An Iranian state-affiliated media outlet recently published an address given by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Shiite militant group Hezbollah, to a group of Iranians in Beirut.
The talk was a unique overview of the deep connections between Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
What’s particularly intriguing about this speech is that it seems to have been released by accident.
Shortly after the text of Nasrallah’s address appeared on the website of Farda News, it was retracted with the vague explanation that the veracity of the speech’s source was in question.
Putting two and two together, what this means is that the Nasrallah speech was meant to be a private address to a close-knit group of Iranian elites and was never meant to be seen by public eyes. This makes the transcript (see archived photo below, summarized thereafter) an extremely valuable document.
Nasrallah went over three primary points with his audience:
Roots in the Revolution
Nasrallah spoke at length of Hezbollah’s roots in the Iranian Revolution.
The militant leader went so far as to say the organization was born after the success of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s takeover of the country in 1979. “We were born with Iran’s Islamic revolution and acquired our existence and life with the Islamic revolution.” The implications of this message should not be overlooked: the network of religious leaders and fighters that later became Hezbollah in 1985 was active years before and already had a defined ideology. This undermines the common claim the organization was formed in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The First Lebanon War merely fomented a previously existing entity. The network of Shiite militants grew and was able to frame itself as a protector of the besieged Shiite community.
Considering Nasrallah sees his organization as an outgrowth of the revolution, it should come as no surprise that he views the Iranian government as its highest authority. “We believe in him [Khamenei] higher than the [Lebanese] constitution. We consider this view taklif [legal obligation], and necessary…we consider him [Khamenei] [to be the representative] of the Infallible Imam [the Shiite messiah].”
Hammering home his ideological ties to Iran, Nasrallah emphasized his belief in the founding politico-religious ideology of the Islamic Republic, the velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the jurisprudence. This precept calls for a theocratic government and an Islamic state with material and spiritual power vested in the hands of a cleric.
Continuing through this theme, the Lebanese cleric’s speech went on to highlight the close ties between Hezbollah and the Iranian armed services at the operational level. While Hezbollah is conventionally described as a “proxy” of the Islamic Republic, this description is insufficient. Hezbollah is an arm of the Iranian government and the Lebanese branch of the Guard Corps.
At many points in the address, Nasrallah discussed how the Islamic Republic creates the groundwork for the arrival of the 12th Shiite Imam Mahdi, or the Messiah. It is important to understand the role the strain of Messianism IRGC and Hezbollah subscribe to plays in their strategy.
Western analysts often struggle with the influence of Messianism in Iranian policy. On the one hand, the Ayatollahs are clearly not devoid of all rational thinking. On the other, the apocalyptic vision of Shiite extremists is a powerful element in the strategic planning of both Iran and Hezbollah. As Nasrallah stated: “The Islamic revolution creates the groundwork for the arrival of his Excellency Mahdi, may God hasten his reappearance, that has not had precedence in history…we must await the arrival of the Imam of Time (may God hasten his reappearance) at every moment.”
A Loyal Patron
Of all points covered by Nasrallah, the most damning was the material funding Hezbollah receives from Iran.
“Today, Hezbollah is a global power,” Nasrallah said. The cleric credited that success to the persistent support supplied by Iran. “All parties in Iran assisted Hezbollah, and each more than the predecessor…we tell all foreigners that we receive money, weapons and equipment from Iran.”
Emphasizing their allegiance to his beloved patron, Nasrallah comes full circle: “We plainly say that the Islamic Republic is…the country of the Imam of Time [Mahdi], and we are ready to sacrifice for the holy system that we are the soldiers of his Excellency and the soldiers of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Nasrallah closed with these words of encouragement: “You right now are not building your future, but rather are building the destiny of the arrival of his excellency [Mahdi]. Know that God chose you because you deserved it. You are the tribe of Salman Farsi [first Persian convert to Islam] and have been chosen and have acted well until now.”
On Leaks and Their Consequences
In conflict, the game of intelligence is all about acquiring information about your adversary he doesn’t want you to have. Although our methods of intelligence procurement have expanded by leaps and bounds along with the growth of our technology, from detecting invisible light frequencies to measuring the telemetry of advanced machines, there is one type of strategic data that has remained unique in its irreplaceable value: a thought-out self-assessment by an adversary. Understandably, these are hard to come by. But when they surface, the implications can be huge.
Any student of intelligence can’t help comparing this latest fumble by Iranian media to another pivotal episode from the annals of intelligence history.
In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union entitled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” The speech was a four-hour thrashing critique of the recently deceased Joseph Stalin and his heinous treatment of his own people during 30 years of dictatorial rule. Khrushchev spoke of the infamous purges executed by Stalin during the 1930s, the massive deportations of millions that continued until shortly before Stalin’s death, and most importantly how the former premier had formed a “cult of personality” around himself in order to strengthen his political power.
The speech was meant to remain a secret. Only a few individual transcripts were delivered to various locations throughout Eastern Europe. As it happened, a copy was carelessly left exposed in a Communist Party office in Warsaw. A Polish-Israeli journalist named Viktor Grajewski happened to be in the office visiting his girlfriend, who worked as a secretary there, on the day the speech was delivered. Grajewski spotted the document and requested to take it back to his lodgings. After realizing the importance of what he had stumbled on, Grajewski immediately brought the transcript to the Israeli embassy. There it was photocopied and transmitted back to Israel.
The exposure of the speech had massive repercussions. The fact that Russia’s new leader had expressed such critique of Stalin led Khrushchev to be branded as a “revisionist” by many, both inside the Soviet Union and by foreign allies, including China, a country that soon cut off relations with the USSR. The damning information laid out by Khrushchev on just how horrible the previous 30 years of Soviet rule had been undermined the communist ideal among supporters in the West. The Communist Party USA, for instance, lost more than 30,000 members within weeks of the speech’s publication.
Circling back to more recent developments, the global community is at an important crossroads in dealing with Iran. The world has long recognized the Islamic Republic as a regional troublemaker, from supporting the conflict in Yemen to extending itself into Syria, supporting global terror networks, and topped off by recent revelations from Israel of an Iranian “nuclear archive” full of damning information allegedly proving the Iranian government lied in relation to many crucial aspects of its nuclear program. As the fate of the Obama-era nuclear deal is currently being considered by world leaders, with strong voices on both sides of the argument, findings like Nasrallah’s address can play an important role in coming to conclusions on Iranian policy. While some are committed to maintaining the status quo regardless, it would be wise for leaders to consider the story presented in Nasrallah’s speech to get a picture of who it is they’re dealing with.