Friday, July 28, 2006

Nasrallah in Damascus?

Die Welt:
Yoav Stern, writing in Haaretz, quotes the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Seyassah as reporting that 'Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was to visit Damascus on Thursday to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani.

The report, which quoted Syrian sources, said Nasrallah arrived in dressed in civilian clothes, not his normal clerical garb. Al-Seyassah, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime, said the meeting was designed to discuss ways to maintain supplies to Hezbollah fighters with "Iranian arms flowing through Syrian territories." The paper said it learned of the meeting from "well-informed Syrian sources" it did not identify. According to the newspaper, Nasrallah was moving through Damascus with Syrian guards in an intelligence agency car. The Mehr news agency in Iran said Larijani was in Damascus for meetings on the crisis, but gave no other details. Similar reports were carried by the Iranian Labor News Agency and the Fars agency. There was no mention of Larijani's travels in Iranian state-run media. None of the reports could be independently confirmed.'

An interesting development, if true. Obviously there's no need for Nasrallah to go personally to Syria to discuss ways of supplying Hizballah with Iranian arms. That's already happening, and the logistics of the problem are best left to the experts. No. If Nasrallah went to Damascus, at great risk to himself but also to his highly hierarchical organisation, it was for discussions about wider strategical issues such as Syrian and Iranian involvement in the war, the possibility of a cease-fire or the deployment of his threatened surprises. READ MORE

Nasrallah can't be displeased with the way the war has gone to date. Holding out and maintaining an aggressive bombardment of Israel for two weeks is a feat in itself. But he must feel a little anxious about the coming week. At some point the balance will tip, fewer Katyushas will reach Israel, more of southern Lebanon will fall to Israel and domestic pressure on Hizballah in Lebanon will start to weigh more heavily. If he doesn't stop in time he'll lose all his military assets and find himself dashing for cover in a rerun of the 1982 Peace for Galilee operation.

If he's in Syria, and the likelihood must be counted as slim even in the cloak-and-dagger world of Islamist terror, he's probably discussing how to prevent this happening ... and what to do if it happens anyway.