Hezbollah is in Lebanon backed by Iranian this is a well-known fact. At the same time we have agreed with Hezbollah after the Doha Agreement conference that we have to have dialogue with Hezbollah to see how to include the military apparatus inside the Lebanese army and the Lebanese state.
The following is the full text of Press TV interview with the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of Lebanon , Walid Jumblatt, on September 12, 2009. Video files included.
Q: I’d like to start with the issue of government. Of course the agreed formula which appoints 15 ministers for the majority, ten for the opposition and five for the President (Suleiman). After the Parliament majority leader Saad Hariri stepped down, certain figures in the Parliament majority said a new formula might be proposed and may be a cabinet of one color. What do you say based on your discussions with Saad Hariri? Does he intend actually to go ahead with such a step?
A:I think we have agreed to fix up the government of national unity. And I think Mr. Hariri is still sticking to this principle — the cabinet of national unity – which means the formula adopted at that time being five, ten and fifteen (seats). Since the situation in the country is very delicate we have to be united. We have to fix up the government of national unity to face the future threats, mainly a possible Israeli aggression at any time. They (Israelis) are not hiding that, they are saying we will attack or we will one day come to Lebanon again.
Q: Have you received any confirmation from Mr. Hariri himself based upon your contacts that he will go ahead with such a step?
A:I cannot answer on his behalf. But as a representative of eleven parliament members, my position is to stick to the principle of the government of national unity.
Q: So, you are against any other different formula.
A:I mean there is no problem if there are other formulas that lead to the same focus. However, I don’t think there are other formulas.
Q: We have heard that the choice of Ministry of Telecommunication is the main obstacle to form a cabinet. You yourself have stressed on the issue of Syrian-Saudi Arabian rapprochement and the external factors. What do you believe is the main obstacle? Do you think it’s the external factors?
A:Part of it is the external factors. I mean once Lebanon benefits from stability the whole region is in the stability and by the time Lebanon is instable the region is not stable. We need a Syrian-Saudi rapprochement, and we need at the same time a dialogue between Arabs and Iranians. It appears that several points of conflict are rooted in misinformation and/or disengagement between the Iranians and the Arabs. By Arabs, I mean the Saudis and the Egyptians. It is a must to engage into the dialogue. When the Secretary of the Arab League — Amr Moussa — was in the Emirates, did say that it is important to engage such a dialogue because we as Arabs and Iranians have to face future threats from a possible Israeli aggression on Lebanon and on Iran.
Q: You just mentioned Egypt. You also said certain countries don’t have an interest in seeing a Syrian-Saudi Arabian rapprochement. Who do you refer to specifically, the United States or Egypt?
A:To date, there has been no clear-cut policy in the American administration. The neo-conservatives are still counseling the foreign policy. (Barack) Obama might have good intentions, but until now we have seen the same old policy on the ground which seeks to wreak havoc, chaos and disorder in the Middle East as well as the Islamic world. I know that Obama is left with terrible legacies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. However, I don’t see a big difference in the policy except for the appointment of (George) Mitchell whom will turn to be another Tony Blair if he takes no concrete measure.
Q: So, you haven’t seen any implementation of Obama’s slogan of change up to now?
A:In his speech in Cairo, he (Obama) said that the Israelis are to freeze the settlement construction. Israelis have not even answered such an appeal. They are continuing to destroy houses in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) and expanding the settlements.
Q: Do think that these neo-cons in addition to the Israeli government are seizing the opportunity of cabinet formation in Lebanon to try to create sectarian strife. Avigdor Lieberman recently in Nigeria said that Hezbollah and not Israel is the main threat to any Hariri cabinet. Do you think they are seizing the opportunity to create internal havoc and sectarian strife?
A:To succeed in their ultimate goal, and to have the Arab world recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel, the Israelis need chaos surrounding Israel. The chaos has started in Iraq. They might also need chaos in Lebanon. With respect to things happening in Sudan and Yemen, they need the whole Muslim World in chaos so to say well look what’s happening. With whom shall we speak? then look we have religious and sectarian strife in the Arab Muslim world. We are entitled to have our own Jewish state excluding the Arabs.
Q: So you think the policy towards Lebanon is part of a broader policy concerning the Jewish state.
A:Yes, they have started the Israeli policy long time ago. I mean in the 1950s or 1960s. They nearly succeeded in the 1970s when they were part of division inside Lebanon. But at that time the international and regional circumstances were different. Lebanon was stabilized after nineteen years of civil war by the Taef Agreement. Now it seems the Taef Agreement is being questioned by the Israelis.
Q: In your view, what is the way to address or confront such challenges? When Lieberman says Hezbollah is a danger to Hariri government, how do we as Lebanese confront to this?
A:This is where we need to see a general regional and international outlook, and not to be obsessed with small Lebanese details. We have to offer concessions from both sides. This is in the interest of Hezbollah. This is in the interest of Saad Hariri and in the interest of Lebanon how to accept the cabinet of national unity because we will be facing problems, huge problems and at stake is the unity of Lebanon, and how to defend Lebanon against possible and inevitable Israeli aggression.
Q: Do you think this preoccupation with Lebanese details, is the way in which we indirectly hope Israel — and may be evidence of this is what happened yesterday when a few rockets were launched and were launched back from Israel. This incident happened after this political instability. What do you think?
A:Sometimes some people in Lebanon think that we can be isolated, that Lebanon is an island like Cyprus or Britain, Lebanon is not an Island and Lebanon needs Arab rapprochement basically Saudi-Syrian rapprochement and Lebanon also needs Arab-Iranian dialogue. We are not an Island we are ultimately to face regional consequences with a dreadful neighbor that is just thinking about how to divide the Arab and Muslim world called the Israelis. It’s now well obvious that the only existent of Israel to a long run will depend on if they succeed in creating confessional sectarian state in Iraq, in Sudan everywhere, they will tell you OK why do you challenge the Jewish state? Look there is a Sunni state somewhere, some Shia state there and there is a Kurdish state, and this is the argument.
Q: You said some people in Lebanon; could you be more specific on that?
A:Every body of us. All of us should be aware of dangers by Israeli policy and by the non-policy of Americans or still the neo-conservative policy of Bush.
Q: You said some people think we are an Island. Which people do you refer to?
A:Let me not to mention that. To enter into internal discussions about Lebanon it is not an important issue.
Q: Israel has of course labeled Hezbollah as being an extension of Iranian influence. At the same time we see this policy of trying to show Iran being the enemy instead of Israel. I must say that certain people believe that Arab countries are contributing to this for example we saw what happened in so-called Hezbollah circle in Egypt. What is your stance towards this? Is Lebanon an arena where the Iranian card is being played?
A:Hezbollah is in Lebanon backed by Iranian this is a well-known fact. At the same time we have agreed with Hezbollah after the Doha Agreement conference that we have to have dialogue with Hezbollah to see how to include the military apparatus inside the Lebanese army and the Lebanese state. We have no way out. But I’m challenging some ideas that well to put on the same level animosity of Israel and Iran. I just reject that. OK the Iranians have the rights to push their ambitions for peaceful nuclear activities like other countries like Germany like Japan like other countries. But the Americans and part of the West are just focusing that well that this program could lead to military use and we will allow Israelis to hit Iranians and at the same time saying to certain Arab public that well you have two enemies the Israelis and the Iranians. This is totally wrong. We have only one enemy called Israelis.
Q: So I want to conclude a certain point you believe now that Israel’s way of harming Lebanon is not to launch an all-out war but to create division, whether they are sectarian or otherwise.
A:Well, part of that they succeed but if we do allow them if we delay the formation of the government, if we don’t accept to bring concessions and to forget about some trivial issues in Lebanon. I don’t like the general atmosphere actually in some speeches here and there. I don’t like it.
Q: I want to go back to an issue about Iran. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah hinted before that the Lebanese government could approach Syria and Iran for getting anti-aircraft system. Will the Progressive Socialist Party being in the next government push for taking such a step?
A:Why not, because until now all weapons delivered to the Lebanese army has been American weapons or weapons from Arab world which are acceptable weapons but they are not the weapons we need. I mean we need some tanks of course. But we need anti-tank weapons and anti-craft weapons which I think we can find such weapons in Iran or in Russia or in China. But going back to this Americans are not really willing to provide us with such weapons. They will tell you these weapons will be used against Israelis. OK, but my enemy is Israel.
Q: The issue you mentioned about sectarian strife in Lebanon. Do you support a meeting to be held in future between Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah and the Parliament majority Saad Hariri to prevent any sectarian chaos?
A:I support all efforts to reduce tension and basically it’s time now to conclude the past experiences of the 70-day when we were not able to have a government. It must accept a government beyond with the prerequisite of the government of national unity and if the meeting between Saad Hariri and Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah is necessary with this purpose why not. You have to ask Mr. Hariri.
Q: Do think Lebanon now should join the alliance called the resistance alliance, which includes Iran and Syria? Is that where Lebanon’s place should be right now?
A:Before the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, before what Americans and Arabs claim that Iran has an extension in Lebanon, we had that the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) which was headed by Arrafat. And before Arafat the whole of south was subject to aggression for years for decades and we claimed at that time we can not the Nationalist Party of Lebanon we always demanded to have a strong army and to have bunkers and to have enforcement of the south because at any time Israelis can come to Lebanon. It’s a long story. It started in 1969 but it started long before in the 1950s and 1960s. Always the south was an open space and open air for the Israelis. Now of course after the lessons of the year 2006 well now Israeli should calculate. But Israelis at any time they will find any pretext to come to Lebanon. They have invaded Beirut in 1982 and at that time there neither was Hezbollah nor Iran in Lebanon.
Q: So that leads me to conclusion. You agree with what Hezbollah officials say that the arms of the resistance serve not only to liberate territories but also serve as a deterrent against Israel.
A:Yes, with a slight difference. Let me stick to the principle of the table of dialogue. One day, for the sake of Hezbollah the benefit of Lebanon will force the state when the circumstances will be favorable security-wise, military-wise, politically-wise for Hezbollah they should be part of official apparatus. I say one day not tomorrow.
Q: Don’t you think that the day should come after the Lebanese army has the proper capabilities?
A:We go back to the vicious circle. How the Lebanese army will have the proper capability when the Lebanese army is denied of weapons that we mentioned weapons anti-tanks or weapons anti-aircraft that can deter Israeli aggression. This is where may be would profit the expertise of some Hezbollah units. May be we should find some coordination but one day because of the division inside Lebanon the sectarian division it would be better for Hezbollah to be part of the broad and general apparatus.
Q: What about the point we mentioned about getting these weapons from Iran and Syria?
A:I don’t see any problem with getting weapons from any source from Iran from Syria from Russia from China.
Q: Do you have any candidate possibly to choose as Prime Minister-designate beside Saad Hariri?
A:No, I have to compel to abide by the majority. Up to know Saad Hariri is going to be the future Prime Minister.
Q: I want to talk about your personal stances. Why does Walid Jumblatt consider himself a centrist? where do you consider yourself politically?
A:I have said it before and I say it again. We can’t stay in Lebanon divided. It’s impossible. It’s bad. It creates malice. Political menace and sectarian malice. It is bad. We should have the center. I am trying to fix up the center but I can’t do it on my own. We need others. We can’t others. And here these are the wishes of President Suleiman but circumstances are not that much favorable for that center to emerge. But one day we need the center.
Q: So, can you confirm that you are a centrist and not a March 14 member?
A:Part of a coalition, I have some big items to discuss with the March 14 coalition. Because on certain issues we are no more on the same land. I mean we were claiming independence and the freedom of Lebanon. We still have occupied lands Shebaa and Karchouba. Lebanon is free and we have all kinds of freedom in press, TV but we should also abide by Tife (Accord). Some people forget, Taif called for special relationship with Syria and state of truce I mean it freeze door with Israel. Maybe some people think that is possible to isolate Lebanon from the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is impossible. I’m against the neutrality of Lebanon. And we still have some problems to discuss about the Palestinian issue.
Q: If you succeed in building a centrist coalition will you then officially lead the March 14 coalition?
A:I have to succeed first. Don’t ask me a hypothetical question. I’m part of the coalition majority and one day when circumstances are we will discuss some basic issues about Palestinian social, economic conditions in Lebanon. Some people are not willing to see what is going on in Palestine. March 14 and other than March 14. As if the seizing of the territories in the Arab land, in Palestine, as if continuing the expansion of the settlements, as if destroying houses in East Jerusalem, as if asking the Arabs or the whole world to recognize the Jewish instead of Israeli state do not concern Lebanon.
Q: When you said my alliance with March 14 was out of necessity. After that period were your given any incentives from regional countries to go back and resort to the same stance.
A:No, the necessity at that time was the necessity of circumstances. At that time we met together condemning the assassinations. The killing of former Minister Rafiq Hariri was a huge blow to us at that time and the others. And we met different factions of Lebanon under the slogan of liberty, independence and freedom. And we got these items except sovereignty overt Shabaa and farshuba and we got the diplomatic relations and we agreed altogether that other issues should be discussed.
Q: How did regional countries react to what you said at that time specifically I want to name Saudi Arabia?
A:I have explained to Saudis my positions. I’m sticking to one basic issue which is Taif and when you say Taif they say special relationship with Syria and state of war with Israel. We have the Syrians, The Israelis and the Arab world was announced by the Saudis and Syrians in 1999 when they had Taif initiative.
Q: Do you have any near visits to countries that you were previously at odds with like Syria and Iran?
A:I’ve said before that I cannot go to Syria before Mr. Hariri does. About Iran, I will see for the appropriate time to see Iranians.