Nasrallah’s Latest Speech: Nothing New Under the Sun

It would appear that the latest rumors of Hassan Nasrallah’s demise are, once again, greatly exaggerated. The Hezbollah Secretary-General suffered no stroke, is alive and well, and even gave a scheduled speech on Tuesday marking the third anniversary of the death of former IRGC-Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, and former Popular Mobilization Forces deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

The unfounded rumors of Nasrallah’s demise have become customary, so much so that it is slightly surprising that any outlet continues to republish them. But that is not all that is lacking in novelty. So was Nasrallah’s speech: it touched on the same thematic elements that have now become mainstays of virtually every televised appearance by the Hezbollah leader.

Most of Nasrallah’s speech was devoted to praising Soleimani and Muhandis. He also dedicated part of his discussion to Soleimani’s confrontation of the alleged American plot to control the Middle East – with Israel, “the American military barracks,” as the tip of the spear of this U.S. project. Nasrallah then surveyed the countries and historical milestones where he claimed Washington had attempted to advance this scheme but had been foiled by the Resistance Axis. Finally, he ended the foreign affairs portion of his speech with customary threats and bluster against Israel, repeating themes about increasing manifestations of the Jewish state’s inherent weakness heralding its imminent collapse. He then ended with restating the party’s well-known positions on the Lebanese presidential elections – which echoed Hezbollah’s positions during the Lebanese presidential vacuum prior to 2016.

The staleness of topics is not a result of Nasrallah running out of ideas. Hezbollah’s – and, more broadly, Lebanon’s and the region’s – condition is currently static. Nothing, including the ongoing protests in Iran, is threatening or destabilizing enough to impact the party’s positions.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing for Hezbollah, because several issues are “stuck” in a trajectory that is detrimental to the party, or harmful to the public image it has carefully cultivated. Lebanon’s economic degradation continues apace, the hated Zionist Entity may be experiencing a period of political instability but is not in danger of imminent demise, and the now-three-year-old promise to “expel America from the region” after Soleimani’s assassination is no closer to fulfillment. And so Nasrallah has to recall past Resistance Axis successes, and evoke old threats – real and imagined.

Hezbollah’s raison d’etre is the gradual spread of its ideology and model. To do so, it must survive. But to survive, the group must remain relevant. Its domestic context currently precludes it from real or dramatic action. In the absence of room to act, Nasrallah and Hezbollah seem to be settling for recycled rhetoric and fantasy to maintain the party’s image of being an energetic resistance movement which is readily capable of producing its promised results.