January 04, 2007

Interviewed by Hugh Hewitt

I'll have another long article posted shortly. In the meantime, Hugh Hewitt interviewed me on his national radio show.

Here is an excerpt:
HH: All right. Explain to people what Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon is right now, and this is really chilling, by the way, I must tell you, Michael Totten. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. Your conversation with the young teenagers, your description of their security forces, your detailing of their ambitions, Hezbollah is a menace, and just tell people about it.

MT: Well, basically, like I said before, what they really want, more than anything else, is as much power in Lebanon as they can acquire. And although they are an Islamist party, their main goal at this point, I don’t believe, is to turn Lebanon into an Islamist state, because they know it’s impossible. For one reason, more than a third of the country are Christians, and they will fight them to the end if they try to create Lebanon as an Islamist state. But also, there is the fact that the Sunni don’t want it, either, and if they did, they would be arguing about which kind of Islamist state to have. But also, the truth is that the majority of the Shia also do not want an Islamist state in Lebanon, and they never have. And so, while Hezbollah used to say that they wanted to turn Lebanon into basically, you know, an Iranian style state, but there’s just no way that they can do this, and they’ve had internal arguments about this, and Hassan Nasrallah is actually more moderate than the previous leaders of Hezbollah, and the previous leaders were pushed aside, because they wanted to Islamicize the entire country. And Nasrallah was chosen because he was seen as more pragmatic and more moderate, I mean, moderate, really only compared to who was running the show previously. So what they really want is they want Shia power in Lebanon as much as possible. And the reason, the only way they can get it is to be the only political party in the country that has an army. And the only way that they can justify having an army is if they are in a constant state of war with the Israelis.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2007 09:53 PM


Oh yes, Hugh, this was really CHILLING. Brrrrrrrr!!!!

Posted by: abraham at January 4, 2007 11:57 PM

Nice interview. This passage actually gives me some hope...

"And if Iran were actually trying to control us, this would create a serious problem, because they like to drink alcohol, they like to date and chase girls and have fun, and they know these things are not allowed in Iran. And these are serious supporters of Hezbollah saying this."

It's nice to know we still have something in common with them.

Posted by: LA Guy at January 5, 2007 12:12 AM

Don't underestimate the Ayatollah army Hezbollah and their ability to take over a westernized, amazing country and turn it into a fundamentalist evil dictatorship. Iran was a beautiful, prosperous country and the Ayatollahs ruined it under the guise of making it "more free". Trust me, I should know I lived in Tehran during the Revolution and I'm glad I didn't stay to see what they did to my homeland.

The Iranians did not want a fundamentalist regime and neither do the Lebanese but who will stop them? Especially if they are the only ones with guns?

Posted by: Yvette at January 5, 2007 12:29 AM

yvette that's exactly what i was thinking. the 'followers' of a certain agenda 'freedom, equality' etc. - may very well be fooled by the leaders.

MJT - staying at war with israel might grant them justification for staying armed but do the majority of lebanese not realize that it were exactly those arms that got them into such disaster last summer?

Posted by: tsedek at January 5, 2007 12:52 AM


They aren't the only ones with guns. They just have the largest number of guns and are the best trained fighters.

There aren't enough people who want an Islamist state. If Hezbollah were to try to take over the country and impose Sharia, Hezbollah would split into different armed factions.

The same thing would happen to the Lebanese army if they were ordered to go to war against Hezbollah, which is why it won't happen.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2007 12:54 AM

Tsedek: do the majority of lebanese not realize that it were exactly those arms that got them into such disaster last summer?

Of course they know it. That's why 80 percent of Lebanese (including Hezbollah's Aounist allies) want Hezbollah to disarm.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2007 12:55 AM


Did the majority of Iranians want an Islamic state? The answer is a definite "No"! The Shah was backed by the United States( a superpower!!!) but that still did not stop the evil regime from taking over our country and making it an Islamic totalitarian state! Michael, let me tell you that in the time before the Revolution, in the streets of Tehran Iranians would rip the veil off of women, that is how hated it was to see it. Even now you can see the beautiful Iranian women wear a veil (it is the law to do so)but their hair is still showing. It is not like in some Arab countries where women wear the Niqab.

When there is a will, there is a way and Hezbollah has the will to turn Lebanon into mini Islamic Republic of Iran. They are doing it in stages that is all. The Christians and Sunna will not know what hit them when Hezbollah reveal their arsenal. They are very smart and they are doing it just as they had done in Iran.

Posted by: Yvette at January 5, 2007 03:10 AM

Linked to your blog.

I wonder if you'd travel to Iran in the future? If so, please let me know and I can get you whatever assistance you need there.

Btw, I liked the Hugh Hewitt's interview. Good job!

Posted by: Winston at January 5, 2007 03:21 AM


You summarize the situation in Lebanon so eloquently.
Your prose does that place justice.
Thank you on behalf of the millions of Lebanese outside of Lebanon.

JD Andary

Posted by: JD Andary at January 5, 2007 04:24 AM

I wonder if you'd travel to Iran in the future? If so, please let me know and I can get you whatever assistance you need there.

Posted by Winston at January 5, 2007 03:21 AM

I would LOVE to see Michael go to Iran. That is, as long as he could do it safely. The way he writes, and the way things are in Iran right now...well...Michael in Iran would be pure heaven.

Posted by: Renée C. at January 5, 2007 06:09 AM

Michael, your theory is that Hezbollah only wants to wage war with Israel to justify it's existence and to gain political power. It's a nice theory but why should we believe it? I would suggest the opposite is more likely to be true - they want to gain more power in order to facilitate their raison d'etre - the elimination of the Jewish state.

Let's put it this way, if Hezbollah gained control over Lebanon tomorrow, do you think they'd be content, or that (like Hamas) they'd use all of their new-found resources to continue their jihad?

Similarly with regard to the establishment of Islamic rule. In a recent interview the Hezbollah member of parliament, Fneish, cleverly denied an intent to create an Islamic state against the will of the Lebanese people. But look at how he responds to a later question:

"So in your opinion, there is no country where an Islamic political system has been forced on the people?

Fneish: Let me tell you something. Today there are Islamic nations and political systems, for sure. And there are, worldwide, very few political systems that reflect the will of the people. In my opinion, among the Islamic governments, only the system in Iran came as an expression of the will of the people. This is a system that I agree with to a large degree, in my principles and in my thoughts and beliefs."

Hezbollah has two fundamental principles: Islam and jihad. Any power they gain will be used to further both of them.

Posted by: Mertel at January 5, 2007 07:26 AM

Someone just sent me this:

Lebanon: A Perfect Day

Not sure I know enough to know whether it's funny, offensive or both - but it's a good song, at least.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 5, 2007 07:40 AM

Winston, please email me.

michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2007 09:26 AM

Michael, I was reading an article the other day that speculated that while Hezbollah has been reliant on Iran for funding and Syria for arms shipments, they have a growing number of alternative sources of funding due to their increased popularity with Shia worldwide, and that this might lessen both Syria and Iran's influence on them, which in turn may lead to more independence and possibly further moderation.


Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 5, 2007 09:26 AM


One thing Hezbollah really hates when journalists mention is that the leadership argues about whether they want an Islamist state or not. That's why they're vague on this question, and they will physicially split if it comes to that.

Hezbollah is already a minority in Lebanon, and they will become an even smaller minority if they try to impose theocracy on everybody.

Okay, maybe that doesn't mean they won't actually try it sometime. But there will be war if they do, and I don't think they would win that one.

Hezbollah can win a defensive war, but I don't think anyone in Lebanon thinks they can win an offensive war.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2007 09:30 AM


Maybe, but it's hard to say. I don't know enough about their alternate funding.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2007 09:32 AM

Maybe, but it's hard to say. I don't know enough about their alternate funding.

It's not specifically laid out here, but...
The conventional wisdom that Iran was responsible for Hezbollah's resumption of hostilities must be heavily qualified. Hezbollah's relationship with Iran is very intimate, even incestuous, but this is precisely why it's unlikely that Nasrallah - the most beloved public figure in the Shiite Islamic world - lacked the freedom to do as he pleased. With reformers at the height of their power in Tehran, he could have found new allies to enthusiastically support any path he liked. Moreover, by this time Hezbollah's unparalleled popularity among Lebanese Shiites the world over had enabled it to significantly reduce its financial dependence on Iran (in relative, not absolute, terms) by raising its own funds at home and abroad.
The footnote at the end says this:
Although Iran's yearly contribution of some $100 million remained an important financial bedrock, by the end of the 1990s it was far outstripped by the movement's own fundraising (both at home and in the Lebanese Shiite diaspora), revenue from investments in Lebanon, and proceeds from overseas criminal enterprises ranging from the blood diamond trade in West Africa to cigarette smuggling and audiovisual bootlegging in the Americas.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 5, 2007 09:55 AM

And sorry, I misread part of it. It seems to be referring to the late 90's, when the reform movement within Iran was at its strongest. I would think that alternative funding for Hezbollah is stronger than ever at the moment, however.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 5, 2007 09:58 AM

Check your email

Posted by: Winston at January 5, 2007 11:55 PM

I can't believe I'm saying this, but not only did you give off a nice and clear and informative and realistic interview there (not the part I can't believe), but Hugh Hewitt somehow did a convincing impression of a genial interviewer with no agendas!

I kept waiting for him to cut you off with "So the place is doomed, right?" or else, "so why hasn't Israel taken these guys out"? Hell, you suggested the place wasn't going to explode in war, and he didn't make you try and take it back!

So how do I explain everything else the guy says now?

Posted by: glasnost at January 6, 2007 11:53 AM
So how do I explain everything else the guy says now? Posted by glasnost at January 6, 2007 11:53 AM

Gee, by shedding some preconceptions? Heaven forfend!

Posted by: nichevo at January 7, 2007 03:45 AM

BTW, regarding fears for the earth's crust: We and the Soviets conducted appx. 2000 nuclear tests in Nevada (and a few other places in the US) and in their desert ranges in the USSR. AFAIK the earth's crust is still as solid as HL's own.

Ahh, the bravery of ignorance.

Posted by: nichevo at January 12, 2007 01:01 PM


According to the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base and the BBC, "[f]or many years, Hezbollah was synonymous with terror, suicide bombings and kidnappings. Hezbollah's acts have included multiple kidnappings, murders, hijackings, and bombings. HL, THIS DOES NOT SOUND LIKE A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION TO YOU?

Hezbollah’s Position on Israel :
From the inception of Hezbollah to the present the elimination of the state of Israel has been Hezbollah's primary goal. Secretary-General Nasrallah’s has stated "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel." In an interview with the Washington Post, Nasrallah said "I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called 'Israel.'" HL, HOW CAN THEIR EVER BE PEACE FOR LEBANON WITH HIZBOLLAH’S RADICAL GOAL OF WIPING ISRAEL OFF OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH?

Position on Jews and Judaism:
Hassan Nasrallah has made anti-Jewish statements such as "if they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." HL, HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THIS REMARK REGARDING THE PEACE LOVING HEZBOLLAH?

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Shiite scholar and assistant professor at the Lebanese American University, however, argues that Hezbollah is not Anti-Zionist, but actually Anti-Jewish. She quotes Hassan Nasrallah as saying, "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli." Regarding the official public stance of Hezbollah as a whole, she argues that while Hezbollah, "tries to mask its anti-Judaism for public-relations reasons..a study of its language, spoken and written, reveals an underlying truth." In her book, Hezbollah: Politics & Religion, she dissects the anti-Jewish roots of Hezbollah ideology, arguing that Hezbollah "believes that Jews, by the nature of Judaism, possess fatal character flaws." Saad-Ghorayeb also argues that "Hezbollah's Koranic reading of Jewish history has led its leaders to believe that Jewish theology is evil." HL, THIS IS PRETTY RADICAL THINKING THAT ONLY TEACHES AND BREEDS HATRED! IF IT DOES NOT HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN IT?

In 2004 the Hezbollah-owned television station Al-Manar was banned in France on the grounds that it was inciting racial hatred. The court cited a 23 November broadcast in which a speaker accused Israel of deliberately disseminating AIDS in Arab nations. HL, WHAT KIND OF RIDICULOUS RADICAL MUSLIM PROPAGANDA IS THIS? PLEASE TELL ME YOU DON’T ACTUALLY BY INTO THIS BS!!!


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