Untold facts on Israel-Hezbollah war in an interview with Major General Qassem Soleimani
After 20 years, for the first time since being appointed as the Chief Commander of Quds brigade, General Soleimani was interviewed by Khamenei.ir. The following is the full text of the interview:
The interviewer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful; and we ask His assistance.
Greetings and condolences on the days of Muharram. We are grateful for the time you are devoting to us. We would like to open the discussion with you, and it might be a good idea at first to ask you about the situation in the region before the war. As the U.S. entered the region in 2001, after the 9/11 event, and staged two wars, which were followed by the 33-day war, our first question for you is: which were the factors that led to the 33-day war[2006 Israel–Hezbollah War]?
Major-General Soleimani: In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and peace and greetings be upon God’s messenger, and upon his immaculate household. All praise is due to Allah who guided us…
Peace be upon you, O Aba-Abdullah! and upon the souls that gathered in your courtyard. Peace of Allah be upon you from me forever, as long as I am existent and as long as there are days and nights.
I also express my condolences on the days of mourning over the martyrdom of the master of all martyrs, Hussain Ibn Ali (a.s.).
To answer your question, I should say that the 33-day war had some hidden causes which were the principal factors leading to the war. The war had some apparent and some hidden causes, the pretext of which were the hidden goals that the [Zionist] regime sought for a period of time. When I say there were hidden causes, we had some information about the preparations of the Zionist regime, but we had no information on the fact that the enemy wanted to launch an attack in ambush. Later, based on two circumstances, we concluded that prior to this war, a swift ambush was supposed to be conducted to overturn Hezbollah. Well, this war happened when two important events, one concerning the entire region and another exclusively concerning the Zionist regime were taking place.
In the event concerning the region, following the 9/11 incidents, the U.S. had extensively developed the presence of its armed forces in our region, as much as was the case during the World War II, albeit only in terms of quantity; for its quality was still far more than that of the World War II. In 1991, when the first U.S. attack happened following Saddam’s military action against Kuwait, the U.S.’s invasion and Saddam’s defeat left military remainders in our region, leading to the settlement of a U.S. military base.
But after the 9/11, due to the two heavy military actions the U.S. exercised, about forty percent of the armed forces in the disposition of the U.S. entered our region; and later gradually as a result of the changes and exchanges done, even reserve and standby forces, as well as the national guard, got involved. That is to say, approximately over sixty percent of the U.S. Army, including internal and extraterritorial forces were deployed to our region. Therefore, there was a dense presence in a limited area: in Iraq alone, there were more than 150,000 troops, and over 30,000 U.S. militaries were present in Afghanistan.
Yet, this excluded the coalition forces which were about 15,000 in Afghanistan. Thus, a 200,000-member, specialized and trained force was present in our region, next to Palestine. This presence naturally provided opportunities for the Zionist Regime. That is, the presence of the U.S. in Iraq was an obstacle to the dynamism of the Syrians in Syria, as well as a threat to the Syrian government, and a threat to Iran. So if you look at the geopolitical position of Iraq, you will see that during the war in 2006, the 33-day war, the U.S. placed an obstacle in the country that linked the principal country of Resistance; an obstacle made up of an armed force of 200,000 troops, hundreds of planes and helicopters, as well as thousands of armored vehicles.
This naturally provided the opportunity for the Zionist regime to take advantage of this situation and take a measure. The grandeur [of their facilities] supposedly frightened Iran, frightened and halted Syria, so these two governments wouldn’t take action. Based on this assumption, the Zionist Regime found the situation suitable for taking such a measure, especially due to the approach of the Bush administration—a harsh and fast-deciding administration—with the leading team in the White House supporting the Zionist Regime. Thus they found the situation apt for taking such a measure.
The principle root, therefore, lied in the Zionist Regime’s seeking advantage from the military presence of the U.S. in the region; from Saddam’s fall; from the initial victory of the U.S. in Afghanistan; and the fear that the U.S. had created in the region, by considering a huge range of political groups of the region and of the world, as terrorist groups if they were deemed as opposing the U.S. policies.
The Zionist Regime wanted to take advantage of this, thinking it was the best opportunity for a war; because the Israeli regime had suffered a defeat in the year 2000, and had retreated—or actually escaped—from Lebanon. Hezbollah had defeated it. So, it wanted to go back, not to occupy, rather to demolish and alter the demography in southern Lebanon. This was revealed during the war—or almost with the commencement of the war.
The main goal was to completely change the demography so that the people living in southern Lebanon—who had some religious connections with Hezbollah—would be moved out of Lebanon. The Israeli regime sought to implement the same plan as what happened after 1967 to the Palestinians in southern Lebanon to force people to evacuate and settle in various refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and other Arab countries. The same plan that was previously implemented for the Palestinians, was now outlined for the Shias in southern Lebanon.
They made the Palestinians to leave southern Lebanon and to be dispersed in different camps in Lebanon, Syria and other areas of the Arab world. Even Arafat was obliged to relocate his major place of activity from Lebanon to Tunisia, in the Maghreb, actually creating a displaced organization. The same assumption existed about the Shia community of Lebanon. So now I will move from the background, prior to the war, to the period during the war, to complete the discussion.
On this matter, the U.S. and the Israeli officials have two important statements. On the early days of the war, Bush used inappropriate words—his microphone was turned on—but the words he used are at his own level, I won’t repeat them. He said this in support of the aftermath of the war, not the war itself. In affirming the outcome of the war and the matter, Rice used more polite and diplomatic words.
She said it when the massacre and howls culminated in the south of Lebanon. The bombings showed utmost intoxication by technology; by the precision of technology, they bombarded and obliterated any area they wished to. Murders were committed that actually swallowed and obliterated Qana. She used the words; she used an analogy, describing the howls—with blatant words—like the pain of delivery for giving birth to a new Middle East. She drew an analogy between the cries of the children, women and innocent people from under the rubbles and the labor pain of delivering a major event.
Therefore, these remarks indicated that a big project was underway. But as for the Zionist regime, the regime had prepared a big camp and a number of ships. The camp was provided to initially transfer the people they captured—as many as they could—to a camp inside Palestine, which was estimated to house up to 30,000 people. Then, they planned to send those who were ordinary civilians to other places, and abduct those who were considered convicts—in their view— or had some organizational affiliations with Hezbollah. They had prepared ships for the migration of the people.
Therefore, unlike other wars that affect all similarly, this war at this stage was done precisely, using technology--That is, the war targeted one single community. At first, they tried to limit it to a party, namely Hezbollah. Later, it was expanded to include all the Shia community in southern Lebanon, to completely change the demography of the south.
Hence, the initial hidden intention—as they also confessed later, when Ehud Olmert and later the Minister of Defense and the head of the Army said that they intended to conduct a raid— was to launch an ambush. If the ambush had happened, the major part of Hezbollah’s cadre would have been destroyed by a massive airstrike.
In the first stage, Hezbollah would have suffered severe damage to at least 30 percent of its main organization. Then in the next stages, they would have inflicted absolute destruction. But the basic factor was taking advantage of the powerful presence of the U.S. in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in the region; as well as other Arab countries’ willingness to support Israel in such a war to uproot Hezbollah or the Shia community of southern Lebanon. This was mentioned by Ehud Olmert.
He said that for the first time all the Arab countries [had reached a consensus]. By all Arab states, he meant the majority of the Arab countries; namely, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf was, in particular, considered. Egypt was also included, and other countries were generally no exceptions. Yet, we could find a few exceptions at that time. You know, Iraq had no governing body at that time; the ruler of Iraq at the time was Paul Bremer—the U.S. military ruler—so Iraq was ruled by the U.S.
The Syrian government was a young government, due to the passing away of Hafez Assad, and had just started working. So when he said all the countries, he meant that majority. So he made this remark that for the first time, all the Arab countries supported Israel in the war against an Arab organization.
The remarks he made reveal a fact, an important serious reality. Therefore, we should consider three hidden factors with respect to the war. First, the opportunity provided by the presence and reigning of the U.S. in Iraq, and the fear the extensive presence of the U.S. had caused in the region.
Second, the willingness of Arab countries and their discreet announcement of cooperation with the Zionist Regime for obliterating Hezbollah and changing the demography in southern Lebanon. Third, the goals the Zionist regime pursued by taking advantage of this opportunity in order to get rid of Hezbollah forever. These three factors represented the main hidden goals or intentions that played a crucial role in the roots of this war.
The interviewer: Could you please also elaborate on the apparent reasons that you categorized? Upon which pretexts was the war was staged?
Major-General Soleimani: The main reason was Hezbollah’s commitment to the Lebanese people. There was no other power, apart from Hezbollah, who could make the commitment to free the young Lebanese imprisoned and captured by the Zionist Regime. Sayyid [Hassan Nasrallah] promised this in one of his speeches, saying they [Hezbollah] will surely free the Lebanese prisoners from the Zionist prisons, as they had done so previously too.
The Lebanese people, including the Druze, Muslim, and Christian prisoners, had no hope or haven apart from Hezbollah; so do they today. In any event, the main refuge of the Lebanese people in defense against the violent regime has been Hezbollah. So, Sayyid made these remarks. In the previous swaps, Israel refused to deliver the main prisoners, some of whom were teenagers; and these teenagers spent their life in prison and had grown into young and middle-aged adults.
Hezbollah promised to liberate them; but it was not realized at the first swap [of prisoners], as Israel refused to free them. Therefore, in order to realize the promise, Hezbollah engaged in an operation to achieve the desired swap—which was later on actually successful.
So a special operation was performed, and it was commanded by someone named martyr Imad Mughniyeh. I don’t know what title can describe him, I wonder if I can use the title General, which has become popular today. Now the titles ‘general’ and ‘brigadier-general’ are often used in our country. But, he was beyond those titles; he was a general, in the true sense of the word. He was a general with the most similar features to Malik Ashtar on the battlefield.
On his martyrdom, I felt the same feeling that Imam Ali (a.s.) experienced on the martyrdom of Malik, was now felt by the Resistance. By martyrdom of Malik, Imam Ali was grieved and sorrowed; and he cried while giving a speech on the pulpit—as some ahadith narrate, where he said: ‘how [extraordinary] was Malik! If he was a mountain, he was a huge and strong mountain. If he was a stone, he was a hard stone. Be aware that the death of Malik made a world sad, and a world happy.’ The passing of a man like Malik should be mourned and wept by men. Is there a companion like Malik? Will women deliver children who will ever again grow into someone like Malik? This saying by Imam Ali (a.s.) was very important; he said, ‘Malik for me was like I was for the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h)’.
So, the same was true in the case of Imad. That is, Imad could be described in the same manner for the Resistance, as I mentioned. If I want to surpass our conventional ways of describing, I’d use the same sentence Imam Ali (a.s.) used for Malik. He said, ‘women should give birth, so a person like Malik would be born again.’
Imad had such a personality. As he had managed many difficult battles, he managed this operation, supervising and leading closely. His operation was successful. He managed to attack a vehicle of the Zionist regime, inside the occupied lands and captured two wounded persons from inside the vehicle as hostages. I don’t care about the previous operations at this point; this operation was not a one-day operation; rather it was a few-month operation wherein the Israeli regime was monitored. Based on a plan worked out by Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah as the Commander-in-Chief of the Resistance in Lebanon, and with Imad Mughniyeh as the head of Hezbollah’s jihad, measures had been taken before this operation for it was very important—and as it is not the topic of our discussion, there is no need to address it. The operation represented a number of operations, not a single one; there were four separate special operations were included. First, it was about planning the operation. Second, it was the time and situation of the attack. The third step was to surpass the vast, dense and tall barbed wires of the Zionist regime, and to reach there; because the operation didn’t only consist of striking a point. They had to surpass the border, reach the prison and take the prisoners. So every operation had to be done so carefully that the people inside the tanks wouldn't get killed. The fourth point was that the operation had to be conducted very swiftly: not within 15 or 30 minutes, but in a few minutes or seconds. They had to very speedily move the now liberated captives to a safe place before the enemy could get to them. Usually, the enemy is within a distance of a few minutes away from the operation place—for the ground force; since for the air force it could take much shorter, of course, and the enemy would reach very rapidly. So it had to be planned very precisely. One of Imad Mughniyeh’s features was his meticulousness and his attention for details. Hence, since he usually devised the operations himself closely, the outlining of the plan was by him, so was the implementation of it. And Imad came out victorious.
The Second Part of the Interview
General Soleimani: In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; I am going to link this debate with the previous one. We mentioned and emphasized two points in the previous talk. One was the reason why the Israeli regime wanted to stage an ambush to get the most out of it. The second point we discussed was that the war was designed in a manner different from all the other previous wars. The process it wanted to adopt was not the process of a war against an organization like Hezbollah. Rather, the goal and the process of the war was to uproot a community in Lebanon and to move this community to dispersed areas. The victory of the enemy was aimed at achieving this.
[The goal was to] get rid of Hezbollah forever, and the prerequisite was to get rid of a big part of the Lebanese people who lived in a significant part of the country—not only in the south but also in Beqaa Valley and the north of Lebanon. Indeed, the regime wanted to remove this community, which stemmed from the regime’s past experience in confronting and uprooting the Palestinians from southern Lebanon, forcing them to live in confined camps. So the regime displaced the commandment [headquarters] of the Palestinians from Lebanon. This was the second issue we raised.
The third point was the reasons for Hezbollah’s action. With this regard, we said that firstly for returning the Lebanese prisoners there was no other hope apart from Hezbollah. Secondly, Hezbollah had no other option but to realize this swap for a swap. Bearing in mind that the Israeli regime doesn’t understand the language of diplomacy at all. The language the regime uses in communication with all the neighboring countries is the language of coercion. And except for the language of force, it doesn’t understand any other languages. Just as it has been the case of dealing with the Arabs.
Another matter in the first part of our debate that I don’t want to miss and which is very important in the Arab countries’ support of the Zionist Regime in this war. This was unprecedented in the history of the Arab world and the Zionist Regime to openly support the Zionist regime, as this was previously done discreetly. The Zionist regime announced it at the highest level, Ehud Olmert, the head of the Zionist regime. He said that for the first time the Arab countries supported the Zionist Regime in a war against an Arab organization. By Arab countries, he didn’t mean all the Arab countries, but mainly the countries of the Persian Gulf, with Al Saud regime leading them.
So here we concluded that Hezbollah had no other way of realizing its promise and giving a positive response to the Lebanese people’s expectations, rather than engaging in an operation to make the regime do this prisoners swap. This was the only possible way, and there were no other alternatives.
Then comes the question that the operation was a big operation. It was more than one single operation. Even regardless of the prerequisites, it was not a one-day operation, but an operation that needed several months of hard work. The regime was monitored. Based on the decision made by Sayyid of the Resistance, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, as the chief-commander of the Resistance in Lebanon, the commandment of the operation was undertaken by the jihadi official of Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyeh (r.a.), who performed the background measures needed for the operation, and they were very important. Because it is not the topic of our discussion, we don’t need to focus on it.
Thus, the way the operation was performed is important because firstly, this was an operation consisting of 3 or 4 different steps or operations. One point I forgot to mention is the time designated for the operation. The operation needed to be carefully outlined as they needed to accelerate the pace of reaching the target area. Tactically, the chance of action should be slim for the enemy while there should be a bigger opportunity for Hezbollah to take action. Moreover, fast reversing should be possible.
Therefore, these nuances were carefully considered prior to the operation. One of the characteristics of Imad Mughniyeh was his careful attention to details. Because he usually managed everything himself, the designing and the executing were all done by himself. So he had done all the different steps consisting of entering the occupied lands, taking hostages, taking them out of the carrier, and transferring them rapidly to a safe place, out of reach of the enemy.
Here the first part of the talk ends. Now either you can ask questions, or I can continue my debate. But I think I am invited here so you can ask questions.
The Interviewer: The war was launched on that pretext and an intense rage was conducted on Hezbollah’s bases. How did Lebanon’s Hezbollah react in the first hours and days of the war? Particularly given that Israel declared the reason for this barbaric attack as Hezbollah’s taking captives—and this had normally created a psychological pressure.
General Soleimani: Two points are important to note. Hezbollah was facing a constant animosity on the side of an enemy that is impossible to compromise with. That is, in Hezbollah’s view, from religious and political perspectives, the enemy was impossible to compromise with. For the enemy, too, it was unacceptable to acknowledge Hezbollah. Therefore, this hostility is a perpetual hostility. So Hezbollah was always ready to defend. This was for point one. Hezbollah wasn’t unprepared and caught surprised; Hezbollah was prepared.
Hezbollah’s readiness was not only because of this operation as it was always prepared, however, the operation increased the readiness and vigilance in other dimensions, but readiness in terms of the combatants, facilities, and equipment was already there. Today it is the same; that is, Hezbollah is always a hundred percent ready. Hezbollah’s readiness is not like that of others where there might be different levels of readiness, announced by yellow or red alert; or by 30 percent, then 70 percent, and finally 100 percent. No, Hezbollah was constantly prepared 100 percent. Hezbollah was a hundred percent ready on that day too, and so is it a hundred percent ready today. However, the quality of readiness varies at different times due to their facilities.
The second point is that before taking any measures, Hezbollah adopts security stratagems. So when Hezbollah decided to perform the operation of capturing the two Zionist soldiers, to attain the determining and important prisoners swap, first it developed the necessary preparedness. The preparedness was in two levels: for confrontation, and for reducing damage.
All during the time when the Israeli regime took military actions during the 33-day war, especially during the first hours and days, it attacked all the targets it had designated on a data bank it had prepared in advance. So the Zionist regime provided its air force with the list of all targets prepared in advance and the air force took action based on the precise geographic coordinates of the designated Hezbollah bases listed on the data bank. But because of the stratagems devised by Hezbollah, it suffered the least damage in terms of human resources and also important facilities; we can even say it didn't suffer any damage during the beginning hours.
Ten days after the war began, the enemy announced the data bank was over, that is, all the determined targets related to Hezbollah were hit. But it was later revealed that thanks to the measures and innovation taken by Hezbollah before commencing its operation, as well as regarding the prediction of the enemy’s response, whatever Israel had done contradicted their own assumptions.
This was the first point. The second point is that, regarding the prediction of the war and given the previous cases of reactions, usually, such events would never lead to war. Normally there was a one-day reaction with some intensity, targeting a few points or areas of the Zionist regime and then stopping. But this time, from the very early minutes, all the operation that was designed in advance was put to action completely. That is, they started to perform the secret plan they wanted to execute all at once.
Of course, now, we say it was a secret plan. I will explain later, we concluded this about two weeks after the war began, guided by our faith rather than by information-- I will explain how. It was almost the final days of the war that we knew by information that the enemy had a plan in advance and had wanted to catch us by absolute surprise, and we understood this mainly because the enemy itself announced it. So, very fast, the war became a complete war, like a huge warehouse of explosives and gunpowder that explodes all at once by one spark. And this major explosion which was named the 33-day war unfolded.
Interviewer: What was the opinion inside Iran? For such an important event, it was expected that the Leader would hold a meeting, inviting senior officials, where discussions are raised and a decision is made. Were there any opposing views among the officials? Or they all unanimously agreed that [Iran] should support Hezbollah at that time taking the same approach?
[Where were you when the war unfolded?]
General Soleimani: Before answering this question, I should say that on the first day the event happened, I returned to Lebanon. I was in Syria, but all the roads were under attack, especially the only official road which was the Lebanon-Syria cross border road. It was constantly bombarded by planes and the jets wouldn’t leave it a second. So we contacted a friend through a safe line and Imad came to pick me up to move me Syria to Lebanon through a rad where we walked a part of it and drove through the rest. At that time, the main spectrum of the war included a focus on the administrative buildings of Hezbollah, the majority of the areas in the south, and some points, in the north and center. Toward the end of the first week, I was asked to go to Tehran to report on the war. I returned via a secondary road. At that time the Supreme Leader was in Mashhad. I went there to meet him at a meeting held between the heads and the senior officials of the three branches of power which were also members of the National Security Council and worked mostly in security and intelligence sectors.
The Interviewer: in Mashhad?
General Soleimani: Yes, in Mashhad. I reported on the events. My report was a sad bitter one. That is, my observations didn’t reflect any hope for victory. The war was a different one; a technological and precise war. 12-story buildings were knocked down by a bomb. The targets were chosen with precision. In the meantime, when the war’s target had moved from Hezbollah to the Shia community, in general, the situation was totally different in the Shia-populated village from a village where our Christians or Sunnis brothers were living. That is, in one place people were safe and had their normal lives, smoking their hookahs, whereas, in another place, thousands of bullets were fired. I reported these in that gathering.
Prayer time arrived, and everyone left to perform ablutions (wudu). So did I. The Leader performed wudu; his sleeves were rolled up; on the way back, he pointed to me, asking me to go closer, and I did. He said, ‘did you want to tell me something about your report?’ I said, ‘no, I just wanted to describe the facts.’ His Eminence held, ‘I know. But didn’t you want to add anything else?’ I said, ‘no.’
We performed prayers and returned to the meeting. My report was over. His Eminence started to speak. He mentioned several points. He said that, the facts I had reported regarding the war were true, and that the war was a difficult and very intensive war. He continued: ‘but I assume this war is like the Battle of the Trench.’ His Eminence recited the ayahs (Quranic verses) about the Battle of the Trench [khandaq] –also called the Battle of the Confederates [ahzab]. He described the status of the Muslims and the companions of the Prophet, as well as the spirit of combatants. He then stated, ‘I believe that the victory of this war will be like the victory of the Battle of the Trench.’
I was daunted; because I didn’t have such a perspective from the military point of view. I secretly wished the Leader hadn’t said that the war would end in a victory--the Battle of the Trench was the big victory of the prophet (p.b.u.h.). He then mentioned two points which were very important.
His Eminence stated, ‘it seems to me that Israel had prepared this project in advance, and wanted to conduct a raid to destroy Hezbollah by launching a surprise attack. The action of Hezbollah—capturing two Zionist soldiers—disturbed the surprise plan. I didn’t have this information; Sayyid didn’t have this information; Imad didn’t have this information. None of us had this information.
I always believe and say to the friends, based on the twenty-year experience of working with the Leader, I well saw in the Leader how piety (taqwa) can result in sagacity and deep insight in one’s words, heart, and wisdom. Therefore, now whenever the Leader raises suspicion about something, I am sure that the matter will finally fail somehow; and whenever the Leader reassures us about something, I know that it will have good results.
This remark was very promising for me—as it helped Sayyid a lot, and relieved him. The beginning of the war wasn’t so distressing, but the end was appalling. The number of martyrs and ravages rocketed. Some of Sayyid’s remarks impressed me. I found this remark (the Leader’s) very good for him. Because some might mal-intend and say ‘Why did Hezbollah endanger the whole Shia community by capturing two Zionists?’ But this perspective was promising and important, because accordingly, by seizing two captives, Hezbollah had saved not only itself from complete destruction, but also the Lebanese nation.
He also mentioned a third point which had a spiritual aspect. He recommended the Hezbollah members to recite the supplication of Jowshan Saqir. Among the Shias, Joshan Kabir is often recommended. Jowshan Saqir is not very popular, at least among the masses-the elites are different. The Leader explained that we shouldn’t doubt the effectiveness of this supplication. It’s like when some say, by reciting four Towhid verses or the Fatihah verse, the problems will be solved. His Eminence said that Jowshan Saqir is for a person in a desperate situation who wants to speak with God. On the same day, I returned to Tehran and then to Syria.
The Third Part of the Interview
The interviewer: In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful, you said that you returned to Tehran, and on the same night you left for Lebanon.
In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful, after that I immediately returned to Syria. But I had a very good feeling, I had a message that was maybe the most valuable thing for Sayyid. Imad came to pick me up again, and we took the same path to Lebanon. I paid a visit to Sayyid and told him about the Leader’s remarks. Nothing could raise Sayyid’s morale like these words.
Firstly, Sayyid has an important quality—none of us has reached this level yet. I think we should follow his model of understanding wilayat. He strongly believes in the statements of the Supreme Leader and regards them as divine and oracular. So he gives careful attention and devotes himself to every message and statement that the Supreme Leader issues.
I delivered those words to Sayyid and he became very glad. Afterwards, the first point raised by the Leader which entailed, "the outcome of this war will be like the victory of the battle of the Trench, and even though it involves severe hardships, a major victory will be gained;” was dispersed among all the combatants, including those at the front lines and at different levels.
Secondly, the analysis that "the enemy had already a plan of invasion” was used as the basis of Sayyid's work to convince public opinion and raise awareness about the enemy's intention.
As for the third point, Jowshan Saqir became very popular; because this supplication has deep spiritual, worship, and mystical meanings. It can be even said that it is one of the best supplications of Mafatih (duas collection). The supplication spread; it was often recited on Al Manar TV channel, by a beautiful and melancholic voice. It became so popular that the Christians also started to recite it since the supplication is divine and mystical; it is not limited to a single community. Anyone who worships God, and is humble before the divine power, pure God, will find the supplication influential. So this message was very influential and marked a new beginning, pumping fresh blood in the veins of Hezbollah so that they could enter the battlefield against the enemy with increased hope and confidence. Now you can ask your question.
The interviewer: We had an interview with Sayyid [Hassan Nasrullah] which took about five hours. He recounted anecdotes. Now regarding the anecdote you just narrated, he said, "Hajj Qassem came and brought this tiding, and quoted the Leader saying, "you will not only win the war but will also become a power in the region.” And Sayyid continued: ‘I looked at Hajj Qassem, and said, ‘We don’t aspire to become a power; we just want to survive.’
Now, I want to ask you, did you deliver any other message on behalf of Imam Khamenei to Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and other commanders of Hezbollah?
General Soleimani: I didn’t return till the end of the war, and stayed in Lebanon there throughout the 33 days. After the war was over, I returned to Iran, and we had a meeting in Tehran, like the one we had in Mashhad. The meeting was held with the Supreme Leader, the heads of the three branches of power, and major officials in attendance. I presented a report of the events, parts of which had been published already—when in Lebanon, I sent reports to Tehran via our secure line, on a daily basis, so they already had the general information about the war.
The interviewer: We missed this question: How were the opinions inside Iran regarding the response and reaction by the Islamic Republic? Were there disagreements among the officials or was everyone in accordance?
General Soleimani: At that period of time, there were no oppositions or differences of opinions. That is to say, all of the authorities shared the same view, and unanimously agreed that Iran should support Hezbollah in various aspects, including spiritual and material support (i.e. by providing arms, equipment, facilities) media-related support and all that was in the disposition of the Islamic Republic—within the system, no one hesitated about it; at least at that time. Even when I was in Lebanon I heard there was no worry with this regard. There was complete unity in the Islamic Republic, in terms of supporting Hezbollah and trying to help Hezbollah win the war.
Because the main advocate of this support was the Supreme Leader and thus there was no hesitation in Iran regarding directing this cause, discerning the expediency of the Islamic Republic, Islam, and the Islamic scholars. Of course, even now there may be differences of opinions on certain matters, however, regarding Hezbollah, we have had consensus on all levels.
Interviewer: The operational aspects of the 33-day war have been less discussed. There have been mostly discussions of the situation of the Zionist regime in this war. It would be interesting to hear from you—who have been present and active in this confrontation— some details regarding the operational strategy of Hezbollah and the resistance front in the 33-day war, and eventually please tell us about your presence during that period in Lebanon.
General Soleimani: Well, there are still topics related to the 33-day war that cannot be elaborated on. Although 13 years have passed since that war, and years have to come while the secrets of this war and the way Hezbollah operated remain secrets. But among those parts that can be discussed publicly, and are useful, there are some important points that I will talk about here. Hezbollah had an operation room at the heart of Dhahia, and its surrounding buildings were usually bombarded and destroyed. Every night, 2 or 3 tall buildings of 12 or 13 story—sometimes more— were leveled to earth. This room was not an underground operation room; rather it was a typical operation room where certain equipment, connections, and networks have been provided. One night in the operation room, almost all of those managing the war had gathered together. Around 11 pm, after the buildings around us were hit and knocked down, I felt there was real danger threatening Sayyid. So, I decided to move Sayyid. Imad and I shared our ideas about it. Sayyid would not easily accept to leave the operation room. We did not want to move him out of Dhahiah. Rather, the enemy might have become sensitive about the building we were in, so we would move him to a different building. Israeli MK drones were constantly flying over Dhahia in groups of 3, tightly tracking every movement, even if it was a motorcycle. At around midnight, there was no one on the streets in Dhahiah, as if there was not a living soul at the heart of Dhahiah, which was the center of Hezbollah’s activities.
We agreed to leave the building for another one and we did so. There was a short distance between the buildings. As soon as we entered the other building, there was another bombardment, and the point right next to the old building was hit. We waited in the same building, because we had a secure line there and did not want to lose our communication. Sayyid’s communication, and particularly Imad’s were not to miss. Then there was another round of bombardment, and a bridge near this building was hit. We feared there would be a third round, which might hit the building itself. We were alone in the building, the 3 of us: Sayyid, Imad, and I. We decided to leave the building and go to another one. We left the building, we were on foot; we had no car. Dhahiah was completely plunged in darkness and total silence. The only sound that broke the silence was the sound of the enemy’s planes flying above Dhahiah. I was wearing a military outfit. I took off my military shirt, as I was wearing a plain shirt beneath it but I was still wearing my military pants.
Imad told Sayyid and me to wait under a tree that covered us from enemy’s sight. Although the MK UAVs have heat cameras that can distinguish human bodies at night, too. Hence, it was impossible to hide from them. We waited there, and I recalled the story of Moslem. Not for myself, but for Sayyid. He was the leader of this place.
Imad went to get a car. He came back quickly with a car. It probably didn’t take him more than a few minutes to do so. I very much like to talk about Imad, but fear that the session would be interrupted like yesterday. He was unmatched, particularly in planning. When the car reached us, an MK focused on the car from just above us. You know that these UAVs sent the video to Tel Aviv and it could be viewed on a screen in their operation room. It took us some time to confuse the enemy by moving from one underground room to another underground room, and from that car to another vehicle that cannot be described now. We returned to the operation room again at around 2 am. The important point here is that, usually, there is a lot of haste in a war. I understand this very well after 40 years of military-security work. There is a lot of haste in wars to take action before losing the opportunity.
During this war, Hezbollah surprised and confused the enemy at every stage with a new tool, or a new action. That is, they would not reveal all their cards at once. Sayyid had an expression for this strategy that kept the enemy in the dark and in fear. Sayyid would progress step by step. He used to say the next stage is Haifa, the stage after Haifa, and the then two stages after the Haifa stage. They [Sayyid and Hezbollah members] would move on stage by stage to dictate the situation to the enemy and at each stage they would reveal a new weapon to prove their power to hit hard and deep to the enemy at every stage.
So it became certain for the enemy at the time, in 2006, that Hezbollah had the power to take the war to the next stage, which was the red stage of danger and there was no more dangerous stage than it. That is to say, that Hezbollah had the ability to take the war to Tel Aviv. So, these measures by Hezbollah included not only a military aspect but also a strong psychological aspect too. That is, Hezbollah conducted military operations and, every time it challenged the enemy at a different geographical point in occupied Palestine, while at the same time it would also confuse the enemy by striking a huge psychological blow to it.
The second point concerns the application of military instruments. The enemy assumed that with their extensive military actions, they have reduced Hezbollah’s power or completely neutralized it. However, every time they would announce that Hezbollah has lost its ability, to for example fire missiles, on the same day, or the day after, Hezbollah would fire more missiles than the previous day. Launching missiles was not a simple task; that is, when a territory is constantly under aerial threats by a moving, heavy aerial artillery, the missile has to come out of one shelter, take aim on the target and fire, arriving at another safe place without hurting the launcher; it was a very difficult task.
The Interviewer: How long and what steps did it take for such capabilities to develop?
General Soleimani: Hezbollah warriors’ readiness and agility were due to the precise and intensive exercises that had begun to be conducted between the years 2000 and 2006; that is when the Zionist regime ran away or was defeated in southern Lebanon. These exercises and this readiness continued without interruption until 2006, within a plan previously outlined by Hezbollah, named the Sayyid al-Shuhada plan.
The organizer of this plan was Imad. The designer was also Imad. He had precisely outlined how to line up and act when confronting the enemy. The third point is the tactics of Hezbollah. Unlike other wars where there is a frontline stronghold, this war had no frontline stronghold. Rather, every location in this was a stronghold. Every location, that is from the contact point which was the intersection at the frontiers between occupied Palestine, and Lebanon to at least Litani, and the Litani river—every point in that area, including every hill, village or even a house—was a stronghold. But not a stronghold in the traditional way, which is common in a classic war and we also used against Saddam’s invasion. Rather, a stronghold with especial tactics.
One could imagine the tactics of Hezbollah as a vast minefield, a vast intelligent minefield with no empty or secure place within its bounds.
Therefore, when you observe the enemy’s movements, you can see that the enemy was unable to enter through villages, even those villages right at the border; they could not enter them.
They were unable to enter the towns too. Eventually, they decided to enter through the Wadi al Hajir and advance towards Litani, which was, in fact, the breaking point and the point of the defeat of the enemy.
There is an important point regarding the 33-day war, and that is, sometimes a blow dealt by Hezbollah would have an amazing impact just as the blow dealt by Amir al-Mu’minin during the battle of Khandaq when knocking out Amr ibn Abdewad. The strike about which the Prophet said: the blow dealt by Amir al-Mu’minin equals the prayers of all Jinns and all humans. Why? Because it saved Islam.
Hezbollah designed every strike in a way that, sometimes, it would at once knock out the entire entity of the Zionist regime. One example was the Marine force of the regime. You know that there is a connection road to reach the South of Lebanon. This road stretches through the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, passing through Saida and Tyre and finally leads to the frontlines of the South.
Every time during a war, the frigates of the Zionist regime would set on the ocean and blocked this road from the sea using precise artillery. During this war, they did the same during the first week. What the enemy had not imagined, and Hezbollah surprised them with it was the surface to sea missiles. These missiles were to be tested for the first time on that day. Previously all those missiles were concealed and they had not been tested before..
The missiles were all hidden. It was a difficult operation. The missile had to exit a hidden shelter and be transferred with a vehicle it was loaded on to a launching site which was a plain open site, while 3 or 4 Israeli frigates were waiting in front of them. This was planned to be done when Sayyid was to deliver a speech. Because there were rumors that Sayyid Hassan had been injured and this had concerned the Lebanese public. Sayyid had made an agreement with Imad to deliver a speech. Sayyid was to speak.
During that week, the enemy had an upper hand while we had not done anything significant apart from the missiles response. This had to be done. The missile was loaded onto its launcher and was ready to fire several times, and each time there was a problem with the launching. Sayyid wanted to announce this in his speech as a surprise move, and an important surprising operation. He gave his speech. It had to be recorded to be broadcast at a later time. Just like you are recording what I am saying in this room, then you edit it or check with me later and I’ll have some parts of it deleted later.
Sayyid was supposed to speak in a room, and we were sitting in an adjacent room with Imad and another brother. Sayyid’s speech was coming to an end, but the missle wouldn’t be launched. The battle was raging. Once Sayyid wanted to say the final Salam Alaykom wa Rahmatollah, when he reached this point, right before pronouncing these words, the missile was launched. The missile was supersonic and it hit the frigate at once. When he finished, as if inspired from the world beyond and seeing the scene, he said you can see now in front of you the Israeli frigate burning.
This rhetoric by Sayyid coincided with the missile hitting the target. This has a philosophy behind which may not be acceptable by the general public, but God made this phrase coincide with the strike and this is thought-provoking. Although those warships have electronic warfare systems and can deviate incoming missiles, or can hit them with anti-missile systems, the missile hit the target and cut it in half.
This marked getting rid of the Marine Force of the Zionist regime; the force that was never seen again until the end of the war. With a single missile, the whole Marine Force of the Zionist Regime was knocked out. This can, of course, be analyzed and discussed in length. One aspect of it is the ability of the Zionist Regime. That is, it can be understood that a regime whose Marine Force is neutralized with a single missile, no matter how many frigates it has, would be completely neutralized with two or three missiles next time. That time it happened at a range of 100 Km. Next time it may be with a 300 Km range missile. Well, this turned into a miracle and a great victory. The people who had been forced out of their homes, or were under bombardment at the time, were expressing their joy with shouts of Allah o Akbar. This was another surprise move by Hezbollah which changed the equation, and the Zionist Regime failed to respond until it started moving towards the Khiam valley, and Litani where it was defeated once again. The 27th and 28th days were difficult days. Imad and I parted. Sayyid was at a different location. We would go through particular proceedings to meet with Sayyid. We would meet in the evenings and Imad would deliver thorough reports of the confrontations.
He also received instructions from Sayyid. From day 20th to the 28th were very difficult days. It was overwhelming and hard. Probably the most difficult days out of those 33 days. Some issues cannot be discussed now. Once, Imad made an important improvisation. It was very effective. If I want to measure its effect, I should compare it to the message and promise by the Leader regarding the victory in this war. It was so important: it was the letter by the warriors at the battlefronts fighting the enemy, and under fire, to Sayyid Hassan. It was an amazing letter. The day it was being read, Imad who had improvised it himself, was crying loudly. I didn’t see anyone listening to this letter and not cry. More important than that, was Sayyid’s reply to that letter.
That is, maybe if we want to draw an analogy, it was like the poems recited by the companions of Imam Hussain (as) in Karbala, in defense of him against the enemy. And Sayyid’s answer in praise of his warriors was like Imam Hussain’s speech in praise of his own companions on the eve of Ashura. These two talks—that is the warriors’ letter to Sayyid, and Sayyid’s reply to it—were both very influential, and divine. The mere written expression from the fighters at the battlefield and Sayyid’s answer to them had a great effect and generated a lot of energy. From the 28th day, the war took a different turn. I must remind everyone listening to this about a point here. There were many scenes like this during our Sacred Defense in Iran. I have always said that one of the reasons we were on the right side during that war was the spirit of our warriors which was similar to a state of a spiritual journey towards God, where the blinds are removed; where the warriors speak from beyond barriers.
Once we were in Shalamcheh—maybe about a year and a half before the Karbala 5 Operation—preparing for an operation. Naturally, our intelligence forces had previously identified the operation zone and settled there to prevent the enemy from seeing us. There was a body of water in front of us. That day, 2 of our forces named Hossein Sadeqi and Akbar Mousaiepour left to gather intelligence but never returned. There was one of our brothers who had a mystical union with God. He was a young student, yet very mystical. There were probably not many like him in practical mysticism. He had reached a point where many mystic gurus reach after 70 or 80 years. He contacted me and asked to meet me. We used Racal military radios at the time, and I was in Ahvaz when he contacted me. I went to meet him. He told me Akbar Mousaiepour and Sadeqi had not returned, but he had. I was very saddened. I told him that we had not even started yet and the enemy had taken prisoners from us and that the whole operation was exposed. I talked to him angrily. I stayed there for a day and returned the next day; because we were active on several fronts. He contacted me two days later and asked to meet me again. I went to meet him again. He, his name was Hossein, told me that Akbar Mousaiepour would return the following day. I told him, Hossein, what are you talking about? He smiled and said Hossein, son of Qolam Hossein says so. His father’s name was Qolam Hossein, who was a valuable teacher. His mother was a teacher too. He was the son of 2 teachers. He himself was like a teacher in his teens. When people spoke of Mr. Hossein, they meant him. There were many named Hossein there. But only one of them was meant when talking of Mr. Hossein. Anyway, I asked him what he was talking about. He said: tomorrow Akbar Mousaiepour will return and Sadeqi will return next.
I asked him where this was coming from. He said: just stay here. I stayed. We had a military binocular – we used to call it the rabbit binocular – that was positioned in a sort of fortification made with sandbags. It was around 1 pm when brothers from the intelligence who were using the binocular saw something on the water. I went to see for myself. There was a body on the water. Brothers retrieved him. It was Akbar, Akbar Mousaiepour.
The next day Hossein Sadeqi came. The amazing thing was that the water, despite its turbulence, had returned them to their point of departure. They were both martyred in the water, and the water returned their bodies to the same point. It was so amazing. I asked Hossein, "Hossein! How did you know?!” He told me: "I had a dream the previous night, and in my dream, I saw Akbar Mousaiepour who told me were not taken captives, we were martyred. I will return tomorrow at this hour and Sadeqi will come back the next day.” Then Hossein told me something important. He asked me: do you know why Akbar Mousaiepour could talk to me? Because he had two key virtues. First, he was married. Second, he always performed his night prayers, even when he was in the water. It was his virtue that enabled him to visit me in my dream.
Hossein himself was later martyred. I wanted to point this out, that during those difficult days, one of Hezbollah brothers who was diligent in religious practice, had responsibilities in the South. He was telling once, that he had had a dream, although not asleep, more like a vision, that, "I saw a lady accompanied by one or two other ladies. In my vision, I felt she was Fatima Zahra (as). I went towards her and threw myself at her feet, and told her look at our misery. Look at how we are. The lady said everything will be alright. I said no. In my dream, I intended to reach her feet and get something from her. When I insisted, she said everything would be alright, she waved a handkerchief she took out of her robe and said it’s over.”
A moment later an Israeli helicopter was hit with a missile and then hitting the tanks started. Hitting the tanks marked the beginning of the end for the regime. It was then when a new equation emerged and for the first time Kornet missiles were unveiled in this war, and the Abrams tanks, sorry, the Merkava tanks were hit for the first time. About 7 tanks were destroyed in one day.
The Interviewer: How did the war end?
At the time, Mr. Hamad Al Khalifah, who is the prime minister of Qatar, was Qatar’s foreign minister. He was at the UN and would mediate, as he kept traveling to Lebanon. He said later, that: "On those days, the Americans would not allow at all to bring about a cease-fire. I was disappointed and left for home to rest. Suddenly, Israeli ambassador to the U.N. rushed to come after me. He was anxious and in a hurry. He asked where I was. I asked what’s wrong. He said we should go to the UN. When we arrived, I saw this vicious John Bolton pacing nervously. They both told me the war had to cease immediately. I asked why? They said, if the war is not put to an end, the Israeli army would implode and fall apart.
Consequently, they had to forgo all their conditions, and accept those of Hezbollah and a cease-fire, and that was a great victory for Hezbollah. In fact, it was not only a victory in that war, but a turning point and an end to the fear of Israeli aggression towards Lebanon, and this has lasted until today. Not only Hezbollah impacted the fear of an Israeli assault on Lebanon, it also affected the assumption of the Zionist regime for any aggression. I can confirm that after the 33-day war, the Zionist regime’s strategy changed from the Ben-Gurion strategy of a preemptive and offensive strike and gradually gave way to a defensive strategy.
You saw that what happened some weeks ago, when Hezbollah threatened Israel with a military response in revenge for 2 martyrs, Israel escaped to the 3 to 5 Km distance from the zero point border, in a way that a reporter from Al-Mayadeen could cross the barbed wires at the border and said I am reporting from occupied Palestine, while happily reciting a salawat. This was a result of the 33-day war.
Interviewer: These days we are celebrating the National Week of Sacred Defense. How has the culture and literature of the Sacred Defense influenced, and get followed by the Resistance front in the region?
General Soleimani: When you look at the history and trajectory of events in Islam, you can see that Amir al-Mu’min followed the Prophet. When Amir al-Mu’minin preaches, when he writes a letter, or when he delivers a sermon, his main reference is always the Prophet, his actions, and his manners. When Imam Hassan (as) and the Master of the Martyrs wanted to follow someone, they would refer to Amir al-Mu’minin as someone who had acted exactly upon the actions and manners of the Prophet. Our Sacred Defense is of the same nature..
That is to say, it is the reference, and the mother to all other sacred defenses. It has a central and holy state. During the Holy defense, spiritual issues were manifested at their height. Religious promotions emerged to their utmost, and matters of faith and worship were displayed in their perfect form, with no deviation. Sacrifice, Jihad, and martyrdom were put on display in the most elegant way. The relation between superior and subordinate in our Sacred Defense can only be compared to the most sophisticated, unique scenes of the early days of Islam. So, the Sacred Defense from every aspect was a peak. Take, for example, the Alborz mountain range. It runs for over 1000 Km. But its highest and most famous peak is Damavand. The Sacred Defense is like Damavand compared to other defenses. It is the highest of all, and they lie in its domain or the mountains in its range. This is how we can compare them.
Interviewer: Thank you very much