_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________INTERVIEW
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My Meetings With Hezbollah and Lebanese Officials
By Manuela Paraipan - 4/25/2005


The Shia Hezbollah is a powerful political party; influential within the Shia community and respected
outside it. But Hezbollah is more than a political party. It has its resistance, or militia as the West usually
refers to it. In my meetings with Hezbollah officials I have noticed several issues they emphasize when
talking to a foreign journalist, as well as the language nuances they use depending on how I have
tackled a certain subject.

I've heard several times that Hezbollah is a party, not a state. While in theory I agree with the gentlemen,
has several schools, hospitals, thousands of people, both individuals and families on their monthly
payroll, they have a TV station, and many other social oriented programs. And, that would be fine
because other parties in Lebanon are mostly no different - with one big exception: they do not have
anymore an organized, well-trained guerilla troops. Most Lebanese parties still carry light weapons, but
since the end of the civil war they have focused on the political battle, rather than the armed struggle.

Hezbollah is in control of the South of Lebanon. Now, it is not like you see people armed in the middle of
the street. The South community is not a militarized one, but the Shia Hezbollah and Amal are very much
in control of whatever is going on there. Although not seen, or at least not seen by me, the majority of
Hezbollah's fighters have their headquarters in South because their enemy, Israel, is to the south of the
county. After staying few days in the South and talking to the people, I find it difficult to say that their
fears are without substance. Almost all the families there have lost someone dear in the years when
Israel bombed on a regular basis their region and invaded the country. On the main streets of the South
there are pictures of the men who died defending their families and land.

In this context, how can I or someone else for that matter judge their sufferance? There are people who
still sleep with a pistol under the pillow fearing that without an official armistice, and without a strong will
from Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's government to solve the Palestinian problem, the Israeli army can attack
Lebanon, without any warning.

While I can understand the humane, the emotional side of this problem, I do not understand why the
Lebanese government and parliament allowed this very peculiar and unconstitutional situation when you
have a group of people, party, resistance or militia ruling a part of Lebanon. Where is the Lebanese
army? Why are not they doing their job? And more disturbing, whose rule is Hezbollah obeying since it is
not obeying the laws established by the Lebanese constitution? As Dory Chamoun, the President of the
National Liberal Party, very well pointed out: who handed the South to Hezbollah and why the
international community, US included did not do a thing for decades to stop it?

The question of their loyalty is closely tied by the source of their funds. Mainly, Hezbollah's funds come
from Iran and of course from their own businesses and investments inside and outside Lebanon, as well
as from donations. My interlocutors pointed out to me that the money comes mainly from donations, it is
hard to believe it.

Pierre Maroun, who is a respected lobby-ist for a free Lebanon in US, is also very knowledgeable about
the Hezbollah and he told me that their regular income definitely comes from several sources, including
money laundering, drugs, diamond trade in African countries like Sierra Leone.

UN Resolution 1559 is rejected by Hezbollah's politicians who see it merely as a tool to benefit the Israeli
interests and agenda in the region. Even outside Hezbollah, many believe that Israel is a state build by
aggression and terror. But then again, most accept its de facto presence as a neighbor in the region.

As for the fact that UN 1559 asks the disarming of all militias, without naming them directly is an element
used by Hezbollah to tell the world that they are not a militia, but a resistance. When the Israeli attacks
and occupation will end, they may lay down the weapons.

But will they really lay down their weapons? Eventually they probably will, but not without getting
something in return. It is not in their interest to bring the country to the edge of a second civil war. Also
very important is the fact that having 18 religious denominations in the country, none of them can raise
more than 10%-15% of the popular support. While Hezbollah is important both for the Shia community
and the country, it is not the representative or allShia, nor the entire country. In Lebanon everything in
politics is a compromise. I have little doubt that this time is different.

My impression was that Hezbollah's leadership is optimistic about the party's future. I was told that "if
America believes in its naive scenarios regarding the Arab world, then so be it. However, they have
been proven to be wrong before and they are wrong now."

Hezbollah considers Syria a friend country. Between sea and Israel, they would rather ally themselves
with Syria, but on the other hand they did not ignore the opposition's calls for a constructive dialogue.

Now that Lebanon has a caretaker government and the parliamentary elections are due to take place on
the 29th of May, is more likely to see Hezbollah taking seriously their political role, instead of their
resistance role in Lebanon. Hussein Naboulsi, the Director for the Foreign Media Relations told me that
in Islam nothing could be implemented by force. "In the Holy Koran is written: call the use of dialog for
the sake of Allah." I do hope that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah will remember this and will act in the benefit
of all Lebanese. At the end of the day, the Sunnis, the Shiias and the Christians are all Lebanese and
they should know better than anyone else that the country's only chance to stand on its feet, without
foreign interference is by having dialogue and agreement.

Manuela Paraipan received a Political Science degree in Romania, concentrating on Arab/Muslim
domestic and external policy. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington
Times, World Security Network (WSN), World Press, Yemen Times and other publications. She has also
been invited as a speaker at multiple political conferences. In addition to Romanian and English, Ms.
Paraipan speaks French, Spanish and Italian.


To read more of Manuela Paraipan's work, visit
www.manuelaparaipan.org