As usual, Nasrallah's speech on Tuesday left many pondering and guessing. Whilst he played down the prospect of a new war with Israel, he did deliver a solid threat warning the Israelis not to attack Lebanon again.
"Oh Zionists, if you think of launching a war on Lebanon, and I don't advise to do it. ... I promise you a big surprise that could change the fate of war and the fate of the region," he declared at a mass rally commemorating Lebanon's "divine victory" against Israel last year.
What surprise could he have stored for the Israelis?
Indeed, Israeli Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer seems to have taken the hint from Nasrallah. "Nasrallah has never lied. He is cocky, he is arrogant, but at least from our experience with him, to my regret, what he has said, he has done. And when he says 'I have 20,000 missiles' I believe him," he said.
Israel and the UN have been complaining of continued arms shipments to Hizballah, perhaps from Syria, since the signing of the UN Resolution 1701, which ended the war last year and called for the disarmament of Hizballah.
Hizballah have stated that its weapons are required to defend Lebanon against Israeli attacks. The Shi'ite group appears to have a valid case considering the state of the country and the incompetence of the government. During last year's conflict, the Prime Minister Siniora ordered the army to stand down as it was being attacked by Israeli forces. Many soldiers lost their lives. The pro-American Government has also withheld funds to rebuild the areas damaged by the war, leaving much of the project to Hizballah and donations from Iran and Qatar. I wonder where the US$7 billion pledged to reconstruction at the Paris III conference disappeared to.
The decision by the government to not aid in reconstruction efforts has only boosted Hizballah's popularity among the Shi'ites, and cemented their claim that they are a required force as the Lebanese Government absolves itself of any responsibility to its citizens. If the Government isn't going to look after its people, who will?
Nasrallah reiterated that the Lebanese Army and Hizballah's militant forces are united and support each other in providing a security network for the country. There hasn't been any confrontation between Hizballah and the Lebanese Army, so we can be rest assured that ties between the two remain strong.
Former Lebanese General Elias Hanna believes that the Islamic party may have sophisticated weaponry among its arms stock. He states that Israel's air superiority has prompted Hizballah to increase its anti-aircraft capacity. Hanna also raised the possibility of there being sleeper cells within Israel awaiting Nasrallah's orders to wreak havoc within the country.
As always, Nasrallah's comments leave us guessing. True estimations of its capabilities remain below the radar, perhaps one reason why Israel finds it so difficult to eliminate them. One thing is for certain, as Ben-Eliezer pointed out, Hizballah are to be taken very seriously.
Some thought was put behind the name of this blog. The title, Lebanese Chess, directly refers to the role Lebanon was born to play ... that of a chessboard in the Middle East. Throughout its short 60 year existence, this tiny mountainous entity has swung back and forth between foreign powers. The chess game of Lebanon still continues today, and I'm beginning to think it shall always remain the case. People tend to ask, what is Lebanon's purpose? Well there you have it ... a political chessboard.