I have touched on this theme before, but it doesn't hurt to reiterate, especially after Michael Young's excellent new article.
Nasrallah's defensive speech on Monday revealed an existential crisis that has worsened since the Doha agreement and Suleiman's coming to power. In his inauguration speech, Suleiman used the past tense to refer to the armed resistance Nasrallah so desperately tried to repackage and sell.
Here is an excerpt from Suleiman's speech, which has taken many by surprise for being closer to the stated March 14 line:
The emergence of the resistance was a necessity in light of the state’s disintegration, and its survival depended on the fact that the people rallied around it, and the state embraced it both as an entity and as an army. The resistance succeeded in forcing the occupier to withdraw thanks to the valor of its men and the greatness of its martyrs. However, the Shebaa Farms are still under occupation and the enemy persists in its threats and violations of [Lebanon’s] sovereignty, hence the need for us to develop a defensive strategy that preserves the nation in parallel to a calm dialogue so as to take advantage of the resistance’s energies and put them to the service of this strategy. The aim is for the resistance not to deplete its achievements in domestic disputes, thus preserving its value and national status. (translation: Now Lebanon)
In his opinion piece, Young said Nasrallah's defensive tone reaffirms that Hizbullah can no longer exist as a national resistance. Suleiman's speech, and the Doha agreement, were, in fact, major setbacks to Hizbullah.
As Suleiman implied, the best thing that can happen now is for Hizbullah to share with the state its resistance expertise, which was a gentle way of saying that the party must integrate into the state.
Nasrallah's defensiveness also revealed something else, almost as worrying as his untenable position on Hizbullah's defense strategy. It revealed that the party views Doha as a setback. Nasrallah is right in that respect. The agreement negotiated by the Qataris was several things. It was, above all, a line drawn in the sand by the Sunni Arab world against Iran and Syria, telling them that Lebanon would not fall into their lap. In this the Qataris were part of an Arab consensus, and the Iranians, always pragmatic, backtracked when seeing how resolute the Arabs were. (The Daily Star)
All Nasrallah could do in his speech was use the disastrous summer 2006 war as a model for the defense strategy he is pushing. That war, as Young and many others have noted, resulted, in fact, in a rejection of Nasrallah strategy.
The only good thing that came out of the 2006 war, the only thing that both a majority of Lebanese and the Shiite community together approved of, was the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the South, the strengthening of UNIFIL, and the pacification of the border area. The Lebanese approved of this because it made less likely a return to Nasrallah's inane defense strategy.
Faced with this dilemma, Nasrallah could only do one thing: turn to Israel.
Thanks to the Israelis, who may soon hand a grand prisoner exchange to Hizbullah, Nasrallah may earn a brief reprieve for his "resistance." It's funny how Hizbullah and Syria, always the loudest in accusing others of being Israeli agents, are the ones who, when under pressure, look toward negotiations with Israel for an exit. Hizbullah has again done so to show that its "defense strategy" works and to deflect growing domestic insistence that the party place its weapons at the disposal of the state.