Inside Nasrallah’s Head
By Yossi Yehoshua and Reuben Weiss
Translated by David Daoud
Original Source: Yedioth Ahronoth
Original Publication Date: March 12, 2021
Original Link: https://www.yediot.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5896909,00.html
The Following is an English Translation of an Article Originally Published in Hebrew in Yedioth Ahoronoth on March 12, 2021
Megalomaniac. Paranoid. Obsessed with media in Israel, and reads every word written about himself. Narcissist. Suffers from Vitamin D Deficiency Due to Life in the Bunker. Family Man, who has not yet fully recovered from the death of his eldest son, and is embarrassed by the tweets of another son. Liar. Suffering from an identity crisis. Super-intelligent. Recently, he’s increasingly lonely. COVID-19 exacerbates the situation, and he’s opposed to vaccines made by the enemy, America. But no, he has no intention to retire soon, nor is he grooming an heir. Israeli Military Intelligence’s special research team, who follow the Secretary-General Of Hezbollah 24/7, reveals for the first time: This is what Israeli Intelligence’s “Hassan Nasrallah file” looks like.
There’s a very good chance that the article you’re reading now has a more interested reader, who is currently sitting somewhere in a bunker in Lebanon. He probably won’t like everything that’s written here, but since he’s an extreme narcissist who obsessively follows everything written about him, particularly in Israeli media, one of the Hebrew-speakers in the terror organization he heads has probably already translated it for him word by word.
“Hassan Nasrallah lives the Israeli media,” explains Dr. K, a senior strategic researcher in Israeli Military Intelligence’s (AMAN) research division, who has been living, dreaming, and breathing the Hezbollah Secretary-General 24/7 for the past decade. “He knows all the journalists. This is his way of studying Israeli society, the Israeli public, to correspond with it directly. In the recent period, the Israeli media has given him a stage even more than the media in his own country, Lebanon. The importance he’s given by Israeli media only continues to feed his narcissism.
As someone obsessed with his image, our reader Nasrallah will certainly be happy to know that Dr. K is one of a team of more than 15 researchers in AMAN’s research division who is focused on one thing: to analyze the personality and actions of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, to predict his reactions to different scenarios. They’re constantly updating the information that’s flowing to them, both from open sources and from classified intelligence sources, and are compiling [the] Israeli Intelligence [Community’s] “Nasrallah file.” “I’m so busy with him [Nasrallah],” says Dr. K with a grin, who is in advanced stages of pregnancy, “that my husband already fears the child will come out looking like him.”
What Kind of Man is Nasrallah?
Dr. K: “His character/personality is very fascinating and complex, and it’s impossible to know everything about him. He has a unique political-strategic talent, and for the past three decades, he’s been cultivating his image as an undisputed leader. He’s very centralized, compartmentalized, rarely consults with anyone, and self-absorbed to the point of narcissism. He’s a very sharp man, very intelligent, but extremely narcissistic. In the eyes of his supporters, but also his opponents, he’s a symbol but also a riddle. And there are those who claim that he lies a lot.
Is this True?
Nasrallah considers himself primarily a cleric. So he lies, but with the seal of approval of the religious authority. Among Shia, there is a concept called “taqiyya,” – which is a religious permission to lie. But he really doesn’t like it when his lies are revealed. 
One of the conclusions reached by our team is that Nasrallah is torn between two identities: a religious identity of a pious Islamist; and that of the politicians, the pragmatist, who also has a civilian population to oversee. Dr. K: “His rigid moral compass creates tension in him between his religious commitment to Iran and his commitments to the Republic of Lebanon. Over the years, he has undergone a transformation, from a revolutionary with an extremist religious mission to a more pragmatic actor. He has come to hate taking risks. In the past, he took much more initiative and allowed himself to do more. Now, he’ll only do it if he feels pushed into a corner. He’s matured and become more restrained with age.
Is He Grooming an Heir?
Captain A, a member of the team: “No. He’s very zealous over his image and won’t allow others to grow near him. He’s not grooming an heir for the day after he dies, and he zealously guards his control over military actions. Decision-making is his role – and the last world is his alone.”
This is a particularly interesting time to follow Nasrallah. Lebanon is collapsing economically, is plagued by COVID-19, and Nasrallah himself is in Israel’s crosshairs and forced to live in hiding. His image of being a strong and undisputed leader has been cracked since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Even among some Shiites, members of his own community/sect, there are already those who have taken it upon themselves to criticize him. However, in the AMAN team, none of them is rushing to write his obituary. Nasrallah (60) has headed the Hezbollah terrorist organization continuously since 1992. Dr. K says that “in the changing reality of the Middle East, Nasrallah has been the one constant.”
Dr. K and her entire teamwork on the “terror arena” – or, in its traditional name, “the Lebanon arena” – commanded by Colonel N. Under him works Lt. Col. A, who heads the strategic branch, who commands three section heads with the rank of Captain: a political section, which researches Nasrallah’s political activities; a strategic section which investigates his political-military interface; and an economic section. Each section consists of several cells, which are made up of male and female soldiers, some of whom have backgrounds in the Middle East, political science, and communications. Some are graduates of the “Lilies” program or other internal courses of AMAN’s research branch. They’re joined by expert researchers, many of whom are civilians working for the IDF, who are directly subordinate to AMAN’s research division head. Like Dr. K., who specialized in International Relations and Security Studies and did her doctorate on regional security with a focus on Nasrallah. All of this intelligence effort is focused on one man, who even today, after 30 years, remains somewhat of a mystery. In a rare move, the IDF allowed Yedioth Ahronoth to meet some of the Lebanon Arena experts to provide a rare glimpse into the “Nasrallah File.”
The most basic thing to understand regarding Nasrallah is the central place of religion in his life. Captain A., the head of the Hezbollah-Strategic Section in the Lebanon Arena, is the man tasked with researching the behaviors of Hezbollah’s leadership, through decision-making in the organization. “Nasrallah is a religious man. He prays like a good Shiite. Since his early years, this had guided him, even as a youth who left the AMAL movement when he understood that it wasn’t religious or Shiite enough. He therefore quickly joined up with the Iranian revolution. Over the years, he has held on to his extremist ideology and tight contains with the Iranians. At the age of 32, he became the Secretary-General of Hezbollah. When he decided to assemble a list to enter the Lebanese parliament – an unpopular move in a terrorist organization – it didn’t pass quietly within Hezbollah. But he made clear that despite his connection to Iran, he was going to play within the rules of the Lebanese game.
“No decision passes in Lebanon without Hezbollah’s approval,” Captain A. continues. “It has weapons, and it has the most powerful and dominant organization there. Nasrallah himself rose quickly to greatness, and it quickly went to his head. In 2000, with the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, he received a tremendous boost. He established himself as the first Arab leader who succeeded in expelling Israel by force of arms.
Then, six years later, the Second Lebanon War broke out, forcing him to be more responsible about engaging in combat and much more cautious in his relations with Israel. Captain A. says it was a “strong trauma for him. Since the war, he’s undergone a significant change. His behavior has become cautious, suspicious, hesitant. Although a person doesn’t change, now he asks himself more often, ‘what’s my margin of error?’ , ‘what is the risk?’”
How Does This Affect his Personal Life?
“He doesn’t leave his home. He doesn’t come near windows. Practically, he doesn’t see the light of day. He understands well that the second he puts his head outside, Israel will know where here is. This has made him into a very lonely man. He was a wife, children, and grandchildren, with whom he meets very rarely for fear that they’ll be followed. Even his speeches, which prior to the Second Lebanon War he’d give before a live audience – like the famous “Spider Web” speech – he now gives only through television, from inside his protected hiding place.
He’s paying a physical price for this conduct. “During his speeches, we notice how he carries himself very heavily,” Captain A. says. “Wherever he’s hidden himself, he cannot conduct an active lifestyle. Because he’s not exposed to the sun, he has vitamin deficiencies, like Vitamin D. He is 60 years old and is in a risk group for COVID-19. But he’s opposed to [taking] American vaccines, and therefore he must be even more careful.”
How Can He Successfully Run a Complex Organization Like Hezbollah in Such a Situation?
After so many years as the head of the organization, there’s something called “the Spirit of the Leader.” It’s enough for him to give his orders, and they know what he wants.
“Nasrallah’s directives are very clear to the organization,” clarifies Lt. H, the head of the “Front” squad, which deals with relations between Nasrallah and Israel, on military issues. “Retaliation for the killing of any Lebanese, of every violation of sovereignty. Adherence to the principle of proportionality. They know how he sees the response, and how he would have wanted it to be executed.”
“He’s the one who approves the retaliation/response before it is executed,” adds Captain A. “Not on the level of approving individual plans, but definitely guidelines. How many casualties to aim to cause, what’s the preferred layout – IEDs, anti-tank missiles, or sniper fire.”
How Does He Pass on Orders? Does He Have a Cellphone?
For fear that he’ll be discovered, he doesn’t own a cellphone. He passes on messages through the single individuals he’s in contact with – his Deputy Naim Qassem, Executive Council Chairman Hashem Saffieddine. Of course, we’re also investigating them, how Nasrallah passes on messages through them. Either orally, or even through written messages. You can’t cyber hack a piece of paper. Practically, since the assassination of those who were dubbed Hezbollah’s Chiefs of Staff – Imad Mughniyeh in 2008 and Mustafa Badreddine in 2016 – and later Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Nasrallah is operating as a head of state, defense minister, chief of staff, commanding officer and sometimes even as a unit commander. He trusts fewer and fewer people and prefers not to install new people in such senior positions [which have become vacant].”
The Bottom Line is that Nasrallah is in a Difficult Situation
Dr. K says, “Nasrallah is a champion of learning, who has always known how to reinvent himself. But now he’s under a lot of pressure and expectations at the same time, and he’s finding it difficult to figure out how to do it again. He’s in tremendous strategic distress. After Soleimani’s assassination, the cards in Lebanon were shuffled. Nasrallah’s camp is in a mess. More people are coming out against him in his Shiite camp – something that was once taboo. Since 2006, after the Second Lebanon War, he’s been busy seeking his image of victory. He knows he doesn’t sit on the Divine Throne. And now he’s doing all he can to prevent this strategic distress from becoming a threat to his leadership.”
He’s working so that the Iranians won’t have an alternative to him. His image is built upon the notion that he built up and held up the Shiite community and brought it [and Hezbollah] to an unprecedented status – from a terrorist organization to a terrorist army. That’s how he holds an entire country and its institutions. He prefers Lebanon to be weak, but stable. He does not want to be at the front. He wants to continue being actually in control but without actually taking responsibility. And still, today, he is the most powerful man in Lebanon. He de facto controls Lebanon. Grasping it tightly.
Alongside analyzing events, cases, and responses/reactions, the research team also deals with building Nasrallah’s psychological profile, and how it affects Hezbollah’s operations. Nasrallah’s isolation, they say, only grows with the years. This is the case both professionally and personally. Second Lieutenant S., head of the regional unit, which deals with relations between Nasrallah and other countries in the region, says “he has no one to trust, and he’s worried someone will grow and threaten his hegemony. After years in such a situation, it’s causing him fatigue and strain. Saffieddine, for example, is the most senior figure to work alongside Nasrallah. But [Saffieddine] doesn’t deal with military issues at all.
He’s been seized by a very hostile worldview. In his eyes, nothing is certain for him or his organization,” explains Dr. K. “He lives with a sense of persecution/being pursued, and prefers to manage everything remotely. He’s extended the ambit of his control to issues which he hasn’t dealt with before, and it’s taking a toll on him. He carries a lot of burdens, which requires a lot of attention. This is increasingly difficult. Everything is on him. This behavior stems from a fear that someone else will arise and be seen as a potential successor. He prefers, even consciously, that there would be no such thing as “the day after Nasrallah.” Indeed, it wouldn’t be the same Hezbollah without him. The identity is so tight that the organization is really in his image.”
His immense centralization, the fact that he doesn’t trust anyone, corresponds with his narcissism. Nasrallah believes he knows best, that he is the greatest of them all. In his imagination, he’s the giant among the dwarves, and must therefore examine everything down to the last detail. By the way, even in his hidden living conditions, some carefully style his hair and beard before every speech. Nasrallah will be very cognizant of his clothing and will not sweat in front of the camera. He will not show any weakness or being under pressure. He devotes himself entirely to his own, and due to his living conditions, he cannot find an outlet from his isolation with his family members, his wife Fatimah, his children, or grandchildren. “More than 90% of the time, he’s busy with his other matters,” says Lt. Col. A. “Because of the enormous burden placed on him alone, he is busier today with the house in Lebanon that’s been hit with an artillery shell than with his family affairs.” However, Dr. K adds, “Nasrallah is a very family-oriented man. He’s not one to have a lover.”
His eldest son, Mohammad Hadi, was killed in 1997 with fighters of the Egoz Unit in Lebanon. His body was returned in the deal to retrieve the body of the Shayetet 13 fighter Itamar Ilya, who fell in battle during the Ansarriyya raid in Lebanon. “Nasrallah seized upon every media opportunity to highlight that he’s the father of a Shahid,” Captain A. says. “His second son, Mohammad Jawad, recently greatly embarrassed him when, after the disappearance of the journalist Lokman Slim who severely criticized Nasrallah after the Beirut Port Explosion, tweeted, ‘there are some people whose disappearance is a great benefit.’ Shortly afterward, he deleted the tweet. It seems like he received an angry phone call [from Nasrallah].” The journalist Slim was found after some time in his car, after he was shot to death. In general, Captain A. says, it’s hard for Nasrallah to deal with new media. “Criticism against him on social media, particularly when it comes from within his ‘home,’ from within the Shiite community, drives him crazy. He’s obsessive. It drives him crazy that he doesn’t control everything.”
In March 2017, Nasrallah was interview by Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with the organization [Hezbollah], and spoke about his other children. “My family has gotten used to this situation, especially my wife and children. Most of my children have gotten married and are living independently. Only one child lives with us, my youngest Mohammad Mahdi, who is 15 (currently 19) and studies in high school. The son older than him is Mohammad Ali, who is married and has two children. I have a daughter, Zeinab, who is married with four children. She’s finishing up her university studies…I don’t like my relatives working with me directly. For 25 years, we’ve successfully gotten used to these security, political, and social conditions. In any case, we are satisfied with God’s favor, and we have no other choice, because we have accepted this responsibility and must see it through.”
Nasrallah was also asked in that interview if he did any sports. “I’ve neglected that in the past few months, but I’ll return to it, God willing. I really love soccer, but I haven’t been able to play for years. I like to walk on the treadmill,” he said.
During the interview, which was translated and analyzed in great detail by the team of researchers, Nasrallah tried to project confidence and control when describing his schedule. “Some people think I sit in some place underground and meet with people periodically. That’s not true. My entire daily agenda is filled with meetings of senior members of the organization [Hezbollah], with the brothers, the sheikhs from different areas, and politicians. Of course, all of these meetings take place away from the media.”
The Al-Akhbar (sic) interviewer described the strict security arrangements surrounding the organization’s Secretary-General, noting that he had to switch four cars before reaching the meeting with Nasrallah. Nasrallah replied cynically, “this is just because the brothers [i.e., Hezbollah members] treated you compassionately. Because some people switch before five or six cars before they arrive, all of these measures are necessary. We in Hezbollah take these measures with everyone, even with my relatives and family.”
Part of this loneliness/isolation stems not just from fears for his safety, but also from his character. “Nasrallah is a master of compartmentalization,” says Dr. K. “His conception of leadership is divide-and-conquer. His decision-making process is him making decisions alone. He has a very highly concentrated degree of control. He perceives himself as the one who controls and shapes reality as he pleases. But in the last two years, this has deteriorated slightly. The ground is moving – Soleimani’s assassination, COVID-19, sanctions on Iran, and his organization’s tactical failures in responses to/retaliations against Israel. All of this has caused him, out of distress, to spread information in the media about the teams and advisors that he allegedly has and who work under him. This is how important he considers his public image. God forbid any failure should be attributed to him – so the Lebanese public must believe that he is acting with advisors' help.
“He is very paranoid about any voice of opposition,” says Lt. Col. A. “His desire to control everything also stems from the fact that Nasrallah is a person who cannot tolerate uncertainty,” says Dr. K. “He can’t live with it. The equations of retaliations against Israel that he sets down, for example, are a tool for creating certainty for him. They create for him some kind of strategic clarity and reduce uncertainty.”
What Else Troubles Him?
If until 2006 he was considered holy, and in the Shiite community everyone responded “amen” to his every decision, after the Second Lebanon War cracks began to appear in this support. He’s still a symbol, but there are already those who go against him and doubt his credibility. They say he promises but doesn’t fulfill. He is very aware of these things and it infuriates him.”
Captain S. says, “but even today, Hezbollah is very deeply rooted in Lebanon and in the Shiite community. A Shiite who wants a livelihood, school for his children, or medical treatment in hospitals, must support Hezbollah.”
Dr. K says, “Some of the Shiites support him blindly, no matter what. Others aren’t so fanatically attached to him, but say, ‘he cares for the interests of my family, therefore I support him.’ Since 2006, he’s but himself the public image of being the ‘Defender of Lebanon,’ when in reality he’s the one endangering the country. He’s placed it [Lebanon] on top of a barrel of explosives.”
Is Nasrallah a Corrupt Leader?
Lt. Col. A says, “he doesn’t own any personal assets. Precisely on this point, much like his image, he’s very connected to his base – to Shiite poverty. He also does not understand the economic field. Finance is one of his weak points. But the Lebanese system, as it is built, enables corruption. Each community controls its own sector. Nasrallah knows how to skew tenders in favor of his organization’s companies. He builds ties with the relevant minister in each community, and receives the tenders in the fields of communications, construction, etc. He’s not personally corrupt, and he didn’t create anything new. He’s simply taking advantage of the Lebanese system.”
What Did You Learn About Him During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
In terms of his age, he’s part of the at-risk group, which gives him another reason not to go out, and a legitimate reason for not meeting or convening with others to make joint decisions. This has allowed him to strengthen his divide-and-conquer policy. He is allegedly in service of the state [of Lebanon], but at the same time he says things like, “I’m not sure about American vaccines,” or “I’m not sure I’ll get vaccinated,” this is an indication of how much he’s willing to give to his public.
Captain A. says that “COVID-19 has allowed him to strengthen his entrenchment as a community leader. People awaited his words: ‘don’t leave your houses.’ And he loves this, when Shiites listen to him.”
Nevertheless, despite his age, his heavy workload, and the pressures he’s under, AMAN’s Lebanon Arena researchers say Nasrallah goes to bed late, and still adheres to religious study as well. “From analyzing his speeches, we see that he is still engaged in learning,” says Captain A. “This is the substance of his world from his childhood, and it’s a matter that’s very important for him to develop. We need to follow this, because there is also a religious/faith-based element in his decision-making, not just a rational one. Ultimately, Shiites believe in fate or decide according to the interpretation of the Qur’an in that moment.”
What’s Something You Discovered that Especially Surprised You?
Captain A. says, “In Israel people tend to portray Nasrallah only as a bitter enemy and a sworn terrorist. We learned to know a Nasrallah most of whose day is not dedicated to the State of Israel, whose existence he has long since come to terms with and identify his weaknesses and sensitive points. We know he’s very pleased with being considered an arch-terrorist. The Israeli public attaches a great deal of weight to his words. Even an Israeli politician doesn’t always get a push notification from Ynet at 9:30 PM. But he must understand that we also see all of the problems in which he’s entangled.”
The assessments written by these researchers reach the highest levels of authority in the State of Israel and are often the basis for making one decision or another. Much of the material upon which they rely comes from open sources. “The Lebanese system, for example, has an amazing press,” explains Lt. Col. A. “It has large mouthpieces for each of Lebanon’s political camps. There’s much to learn from there about what could happen in the future. If, for example, 20 journalists announce they’re going underground, after four months, assassinations of journalists will begin in Lebanon.”
Nasrallah’s speeches are recorded, translated, and analyzed for every single detail in them: the expressions he uses, his body language, the manner of his breathing which hints at his health condition, the topics which are harder for him to deal with and which, when he speaks about them, he lets out a sigh or has to stop and sip water.” Dr. K says, “it’s very important for him that people watch his speeches. According to our data, the ratings of his speeches in Lebanon are declining. This is personally affecting him, as someone who cares very much about public perception about him. He’s aware that people used to eagerly await Nasrallah’s speeches in the past, and he’s very upset that this hasn’t lasted. In his eyes, these speeches preserve his relevance. They see him. He wants to convey the message that, “I have not disappeared. I am still the responsible adult here.”
Constructing “Nasrallah’s File” is also made up of monitoring the conduct of other officials and how their behavior could shed light on Nasrallah, his power, and his status. For example, the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, whose term is expected to end next year. Even so, due to his medical condition, it’s not known if he will live long. “Monitoring what is happening in the Lebanese president’s family is like an addictive telenovela,” says Lt. Col. A. “President Aoun has three daughters and three sons-in-law. The strangest of them and his most beloved are Gebran Basil, who was formerly the Lebanese foreign minister, but who has been appointed as the heir of Aoun. Bassil isn’t so popular in Lebanon, but it’s clear he’s in a close alliance with Hezbollah. He served as the chairman of the Hezbollah faction in the Lebanese parliament and refused to give up his connection to the group even after the United States imposed sanctions on him.
What Can Be Learned from Something Like This About Nasrallah?
That if Bassil’s instincts are correct, he understands that Nasrallah will be the one who determines who will be the next president of Lebanon. Therefore, Bassil’s alliance with him is worth the price, even if he is sanctioned by the Americans. He understands that in Lebanon, Nasrallah is the kingmaker. When a political fox-like Bassil understands this, it’s an indicator of who is the country's strongest man.
Indeed, even though Israelis are very attentive to every threat issued by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, according to the File, what interests Nasrallah most at the moment is the very complicated domestic Lebanese sectarian system. “Relative to their population numbers,” explain the researchers, “Christians in Lebanon have a great deal of power. They hold the presidency. And the man behind the presidency is Nasrallah. His closeness to his community and his alliance with the Christians are the sources of his power.
“In Nasrallah’s daily life, he’s increasingly preoccupied with the Lebanese system than the regional one,” says Lt. Col. A. “That’s the basis of his legitimacy there. The regional system currently interests him very little.”
So He’s Less Belligerent Towards Us?
Lt. Col. A says, “We see this in his speeches. Even his last one on Martyrs’ Day, on February 16. If two or three years ago, his speeches were full of threats, most of his recent speeches dealt with Lebanese domestic issues. Of course, what was quoted in Israeli media and made headlines were the passages in which he referred to us – responding to the speech of the Chief of Staff at the INSS, warning of escalation towards war against Israel, and laid out his deterrence equation of a city against a city. But this was only a small part of his message. Even in this part, his message wasn’t aggressive—quite the opposite. “I don’t want a confrontation with you. But if you force me, I will have to respond measure for measure.” This has been his message for years, which shows he’s completely deterred, and also indicates the long-term process of institutionalization which Hezbollah is undergoing.
Second Lieutenant S, the head of the regional unit, notes, “his last speech lasted more than an hour and a half. He only devoted the last five minutes to his words against Israel. It’s been repeated a lot in his recent speeches.”
But He’s Also Arming Himself Against Israel in the Meantime
Second Lieutenant S says, “The Second Lebanon War emphasized for Nasrallah the importance of striking the Israeli Home Front. He thinks more accurate weapons will produce more balanced deterrence. He believes quantity and not just quality are important, and so he’s in an arms race. Due to his sense of being pursued/persecuted, and from his experiences with Israel, he also knows that many of these weapons will be destroyed – because Israel knows there they are – so he is stockpiling as many weapons as possible to increase his safety margin. So, today, every third house in southern Lebanon contains weapons.
Last month, in the annual intelligence estimate for Military Intelligence for 2021, the head of AMAN Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, clarified that Hezbollah is not interested in war with Israel, but that the round of blows suffered by Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria could cause Nasrallah to act against Israel in a manner that could lead to a round of battle days – which would be limited in terms of their range and destructiveness. However, Nasrallah understands very well that battle days are a slippery slope to war, and that’s a very dangerous thing for him to undertake. He is too preoccupied with domestic Lebanese matters, and is also afraid of being dragged into a war that could lead to many casualties, as happened in the Second Lebanon War.
In the Lebanon Arena section, they repeatedly say that one of the keys to deciphering Nasrallah is to understand that he is faced with an internal identity dilemma. “On the one hand, it is very clear to him that he is an Iranian emissary,” says Lt. Col A. “But on the other hand, he understands the legitimacy for his existence derives from Lebanon. That is his support base. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, his identity was more purely jihadist. That built his existence, the ideology that he spread.
Which Nasrallah is stronger today the Islamic jihadist who is tied to Iran, or the political pragmatist who understands that his people are first and foremost Lebanese citizens? This internal identity war occupies all of the Nasrallah researchers in Israeli military intelligence. The answer to this could help predict his response, for example, to an Israeli attack on Iran. Would he retaliate immediately with a strike on Israel, and be ready to pay the price in Lebanon?
“On this question, the Nasrallah researchers are divided,” says Dr. K. “Some of them claim his loyalty to Iran is automatic, and that he’ll do whatever they tell him. Others believe that over time Nasrallah has been able to position himself as a player who has a say vis-à-vis Iran, as one with whom they dialogue, and not just give orders. He knows how to demonstrate that he’s a valuable asset that should not be wasted on small events. But only in extreme cases.”
However, Even When Soleimani Was Assassinated – Not a “Small Event” – He Didn’t Respond
Lt. Col. A says, “Nasrallah and Soleimani had a very deep friendship, a true brotherhood. But Nasrallah’s realism, along with his need to deal with other matters following the assassination, and of course, alongside the fact that in Shiite belief, sacrifice and death are part of existence, made him move on in this case. Besides, who would he take revenge on? Here, he preferred not to pay the price of his Beiruti identity in exchange for his puritanical Iranian one. In his behavior, at least up until now, he’s made clear he’s in no rush to act on his Resistance Axis loyalties.”
When He Promises to Retaliate for the Death of a Hezbollah Operative Killed in July 2020 in Syria, and Doesn’t Respond in the Meantime, He Gets Criticized for Doing So.
In terms of capabilities, Nasrallah has the ability to shoot at anything small. But he prefers not to get involved with Israel. I think he will avenge the activist killed in Syria, but he’s taking it day by day. He’s now more worried about what will happen tomorrow in Lebanon than when he can close to file on the dead operative. He knows he can drag this on for another year, two years, or ten. Israel will still be there, but his primarily concern now is that Lebanon could collapse.
What’s the Point at Which He Will No Longer Prefer Beirut Over Tehran? An Attack on Iranian Nuclear Facilities?
We’re checking this all the time. We’re analyzing his statements, seeing the price he will have to pay, past precedents. We’re also weighing the environmental factors, such as the hospitals in Lebanon, which are now insanely overwhelmed, and which may stop him from acting if such an event occurs.
“On the day when the order is issued, Nasrallah will listen to the Iranian Supreme Leader,” says Lt. H, head of the “Front” squad. “He is a religious man, with a deep religious commitment to the Revolution and Iran’s Supreme Leader. The collaboration between them, ideologically and militarily, is very deep. He doesn’t want to disengage.
Dr. K also says that from this perspective, Nasrallah is very “loyal and committed to his values. His ideology and commitment to the Iranian [Supreme] Leader are the red lines for him.”
Practically, also, How Can He Disengage From Tehran? After all, Three-Fourths of His Budget Comes From Iran, and That’s How he Pays his People Every Month.
Lt. Col. A says “Nasrallah is now at a historic point, where he can make it that he will be remembered as the leader of Lebanon. He knows this. He can change the fabric of his identity, and prioritize the Lebanese over the Iranian, and allow the entry of money into Lebanon from the Gulf. But he is afraid of leaving Iran, in exchange for a bird in the tree.”
Does He Have Concrete Offers? Someone Who Can Support Him Instead of Iran?
Once he sees fit, the suggestions will come. But he prefers to remain a terrorist. He is comfortable staying in the shadows and playing behind the scenes. This is collapsing Lebanon’s system from within, which is not good for the country. But he fears a situation where he will suddenly have to, officially, take care of all of Lebanon.
Captain A says, “Lebanon’s current economic crisis is unprecedented. The country is on the verge of collapse and needs help. Money can come from the Gulf States or the West, but Hezbollah – that is, Nasrallah – doesn’t want any of them. He’s holding back the country. He’s surviving with the help of Iranian money, which is enough only for sustenance. The question is how much longer can he continue to function this way, without a permanent solution?
Does the Change of the U.S. Administration Influence Him at All?
Corporal Y, an NCO in the Lebanon Arena, says, “In his analysis of the Israeli side, he understands this is an important component. He’s even raised the matter in his speeches. A few speeches ago, he said of Biden, ‘He’s not as bad as Trump, but this is still the West. The American government is still bad for us.’ However, he’s careful in his remarks on the subject. He doesn’t want to spoil matters for the Iranians and is waiting to see how the nuclear agreement issue develops.”
How Did the Northern Shield Operation Impact Him, Which Revealed Hezbollah’s Tunnels?
Dr. K says, “he was very embarrassed by the uncovering of Hezbollah’s tunnels that he didn’t speak for two months. Then he came out and said, ‘this isn’t our big project. We have surprises.’ When Prime Minister Netanyahu revealed in his UN speech weapons caches in Lebanon, this also embarrassed Nasrallah, but he responded quickly. This is how you can see the huge difference in the impact of the embarrassment.”
Second, Lt. S says, “within half an hour, he’d already sent reporters to the specific place that the [Israeli] Prime Minister was talking about. It proved to us again his level of involvement. He knows exactly where everything is.”
Were There Incidents Where He Succeeded in Surprising You? That You Weren’t Able to Correctly Predict His Course of Action?
Lt. Col. A: “There were incidents where, contrary to what he thought, he succeeded in surprising us regarding some of our actions. But this doesn’t happen often.”
Such an Intense Preoccupation with One Person. How Does it Affect You? Do you Dream of it At Night? Do you Stop Family Meals to Run and Watch His Speeches?
Second Lieutenant says, “I remember one evening before my sister’s wedding. All of our family was busy with final preparations and were at peak excitement. I sat disconnected from everything and just watched Nasrallah’s speech.”
Meanwhile, according to the Lebanon Arena researchers, one thing in Nasrallah’s schedule remains constant. Nasrallah continues to make sure to watch Israeli news broadcasts and read the Israeli press carefully. “There was no leader who studied and studies Israel like Nasrallah,” says Dr. K. “From an early age, he devoted tremendous efforts to study the history of Israel. The history of its leaders. He always boasted that he knew everything about Israel.”
You Said There’s No Doubt That as Soon as this Article is Published, Nasrallah Will Have it Translated and Read Every Word of It. What Would Most Surprise Him to Read in It?
Captain A. “We know exactly how restrained he is because of the Lebanese situation. He is trying to pretend we’re overestimating this, but I think we’re on point. The Israeli public tends to exaggerate his importance, and he is very pleased with that. But we’re aware that he gets up every morning and asks: “Where could Israel kidnap me?”
 This is an imprecise description of taqiyya. It is not, as this implies, religiously sanctioned permission to lie freely about any topic. It primarily operated when Shiites lived in majority Sunni countries, allowing the former to dissimulate about their beliefs or downplay aspects about said beliefs or practices if they would be found offensive by the Sunni majority. The goal here was not to lie for the sake of expediency, but to lie to avoid persecution by Sunni majorities who may find certain Shiite beliefs or practices unacceptable. – David Daoud
 This is a factual error by Yedioth Ahronoth – the interview was conducted with IRIB, on February 20 and March 23, 2017 in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2 – otherwise the details are correct -- David Daoud
 This is not accurate. Mohammad Raad, a member of Hezbollah, is the head of the group’s Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary Bloc. Gebran Bassil is the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, which leads the “Strong Lebanon” parliamentary bloc, that is aligned with Hezbollah. But it is inaccurate to describe Strong Lebanon as “the Hezbollah faction in the Lebanese parliament.”