Mustafa Fahs

Hezbollah After the War on Gaza, According to Imad Mughnieh 

An audio recording attributed to late Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughnieh, who was assassinated by Israel in a Damascus suburb in 2008, was recently leaked. It differs from all the previous content that was released by the military media.

Typically, we do not hear him speak for more than a few seconds, mainly and the clips released previously consist mostly of footage from the field. However, this new audio recording, which has not been released by an official Hezbollah channel or outlet, is different, in terms of its content and the importance of its timing, meaning it may have been leaked deliberately.

Mughnieh speaks calmly and plainly but about sensitive matters. In his Southern dialect, he can be heard saying: “Resistance gave us an existence that exists. Even, if God forbid, the resistance were to end, we should not link our fate to the resistance. I mean, if the resistance falls tomorrow, that would mean Hezbollah would go. Where would it go? I mean where could we possibly go, where could this existence go? This existence has major, deep roots in this society, they can't end it. Now you could ask me what this phase could look like, what the nature of your existence would be... but this existence exists.”

“Some of the methods we adopt in our work could change or be tweaked. But the question of our existence is settled. We must keep up with this existence. They used to call it the Islamic phenomenon; we are not an Islamic phenomenon. Phenomena change, they come and go. We are an existing Islamic existence with deep roots, and no one can remove it anymore. Everyone now, when they come, they take Hezbollah into consideration. Our main goal is to preserve this existence. This is among our main objectives,” he said.

In this recording, Mughnieh seems open to the possibility of breaking the link between the Lebanese Shiite community and armed resistance. He is saying that the existence of this community as a deeply rooted Lebanese one, and its role and size in Lebanon, are no longer linked to arms alone.

It seems that whoever is behind the leak wants to let everyone know, both domestically and internationally, that the position of the party and the Shiite community (which is predominantly supportive of it) on how to deal with the entity and the state has shifted.

Mughnieh’s assertion that they are a rooted Islamic existence and not a fleeting phenomenon reminds us of what he had been hearing for over five decades from three Shiite scholars (Moussa al-Sadr, Mohammad Mahdi Shams al-Din, and Hani Fahs) about the finality of the Lebanese political entity in the collective Islamic Shiite consciousness.

Moreover, Mughnieh’s recording affirms the end of the Shiites’ victim complex, opening the door to a historical settlement among the Lebanese, whether political parties or sectarian communities, and to a national dialogue around the party’s arms and the constitution.

However, for the dialogue to be fruitful, it must be preceded by intra-Shiite dialogue that re-examines the Shiite community’s political stance on the domestic changes that began on October 17, 2019, and the intentional shift engendered by the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation of October 7. This could pave the way for a comprehensive national dialogue to save what remains of the republic, and the party, as the leading party in its sect and the strongest in its country, has a responsibility to ensure this outcome.

Strategically, this leak cannot be assessed in isolation of what the region will look like after the Gaza war and the future of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It comes at a time when Tel Aviv is threatening to expand its assault on Lebanon under the pretext of forcing the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 according to interpretations unacceptable to the Lebanese.

On the other hand, however, there is a need among the Lebanese in general and the Shiites in particular, to spare Lebanon from war and to deny Israel a pretext to attack, especially since its ruling elite is trying to drag the region into an open-ended conflict, not only to save its political future but also because it is betting on violence allowing Israeli society to heal and confront an existential crisis and the collapse of its collective sense of security.

In a pivotal phase both internally and externally, Hezbollah is sending signals that it is prepared to deal with existential issues pragmatically. It is linking its well-being with that of Lebanon, which now needs brave national concessions to save it. These concessions begin with the challenge of making key appointments in the near term and, if the intentions are sincere, preparing for major settlements.