Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told a rally in the Shiite suburbs of Beirut today that his outfit still has more than 20,000 rockets, and will not be disarmed. Whether or not Nasrallah has that many rockets, he still seems to have plenty of support. If this Reuters report is to be credited, the rally was attended by “hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters.” That’s not bad in a country of only four million. According to Reuters, “thousands had walked to the rally from Shi’ite villages in south Lebanon battered by Israel’s bombardment and invasion.”
Assuming that this report is accurate, it tends to undercut claims that Nasrallah’s position has been substantially weakened by the war. His many enemies may like him even less than they did before he ignited this summer’s nightmarish events, but I’m not aware of any good evidence that he has lost the support of his Shiite base.
Nasrallah has said that if he had known the consequences, Hezbollah would not have kidnapped Israel’s soldiers. Some view this arguably conciliatory statement as an indication of a new weakness by Nasrallah in relation to the government. But Nasrallah’s rhetoric at today’s rally (as reported by Reuters) was far from conciliatory. He proclaimed (correctly, one feels) that the government is “unable to protect Lebanon, or to reconstruct or to unify” the country. He then called for a new “national unity government” and defied any army to disarm Hezbollah.