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In a televised speech on Tuesday (16.06.2020), Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah attributed the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon to the role of the United States in seeking to strangle the Arab country in the service of Israeli interests.
Nasrallah said that Hezbollah will not allow the United States to starve Lebanon and its people, and that his group had a “grave equation” of its own that it may activate in response to this American economic war.
Hezbollah’s leader also presented very real alternatives for Lebanon, in the form of dealing economically with ‘friendly states in the East’, such as Iran and China, in order to reduce reliance on the US dollar and extract Lebanon from the US stranglehold.
Source: Newsgate (YouTube)
Date: June 16, 2020
Note: we have added our own sub-headings in the below transcript to make for easier reading
The real causes of the current economic crisis in Lebanon
The core issue as to why the value of the (US) dollar has (drastically) increased (relative to Lebanon’s currency), very briefly speaking…we all know the law of supply and demand. Any commodity over which there is high demand, and which is in low supply in the market, will increase in price. High supply and low demand will cause the commodity to drop in price. All people know about this. What has happened to us here in Lebanon, is that demand for the (US) dollar grew…and there was a lack of dollar supply. So the growing demand for the dollar, and this will not stop, because…especially due to the past policies that greatly tied the Lebanese economy to the US dollar. And all imports require the dollar…The problem is in the lack of supply. Why is there a lack of supply? Now we are about to share (definitive) facts, we are not accusing anyone or politicising the issue:
1) There is definitive information, this is from official sources, I am not speaking based on my opinion, there is definitive information that the Americans are preventing sufficient and required amounts of dollars from reaching Lebanon, later we will explain why (they are doing this).
2) The Americans are interfering and pressuring the Lebanese Central Bank to refrain from pumping the necessary amounts of dollars into the (Lebanese) markets. The pretext that the Americans are using, and the Americans themselves are saying this, this is not secret information, this is known now in the country: the excuse that the Americans say they are doing this is because they claim that when the dollar is injected into the Lebanese market, Hezbollah and others are buying them up and sending them to Syria and Iran. Last time I clarified this issue (and said it was false), and I realised that in the two weeks that followed, no one is now saying (Hezbollah) is gathering dollars from (Lebanon) in order to send to Iran. However, what remains is the claim that (Hezbollah) is gathering dollars and sending them to Syria.
So, with the excuse that the dollar is being gathered up by (Hezbollah) from the (Lebanese) markets and is being sent to Syria, the Americans, the AMERICANS, the US administration, the US Treasury, the US State Department, and their representative here (in Lebanon) i.e. the US ambassador, they are preventing (US) dollars from coming into Lebanon, this is one. And two, they are pressuring the Lebanese Central Bank to avoid providing (US dollars) to the (Lebanese) market aimed at dealing with this problem. This is the reality. So that we know where the problem lies, to know who is causing this problem. When you’re going out to protest against the rising price of the dollar, you ought to know who you are protesting against. What do these stores in central Beirut that people are attacking have to do with this?
…If Hezbollah is indeed transferring dollars to Syria and Iran (as some claim), then let the security forces investigate the matter and show us proof. I have mentioned a few times, and when I again speak about this matter it harms Hezbollah, because it opens up the eyes of the Americans on us more, but I must say again: we (Hezbollah) bring dollars into Lebanon, we do not take dollars out of Lebanon. We bring dollars into Lebanon. I won’t get into how we do this.
3) (The truth is that) there are people who are taking dollars outside of Lebanon, and not to Syria. A specific bank, which I won’t name, smuggled tens of millions of dollars out of Lebanon, in August 2019. It did not take them to Syria, nor to Iran. And this bank is protected by certain political sides. Come forward and tell the people the truth. In official (government) sessions, Lebanese officials are on record to have said that between September 2019, meaning before the protest movement began in October (2019), and here it raises certain question marks surrounding certain sides within the protest movement: between September 2019 and February 2020, 20 billion dollars were taken out of Lebanon. They were taken neither to Syria, nor to Iran. And they weren’t taken out by Hezbollah. Nor by the Amal Movement. Who is it that took 20 billion dollars out of (Lebanese) banks and took them abroad? These (facts) have gone down on record in an official (government) meeting. When 20 billion dollars is taken out of the country within a few months, and a certain bank buys tens of millions of dollars in cash, and takes this money out of the (market), and takes this money abroad, all these (facts) are ignored (by certain sides in Lebanon), (and they claim that) this is not where the problem lies?!
The problem is actually (as some sides claim), that ‘there’s a few (illegal) money exchanges (here or there) that are selling dollars to the Syrians on the borders’. I do not deny that this occurs, but to what extent does this contribute to the problem? And regardless go ahead and apprehend these people. Did we (Hezbollah) protect such people? We did not protect any such people. The problem is (obviously) not here, this is a (form) of deception. This is an American lie. The issue of the (drastic rise in the price of) dollars is in fact a conspiracy against Lebanon, its people, economy, and currency, before it is a conspiracy against Syria. Syria is merely an excuse. The mentioned bank did not take out tens of millions of dollars from Lebanon and take them to Syria. Go ask the Governor of the (Lebanese) Central Bank, out of the 20 billion dollars that were taken out of Lebanon, was even one dollar of those taken to Syria? And if any amount was taken to Syria, how much? Therefore, out there is a (side) that is directing this operation, so that there are no more dollars in the country, causing the price of dollars to rise, thereby causing the value of the (Lebanese) Lira to fall, causing everything to rise in cost, harming thereby the economy, production, agriculture, shops, employment etc., leading the country towards collapse. This is the truth.
We should know regarding this issue who is our enemy and with whom is our problem, so that we can hold them responsible and not smile in their face (as some are doing), and so that we know that it is they who are slaughtering and executing us, he is the one who is humiliating our country and our people, so we can see how we can confront them properly…So the issue is much bigger than (illegal) money exchanges here or there, this is a simplification of the currency problem in Lebanon. In fact, this is a smokescreen to hide the huge beasts that gathered (US) dollars and took them out of the country, or who prevent dollars from entering the country. Some one may say: wow, so we have a huge problem, the issue is with the Americans, and not with money exchanges here or there, or a few banks that need to be penalised – even though this does need to happen. Do we surrender? Ofcourse not, we must see how to fix this problem.
…How can we reduce the pressure on the need for the dollar? Where are they holding and pressuring the country, from which point are they trying to bring this country to its knees and humiliate it? By (exploiting) our need for the US dollar. (We currently need it) to buy petrol, gas, diesel, wheat…medicine, to import medical equipment, basic commodities for production to occur, all of these require the dollar. The Lebanese Central Bank comes and says: I don’t have enough dollars to cover all of these (commodities). Okay, we cannot confront America itself and throughout the world (as Lebanon), that is understandable. Okay then, are we able to – and I am not bringing forth a new idea here, but I mean we really need to work on this practically now – can we try to resolve these (economic) issues without using the dollar?
Trading with friendly nations such as Iran to reduce reliance on USD
Can we try to resolve these (economic) issues without using the dollar? To put things simply, can we find a friendly regional country, such as Iran for instance, that can sell to the Lebanese government or (Lebanese) companies oil, gas, diesel, fuel, petrochemical products, and other products, without the dollar? Not just Iran (but other states too)? Would these countries for instance, accept from us our national currency, the Lebanese Lira? Is this possible? Can we possibly explore such ideas?
But first, based on past experiences, we have to convince the Lebanese (themselves) to accept this before we go trouble ourselves and talk to the Iranians and others. I haven’t gone to ask any (state) yet, I am taking the initiative right now based on my personal responsibility. Even if the Iranians are watching me right now, they may be surprised that I am talk about such huge steps while not having spoken to them beforehand. I am frankly speaking about this. Because in the past, when our brother Mohammad Fneish was the (Lebanese) Minster of Electricity, I went to Iran for 15 days and sat with officials there to try to draw up electricity (infrastructure) projects (for Lebanon). We brought back the plans to the Lebanese (officials), but not (all) accepted these (plans to go ahead).
…Another example: perhaps we can use a bartering system i.e. exchanging goods for goods. Perhaps they won’t accept the Lebanese Lira, but in exchange for their oil they take Lebanese products, industrial, agricultural (products), or anything of this sort. Lebanon has some capabilities, even if they are limited. Are there such possibilities, can we potentially explore such avenues? And this could work with Iran or other states, (the bartering system) is easier…
…If we open such a door, this will stimulate Lebanese production, agricultural production, economic activity in the country, it will create job opportunities, it will raise the value of the Lebanese national currency once again, because demand for the dollar will be reduced…there will always be some demand for (US) dollars, but demand for it will (greatly) reduce, and the value of the national currency will go up once again. It has great advantages (for Lebanon). And we wont remain seated before the Americans, waiting for them, wondering whether they will have mercy on us or not, whether they will allow dollars to reach Lebanon or not, whether they will allow our Central Bank to pump dollars into our market (or not). Frankly speaking.
…This would be a huge door of salvation that will open up for Lebanon. I am addressing the Lebanese people to tell them not to feel helpless, that there are options, and I am calling on the Lebanese people to help us pressure Lebanese officials if they happen to say “no”, because they are afraid of the Americans for instance. So are we to always remain afraid of the Americans? (As the saying goes): ‘They do not have mercy upon us, nor do they allow God’s mercy to fall upon this country and people either?’ This is unacceptable. This is unacceptable.
This is an option that one can work on. We will be addressing (these options) earnestly with Lebanese officials, and if we see some acceptance, we will send a delegation from our brothers to go speak with the Iranians or other states, I won’t name those countries so as not to put them on the spot right now, Iran won’t mind me mentioning it by name. We will go and explore such avenues (if we find there is Lebanese acceptance).
Opening economic relations with China to transform Lebanon
….Today I have definitive information – if I am not certain of something I never say it – that Chinese companies are ready to bring money (into Lebanon), without all these complications we experience in Lebanon. It won’t be us giving them money. They will bring money into this country. One project is the high-speed rail from Tripoli to Naqoura – not just from Tripoli to Beirut, but all the way to Naqoura. If this happens, it will infuse the country with money and investments, it will create jobs, and will give a boost to the economy, to society, to the living conditions, and so on. Imagine a high-speed train from Tripoli to Naqoura. I am telling you this while the information is official, Chinese companies are ready for this as we speak. So go ahead.
(Another project is) the building of power plants. The Chinese – we have their specific names and addresses – are ready to come and build electric plants. They will do it in the BOT format. You won’t be asked to pay a single penny. There will be understanding with the Lebanese government as to how this money will be paid back. Furthermore, a few days ago, I enquired about the tunnel regarding which a decision was made, to dig between Beirut to Chtoura in the Beqaa. Ofcourse (such a project) will have great impacts on Lebanon and its economy and society, and it will help people transport from area to area, and the money that will saved etc. There are so many analyses about the importance of this tunnel. (I asked:) ‘Are you ready?’ The Chinese companies are ready to carry out this project, also in the BOT (format). So go ahead (O’ Lebanese and take action)…We don’t have much time to waste, I am with this issue being finalizing in a decisive and swift manner. Come forward O’ Lebanese and act (on these projects with the Chinese), why should we keep waiting for the Americans?
…The Lebanese people cannot continue in this manner, just sitting here and waiting for the Americans. There are negotiations ongoing (between the Lebanese government) and the IMF, it is unclear how long they will last for, one month, two months, some say it could take a whole year. Does the country have that long? This is one.
Two, France and the EU are waiting for American permission on resuming CEDRE. Arab states, particularly Gulf states, and regardless of their readiness or not, require American permission (before supporting Lebanon). The Americans are using the Lebanese economy to secure their own interests, and not the interests of Lebanon. There is no such thing as the Lebanese interest in the American calculus and conscience. In fact there is no such thing as American interests in Lebanon, do you want more than that? The only thing that exists in the American calculus (vis-à-vis Lebanon) is the interests of Israel i.e. the security of Israel, the land borders with Israel, the maritime borders with Israel, the oil and gas within (Lebanese) maritime territory (and how that can be seized) by Israel, the future of Israel etc. This is what the Americans are working on in Lebanon. Otherwise, whether the Lebanese people live or die, eat or not, gain access to medicine, education and work or not, all this means nothing to the Americans. Neither for their president nor their ambassador here (in Lebanon). It means nothing to them at all.
Shall we remain waiting for the Americans? That would mean waiting for starvation, humiliation, and submission. Look at how Americans treat their allies around the world. They steal from them, milk them, and humiliate and insult them, every single day…
Our weapons will remain in our hands, we will not starve, & we will set the equations
If anyone is trying to turn the (supportive) base of the resistance on the resistance, he is a failure and is wasting his time, whether (he tried this) for one, two, or even a hundred years. Give up on this. If you are betting on us starving, or that we allow the country to starve, I tell you that we will neither starve, nor allow the country to starve. I am certain in what I am saying. If you are betting O’ Americans on the idea that through starvation, we will come to you submissively and abjectly, and surrender our country and its security to you, and that we fall under the mercy of the Israelis, (you should know) that this is completely out of the question for us.
Now what are some people doing in Lebanon, they say: ‘yes, frankly speaking, Hezbollah has nothing to do with the (widespread) corruption, nor the past economic policies (of the country), and has nothing to do with etc. etc., but we are now in a situation such that O’ Sayyed, for us to obtain bread, you will need to surrender your weapons. Weapons in exchange for bread, weapons for food’. When they wish to put us before such an equation, they should know that we have an equation (of our own) that is much bigger, more important and more grave, which I will not talk about now. And you (O’ enemies) go ahead and try to analyse what I mean. We have our own equation in this regard, but as for your equation, we cannot possibly accept it.
I wish to simplify the issue for the Lebanese: it is like someone sitting in an orchard, and around him are wolves, and this man owns weapons that prevent these wolves from entering his orchard and killing his wife and children. And this man is somehow surviving and living. They come and tell him: give us your weapons or we will starve you to death. Okay, if he gives them his weapons and they give him bread to eat, and then the wolves and beasts set upon him, what would he then do? How would he protect his wife and children? So it is like you are saying: I wish to kill you either (by taking) your weapons, or through starvation. This is the equation being talked about today in Lebanon.
Lebanon is neither protected by international resolutions nor the United Nations Security Council. See now in Yemen, I was intending to leave this for the end (of my speech). This Secretary General of the UN, this submissive and subservient one to US policies, he removes the ‘American-Saudi aggression’ from the list of those killing children (in the world). That same day, Saudi warplanes carry out a massacre in the province of Saada, killing women and children. This is so God exposes this weak, submissive and subservient one (i.e.the UN Secretary General).
What (really) protects people? Who protects Lebanon from Israel? Look at the Palestinian people. They (the Israelis) annexed the West Bank or parts of it. The Palestinian people are screaming. Jordan is screaming. The Europeans say this is illegal. So? If the Palestinian people don’t go down themselves in the West Bank and in Gaza – and internally and externally – and take responsibility (for their fate), then no one in the international community will do anything for the Palestinian people. And we in Lebanon, after an experience dating back to 1948, what safeguards our country, sovereignty, water, oil, gas, people, dignity, security, honour, women and children, is our weapons.
As for the one who wishes to put us before two options, either we kill you with weapons or through starvation, I say to him: our weapons will remain in our hands, and we will not starve, and we (are the ones that) will kill you! We will kill you! We will kill you!
(Your equation) is completely out of the question as far as we’re concerned. The options are in our hands. When we say let’s look Eastwards, we are not saying cut (all relations) with America, France, the West, and Arabs. No. We are saying open all the doors, East and West. Except for Israel. Even America, it is our enemy and we (as Hezbollah) have no relations with it, but if it helps you (Nasrallah is addressing here certain Lebanese parties), then accept its offers. Except for Israel.
Whoever is ready to help us in the world and help us free our reliance on the hard currency (US dollar), by selling us gas, diesel, fuel, foodstuffs, medicines, manufacturing material etc., in exchange for the Lebanese Lira, then we must open up relations with those sides. And we should not wait for anyone nor their approval nor permission. Whichever state or company in the world is ready to come and invest in Lebanon, (under a) BOT (arrangement), and carry out (infrastructure) projects in the country, we should kiss them on the forehead and warmly welcome them, and we must not wait for anyone. Otherwise, they wish to starve this country to death and in an abject state too. And we will never allow this to happen to our people in Lebanon, never!
Syria’s allies will not allow it to fall in the face of US Economic War
Syria gained victory in the global war against it, (whether in terms of the) military, security, political or psychological (levels). They were not able to divide it, neither through military (means), nor security, nor political (means), nor through psychological warfare.
Today, the (American) Caesar Act, which activates this tough siege on the state and people in Syria, this measure is the final American weapon. Today if I wish to prove that Syria gained victory in the military, security, political and moral war (against it), I do so by pointing to how America is resorting to this Caesar Act. If Syria was suffering defeat they would not need the Caesar Act.
….I wish to remind people of the first 1-2 years of events in Syria. I made a television appearance and delivered a speech, and I used an expression that some later thought was an exaggeration and what not. That day the city of Damascus was in a dangerous situation. The battle was at a critical point. I said at the time: ‘Indeed the allies of Syria will not allow Damascus to fall’. And this indeed occurred thereafter.
Today I would like to affirm to the Syrian people and to all our brothers in Syria – and to all those in Lebanon and the region who care about the fate of Syria, that Syria’s allies, who stood by it in the military war, the security war, and the political war – and even if they themselves are in tough circumstances – will not give up on Syria in the face of this economic war. They will not allow the fall of Syria in the face of this economic war. I am certain of that. Hezbollah and I are part of the machine that works on this