Anticipating the ground assault, Nasrallah sought to ensure his group’s survival and safeguard its widening base of support in Lebanon and abroad by lowering the bar for what would constitute victory in a television interview broadcast Friday. He defined victory as a successful defense, but was not more specific.According to the Washington Post, Nasrallah was more specific:
"Victory in this case does not mean that I will enter and conquer the north of Palestine," he said. "If the resistance survives, this will be a victory. If its determination is not broken, this will be a victory."Of course Nasrallah is helped by the fact that he is defining his version of victory after Israel has already made public that their goal in Lebanon is to clear Hizbollah out of the area and seriously degrade their infrastructure--but not to destroy them. [Update: Now that Israel has rejected the army's recommendation for a larger-scale ground offensive, Nasrallah's ability to claim victory is all but assured ]
Not only has Nasrallah lowered the bar on how he defines victory, he apparently has also lowered the bar on how he defines martyrdom as well:
“We love martyrdom,” he has said in the Friday interview. “But we take precautions to deny the enemy an easy victory.”Maybe there is a connection...?
Of course Iran wants to make sure that Nasrallah does not appear to be too cautious, so they came out publicly to deny the rumors that Nasrallah has been hiding out in the Iranian embassy--though they did not respond to speculation that the kidnapped Israeli soldiers may be there. [Update: Now a Kuwaiti newspaper is reporting that Nasrallah is in Damascus and the Jerusalem Post has more]
On the other hand, the admission by Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of Hezbollah's political arm, that Hizbollah did not see Israel's response coming makes Nasrallah look careless, and worse:
"The truth is _ let me say this clearly _ we didn't even expect (this) response.... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati. Such an odd admission--which might, as Powerline suggests, be a ploy to exploit the "disproportionate use of force" angle--might also add fuel to the anger of those Lebanese who feel that Nasrallah is destroying their country.
"Great, so he's a hero. But I'd like to challenge this heroism of his. I have the right to challenge it, because my country is in flames.If Jumblatt really wants to challenge Nasrallah, he is going to have to wait in line--assuming anyone can find him.
According to Haaretz:
An Israel Defense Forces analysis of the messages transmitted by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to his men during the fighting in Lebanon reveals a slightly different tone from the one he took in three public television interviews in the same period and in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper A-Safir.In The Nasrallah Blues, Captain's Quarters gives his impressions on what this means:
A senior officer said Nasrallah took a less bellicose position when engaging in his internal dialogue in his organization, than in his appearances in the Arab media - but he remained aggressive.
Nasrallah's tone is apologetic in his messages and he explains that Israel escalated the confrontation by striking deep inside Lebanon after the soldiers were abducted, the officer said.
Nasrallah admits that his organization is having morale problems and says his group will receive support and encouragement.
He adds that not only Hezbollah, but also Israel, has been badly hit.
He also complains frequently that the Arab states have deserted Hezbollah and the Lebanese and are not helping them against Israel.
It also sounds like Nasrallah had to make an accounting of his actions in order to convince his men to continue their fight. Having a commander communicate an apology of this sort indicates a growing dissatisfaction with leadership in the ranks. Nasrallah so far has done nothing to convince anyone that he has a grasp of either strategy or tactics. He has proven that he has no understanding of his enemy, nor much of his putative allies in the region, almost all of whom have declined to rush to his side in this fight.And the momentum for pushing Nasrallah out may come from inside, not out. Michael Totten writes about what may happen in Lebanon after the smoke clears and Israel leaves:
Nasrallah had better have a victory to show them soon, or he may find himself replaced with wiser counsel.
My sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.