short-term result of this new development will be the simple fact that the Lebanese will now have two different sources of authority on the question of who killed Rafiq al-Hariri. Just as the old binaries of the 2005-09 period were fading away (March 14 vs. March 8, loyalists vs. opposition, etc.), a new one has arisen to take their place. The questions the Lebanese will now ask eachother will be: "Do you believe the U.N. or Hizbullah?" "Which story is more convincing?" "Which evidence is more compelling?"
Yup. This allows Hizballah's supporters to follow an alternative to the narrative on offer from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is expected to name members of Hizballah as having been involved with the assassination of Rafik Hariri. If it is possible to be more cynical about Lebanese politics and politicians than Elias, I somehow manage: I pretty much reserve a high degree of suspicion for the words coming out of anyone's mouth. And I also believe -- and my Lebanese friends will pardon me here -- that hardcore supporters of any sect or party in Lebanon more or less swallow whole whatever their leaders tell them, and Hizballah's followers are no different. (The same can be said, probably, for many of the American viewers of Glenn Beck and Keith Olberman.) Readers with a passing familiarity with the fighting in southern Lebanon will remember that pretty much no Lebanese person living north of Khiam had ever heard of the Shebaa Farms before 2000.* But boy, didn't Hizballah convince everyone in Lebanon -- though not the United Nations -- that southern Lebanon was still "occupied" territory so long as the farms were on the wrong side of the fence? And did this not provide a good excuse for Hizballah to remain under arms after the Israeli withdrawal? Sure did.
So now we have this new version of the truth whereby some supposedly intercepted Israeli drone feeds suggest Israel was involved with the assassination of Rafik Hariri. And a good percentage of the people of the southern suburbs of Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Biqa'a Valley will now believe the Mossad killed Rafik Hariri and the STL is a UN plot to disarm Hizballah. Sigh.
Hey, Abu Hadi, if this crazy scheme doesn't work out in the court of public opinion, I happen to know for a fact that a former U.S. Army Ranger with explosives training was in western Beirut on the day of the Hariri assassination. Isn't this an interesting coincidence? Maybe the Americans killed Rafik Hariri!
*The truth is, there was a bit in the Lebanese press in 1996 about the Shebaa Farms, and the farms are Lebanese territory. But no one -- not the Israelis, the Lebanese, or the United Nations -- had ever really heard of them prior to 2000. It took some effort, in fact, to get the Syrians to renounce their claims to the territory, which were not taken in 1982 but rather seized in 1967 along with the rest of the Golan. I know this is complicated, but the point is this: Hizballah is a past master at creating alternate narratives to insulate it from crises.