When will the Syrian war end? Are the protests in Iran serious? How much does Hezbollah's secretary-general earn? Nasrallah offers answers
Hezbollah’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, gave an interview to al-Mayadeen TV on Wednesday, a channel sympathetic to his party, in which he discussed the war in Syria, Saudi intervention in the region, the chances of a new war with Israel, and his own salary, among other issues.
Here are five main points he discussed:
1. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem will be the ‘end of Israel’
Nasrallah said he had recently been meeting with the various Palestinian factions in Lebanon to discuss how best to respond to the US decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move he said would be the “end of Israel".
Nasrallah said that “activating” a new intifada inside and outside Palestine was discussed with the groups, as well as how to gather support for a new period of resistance.
A Palestinian flag flies above Jerusalem following Trump's decision in December (AFP)
In late December, the vast majority of UN member states voted in favour of a motion rejecting Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
2. Iranian protests were small, but should not be ignored
"There is nothing to worry about and what happened in Iran is well contained," Nasrallah said of recent anti-government protests across Iran, in which 21 people have been killed.
"What is happening in Iran is being well contained and is not comparable with what happened in 2009... The problem in Iran now is not political like what happened in 2009,” he added, referring to the Green Movement protests of that year.
Nasrallah said the cause of the current protests was economic, sparked by the bankruptcy of some banks and companies. The resulting discontent was then exploited by external powers, he said.
7-Nasrallah: Iranian parliamentarians and leadership must deal with the genuine underlying economic issues, and to prevent them from being exploited again like this in the future.
— David Daoud (@DavidADaoud) January 3, 2018
"America, Israel and Saudi Arabia have entered the crisis in Iran," he said.
Russia and Turkey, as well as the Iranian government, have also blamed foreign powers for stoking the protest movement.
However, Nasrallah conceded that Iranian politicians should examine the root causes of the discontent.
3. Nasrallah earns $1,300 a month
Nasrallah said Hezbollah pays him between $1,300 and $1,400 each month, a claim met with scepticism by some and evidence of his humble nature by others.
Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah just admitted his salary is $1300/month; MBS bought a painting for $450 million, a house in France for $320m & a yacht for $452m. One of these two is considered a reformist leader who enjoys popular legitimacy & battles corruption. Hint: it isn’t Nasrallah
— Amal Saad (@amalsaad_lb) January 3, 2018
The average monthly salary in Lebanon, after tax, is around $1,000. But one Lebanese journalist cautioned: "Nasrallah's salary is symbolic because all financial allocations pass through him."
On a less political note, when asked about his cultural hobbies, he said: “When I was a child I used to watch movies in the cinema, but not since I donned clerical robes.”
4. Trump’s team tried to establish contact with Hezbollah
Between the election of US President Donald Trump in November 2016, and his inauguration in January 2017, there was "an American attempt" to establish contact with Hezbollah, the secretary-general said.
“I don’t think the Trump administration made any offers [recently],” he said, according to local media.
“The last American attempt to communicate with us was after he was elected, but he had yet to take office [on 21 January 2017].”
He did not elaborate who had reached out to his group.
Following 9/11, Nasrallah added, George W Bush’s administration offered the group $2bn in exchange for co-operating on the “al-Qaeda issue".
'They also offered to give us $2 billion and said we can keep our weapons, except for Katyusha weapons'
- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah
A person of Lebanese origins with an American passport “provided me with an offer in return for certain commitments”, Nasrallah said.
“It came through Cheney,” he added, referring to vice president Dick Cheney.
If Hezbollah agreed to the offer, they would be removed from the terrorist list, the party’s detainees would be released, and US opposition to the group’s participation in the Lebanese government would halt.
“They also offered to give us $2bn and said we can keep our weapons, except for Katyusha weapons,” Nasrallah said.
But such weapons were not to be used against Israel, he added. And any support for the Palestinians would have to have been rescinded.
5. Syrian war will last for another one or two years
He said the civil war in neighbouring Syria, now in its seventh year, will be finished in one or two years at most.
Hezbollah has for years been supporting the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alongside Iran.
He also said Israeli strikes on Hezbollah positions in Syria did not, and will not, prevent supplies of weapons reaching the group.