Editor’s note: This podcast was recorded on March 19, 2024.

Each day brings fresh horrors from the ground in Gaza as Israel’s brutal genocide continues with the full backing of the US. Yet Israel is not operating with complete impunity.

From the Houthis’ humanitarian blockade of the Red Sea to Hezbollah’s missile strikes against Israel itself, the unofficial alliance of states and armed organizations known as the Resistance Axis is imposing consequences on Israel and the US. The result is a low-grade regional war, that for months has featured Israel and the US conducting increasingly brazen air strikes from Yemen to Lebanon and Syria.

Most recently, Israel bombed the Iranian embassy in Damascus on April 1, killing seven military advisors, including Brigadier Generals Mohammad Reza Zahedi, and his deputy Mohamad Hadi Haji Rahimi. Iran has vowed to retaliate. As the spiral of escalation and deterrence continues, the question arises of just how much longer the two sides can trade blows until a full-blown regional war erupts.

Veteran war journalist Elijah Magnier and Middle East Critique Editor Matteo Capasso join The Real News for a timely discussion on the historical roots of the Resistance Axis, and how the confrontation taking place could reshape regional and global politics. Corporate media has flooded the US public with a one-dimensional narrative of the Resistance Axis, leaving out a crucial detail—how decades of US and Israeli intervention and destruction birthed the Resistance Axis. Drawing on their deep expertise, Magnier and Capasso reframe the current confrontation in light of the region’s history, and its future.

This interview is the second part of a two-part series on the Resistance Axis. Click here to read or listen to the first part of the conversation with Rania Khalek and Nima Shirazi about the media narratives about the Resistance Axis used to justify US intervention in the region.

Additional links:

  • Read Elijah Magnier’s blog.
  • Find out how to register for Middle East Critique‘s Ramadan course on Palestine and Imperialism.

Studio Production: Maximillian Alvarez
Post-Production: Alina Nehlich


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Welcome, everyone, to this special episode of The Real News podcast. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor in chief here at The Real News.

Ju-Hyun Park:

And I’m Ju-Hyun Park, the engagement editor at The Real News.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Last episode, we spoke with Rania Khalek of BreakThrough News and Nima Shirazi of the Citations Needed podcast about the media narrative surrounding Iran and the resistance axis. An informal alliance between Iran, Syria, and various armed factions across the region that include Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis. We did our best in a one-hour span to break down how Western narratives of Iran as this evil, all-powerful puppeteer controlling these other groups denies the real agency and motivations of the resistance axis, but it also dehumanizes people in the region. It obscures the complex historical context and human realities on the ground, and all of that helps justify the United States’ forever wars in the Middle East or West Asia.

Ju-Hyun Park:

Today, in part two of this two-part podcast series, we’re returning to our conversation about the resistance axis. This time, taking a closer look at the history of how these armed resistance groups emerged, and what kinds of prospects there are for Israel’s genocide in Gaza to spiral into an all-out regional confrontation.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Joining us today are Elijah Magnier, a veteran war correspondent with more than 30 years of experience covering conflicts in the region. As well as Matteo Capasso, author of Everyday Politics in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, editor of the academic journal, Middle East Critique, and a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Columbia University, New York, and the University of Venice, Italy.

Ju-Hyun Park:

While many Americans may think of organizations like Hezbollah or the Houthis as groups driven by pure religious fanaticism, there’s a real historical context that these organizations emerge from, that informs their motivations and goals, which are, in fact, politically complex. Most notably, decades of US, European, and Israeli aggression in the region have shaped the politics of the resistance axis in important ways. As the likelihood of an all-out regional war increases, we want to take a moment to frame this potential conflict in the long history of US imperialism, and how a direct confrontation between the US and the resistance axis could reshape the politics of the world.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Now, before we get started, we want to begin, as always, by thanking you, our listeners, for your continued support of The Real News. None of what we do would be possible without you. That’s why everything we do here at The Real News is guided by a simple question, how does this reporting serve our listeners?

Ju-Hyun Park:

The Real News is totally not-for-profit. We don’t run ads or take corporate funding of any kind. So if you find value in what we do, remember, it’s entirely up to you to help fund our work.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Before we get to the episode today, please head on over to The Real News.com/donate to become a monthly sustainer of our work. If you want to stay in touch and get regular updates about the latest and greatest stories from us, then sign up for our free newsletter. Go to The Real News.com/sign-up.

Ju-Hyun Park:

Now without further ado, Elijah, Matteo, welcome to The Real News.

Elijah Magnier:

Thank you for having me.

Matteo Capasso:

Thank you.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Thank you both so much for being here, making time for this. We really, really appreciate it, and we’re really excited to dig into this conversation with y’all, and get into as much as we can over the next 50 minutes or so. Now, in part one of this two-part episode, we focused more on the media narratives surrounding the resistance axis. Today we’re going to have more of a historical and military-based discussion. But by way of bridging part one and part two of this special episode, I want to start by talking about how we’re framing all of this, and I want to get our incredible panelists’ thoughts on that. Because as Ju-Hyun and I mentioned in the introduction, the goal of part one of this deep-dive series was to dissect Western media narratives on Iran, the Middle East, and the resistance axis. And to help our listeners parse through the propaganda that we, especially those of us here in the United States, have been bombarded with for decades.

Honestly, I think we did a really solid job in that regard, and it was a very powerful and necessary conversation. But I do want to stress that by focusing on addressing Western audiences’ propagandized notions about Iran and the resistance axis, we absolutely were not trying to suggest that present-day Iran itself is some uncomplicated, homogenous utopia without its own serious and complex political, social, and economic issues, or anything like that. Of course not.

I would compare it to another story that we’ve been reporting on across on the other side of the world, the recent trial in the United States of ex Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was just convicted of drug trafficking while he was a “narco dictator” in Honduras. He was convicted in a United States court. But if you read The New York Times’ report on that news, it does not mention anywhere that the United States was the primary backer of the 2009 coup. It was the primary backer of the sham elections that put Hernandez in power a few years later. If you don’t have that context, if you’re not talking about that side, you are literally going to misunderstand the whole story.

That is why we felt, in part one of this episode, we had to address that side of the issue, and the role that the US has played in shaping the realities that Western media tries to narrate, while pretending that the US has not played a role in shaping that reality from the beginning. I want to kick things off by quickly asking our panelists if we could address that question of framing here. For the rest of what we’re going to talk about today, what do you most want listeners, especially listeners here in the West, to understand about the conversation we’re going to have, and the conversation that we’re not having here? Because we can’t cover everything, of course.

Matteo Capasso:

Elijah, out of seniority and experience, so first.

Elijah Magnier:

Thank you. That’s very kind of you. For many years, I thought that the US media is somehow offering a good information and an insightful strategy to the US policy around the world. It took me some time to understand that it was not the case. Actually, there is an elite in the US that is thinking on behalf of the entire population, and trying to dictate to the US administration what is the best to rule the world. Not what is the best for the world, and what is the best for the American people, and what is in the interest for the American population. It is what is the interest of the elite, to continue dominating the world, and make sure that no competition can come and disturb this ruling and this unilateral hegemony.

That became very obvious from the war in Afghanistan that I covered on the ground, the war in Iraq that I also covered for 10 years, since 2003, the war in Syria, in Libya, in Lebanon, the war between Israel and then Lebanon, and now the war on Gaza. But for more than 35 years covering the wars on the ground, mainly there were wars triggered by the Americans, thinking that it is in the name of democracy and in the name of human rights. And suddenly, all that crumbles in the eyes of the entire world with double standard and hypocrisy, when there is a selective determination used with the enemy and with the friends.

That came out with an article in Politico in 2019, when Rex Tillerson was the secretary of state, and he received a memo that was published saying, “Well, we use human rights against our enemy, but not against our friends.” And then we have Donald Trump coming out saying, “I love dictators and this is what I’m doing.” Bullying the world, bullying Europe, particularly here, when all of a sudden, Europe doesn’t exist anymore in terms of foreign policy. Because it’s totally in the hand of the American benefit, and American interest, where in Europe today, the leaders carry the flag of America first, but not Europe first.

All that is becoming more clear to the world population, in particular with the war on Gaza that exposed everybody. Your topic about the Axis of the Resistance and Iran’s support is very much integrated in the US hegemony attempt to rule the world. Because the strength of Iran and the power that Iran has in the Middle East, it is all thanks to the American mistakes. Where Iran had only to go behind America, and collect all the benefit for Iran to become a regional hegemony behind all the American mistakes. That needs to be developed, and we need to talk about it in length, but now I’ll leave the ground to Matteo.

Matteo Capasso:

Thanks, Eliaj, and thanks, Max, for your question of framing. I mean, I think this is very important. Speaking as an historian, as an academic, I think that when we approach the question of framing, we indeed need to talk about something that nobody wants to talk about. Which is the fact that we’ve been living, since the aftermath of World War II, under a project of Western and American dominance. If we do not understand why the so-called media, which basically functions as an arm of the ruling class, because it needs to create a narrative to protect their interest. If we do not understand what are the material interests at stake, then I think we’re missing a huge part of this framing, and of reality. When it comes to the Middle East and the Arab region, West Asia, this region has been central to the consolidation of the project of American dominance after World War II.

It had, let’s say that the project of American dominance, which is also called as imperialism, required to achieve two main political goals. One was the access and political control of oil, which sustained the supremacy of the US dollar at the financial level, creating what we know as the recycling of petrol dollars. And second, and related to that, in order to make sure that the control of the region was in place, the US clobbered and crushed anything from within the region challenging such project.

And here, where we see the functional and reactionary role of Israel on the one hand, the Zionist entity, and the Gulf monarchies on the other. Because Israel has had a function, which is the one to wage war, and undermine any sociopolitical formation that dare to pursue a path of national liberation and regional solidarity away from the project of American dominance.

This leads me to the second point that I want to highlight in terms of framing. Because once we have this history, once we are able to understand that we live in reality, and reality as the totality of social relations. Meaning we cannot pick and choose what we want, but there are unequal structures that dominate, hierarchical structure that control the way in which our reality is structured, then we come to understand the second point, which is there has always been an Axis of Resistance inside the region. Back in the days of decolonization, this Axis of Resistance, which was really endogenous to the region, and used to go under the name of the Pan-Arab Project. Which eventually saw its defeat with the liquidation of the revolutionary spirit of Egypt, the destruction of Iraq, the more recent wars, NATO-led wars on the national sovereignty of Libya, and Syria, and Afghanistan as well. The ones that Elijah was talking about.

But the moment one axis was losing, another one rose. Again, we talk about exactly what Elijah was mentioning, the fact that this axis rose out not just the mistakes, but also how these mistakes led to the decline of the US. So a regional force, in other words, is inevitable. Because all these political actors in the region understand very well that the pursuit of a national liberation, of national independence, whether it’s in Iran, in Lebanon, or in Yemen, or in Palestine, requires a strategy of regional solidarity. The question of Palestinian liberation becomes the most fundamental issue, because Israel is an outpost of imperialism, of this American project of dominance in the region. So Palestine must be liberated. The sanctity of Palestine is crucial, because once you liberate Palestine, you free the region from the existence of a nuclear-armed and Western-supported jungle that is a threat to everyone.

Ju-Hyun Park:

Thank you for those really thoughtful explanations, helping us frame the approach that we’re taking here, and why it’s necessary to do this in light of the fact that we live under American dominance, American imperialism as a fact. And not only as a fact, but one that is so often made invisible, and therefore absent from the conversation when it comes to this region in particular. But also more broadly when it comes to discussing the geopolitics of the world, the way that history is moving through our current era. I want us to dig a little bit more into talking concretely about the actors in the resistance axis, where they come from. Of course, understanding that this is a really expansive topic and we have limited time, so we’re not able to offer more than some very tight summaries.

But as you both said, the US has been in the Arab region for many decades, way before the so-called war on terror even began. But let’s dig into that a little bit more. Help us understand what American intervention in the region has to do with the formation of the resistance axis. How have wars and US proxy wars led to the rise of groups like Hezbollah and Ansar Allah, and incentivized them to form alliances with Iran and Syria?

Elijah Magnier:

First of all, it is important for the American people to understand that the presence of America in West Asia, or what is known by the British, the Middle East, has nothing to do with the interest of the American people. For many decades, the Americans have been present in West Asia or the Middle East, and they have failed to earn the heart and the mind of the population. Not in one country, they have managed to have real friend, real supporters of America. They have supporters of the American population, between people there is no… ever a problem. The problem is always with the US administration that is talking in the name of the nation that is America, and guiding the nation that is less interested in foreign policy.

So what the Americans have done, I will go very fast to where Hillary Clinton said in front of the Senate, she said, “The same enemies we are fighting today are the one we have funded.” That takes us back to Afghanistan. What she meant, is she meant Al-Qaeda, and the ramification of Al-Qaeda, that is ISIS. And then all the other members of the resistance, again to US hegemony and presence in the Middle East, but also another group that is the Axis of the Resistance that Matteo spoke about. That comes out of the main core and essential central problem that is Palestine.

For Al-Qaeda, it is when the Americans went to Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union, they have created what all the newspaper called the warrior on the path of peace. They meant Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda at that time, that they have used to kick out the Soviets from Afghanistan. But then what they have done, that they armed these people, and these people understand that the Americans are even worse than any other occupation force, and these people don’t want the Americans to rule the country.

This is why they turned against the Americans with one objective, “Leave our land.” The Americans insisted, and they brought out the war on terror that General Wesley Clark spoke about, saying that in 2001, the Americans planned already to occupy five or seven countries in five years. So that plan had nothing to do with the war on terror, but it had to do with the total hegemony of the US over the Middle East. I mean, you can go and do business with the Middle East, you don’t need to occupy them. You don’t need to destroy them, and this is what the Americans have done.

Going away from Afghanistan to Iraq, and this is where the resistance, the Axis of the Resistance started. Not only from the side of Al-Qaeda that’s represented by the Sunni, that later on became ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh, but also the Shia resistance with one objective. They want good relationship with the Americans, business relationship with the Americans, but they want them out of Iraq. And then I remember, also, when General Mike Flynn said that he informed his boss, direct boss, Barack Obama, that ISIS was growing in Iraq, and had the intention to go to Syria, and America did nothing because of one objective.

The sectarian issue in the Middle East dates back to more than 1,500 years, and it has a lot of fertile ground to be developed. This is where the Americans went on the evil side of the history to inflame the sectarian feeling, and create a kind of sectarian war that is not really a sectarian war, at the end of the day. It was a war that served the benefit of the permanent presence of the Americans in the region. This is what they thought, at least, until they start being harassed, and attacked, and they understood that they need to change their policy. And they have changed their policy into worse, by creating local forces to fight on their behalf like they’ve done in Syria, for example. They have occupied 23% of northeast Syria and saying, “We are here to protect the Kurds.” Donald Trump said, “I want the oil.” At the end of the day, they are fulfilling the Israeli policy, because in the Middle East, the Americans follow Israel’s policy and what is convenient for the Israelis.

Now, the first Axis of the Resistance that was created, for example, in Lebanon, that was after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. This is when Hezbollah was created. The objective of Hezbollah is to recover all the land occupied by Israel. Israel, because they’re not very clever, continue occupying part of the land after their withdrawal of most of the land in the year 2000. But they continue occupying part of the Lebanese land, so they give reason for Hezbollah to exist.

In Syria, exactly the same. The Americans came to change the regime in Syria, but they have failed. They used ISIS and Al-Qaeda, saying that this is a sectarian war. It is wrong. 70% of the Syrian army are Sunni, and the Hezbollah Shia, Iran Shias, and, well, the majority is Shia, but there are Sunni, too, and many Iranian ambassadors are Sunni, they went to support the Syrian government to the request of the Syrian government. So what the Americans and the Israeli thought, it is very easy to get rid of ISIS, but it’s important to turn Syria into failed state to disrupt the supply of weapons from Iran, to Lebanon, to the Axis of the Resistance. One of the main element of the Axis of the Resistance, that is Hezbollah.

In Yemen, the war, the Saudi war against Ansar Allah Houthis started in 2015, thinking that there was a promenade for the Saudi army supported by the Americans, the British, and the whole NATO members. It turned out, after seven years, that this is an impossible task. And again, the birth of another member of the Axis of the Resistance. This Axis of the Resistance represented by Yemen, the Ansar Allah Houthis, it’s turned out to be one of the main pillar in the war today on Gaza, by blocking the Red Sea, and now today expanding even to the Indian Ocean.

In Iraq, the American invasion created the resistance that became part of Hashd al-Shaabi, and why is that? It because in 2014, I was in Baghdad when ISIS moved from… Well, it wasn’t really ISIS, it was a different Sunni group supported by Turkey, by the Saudis, by the Emiratis, and by everybody in the region that wanted to change the regime in Iraq. At the end of the day, ISIS hijacked all the effort of all these tribes and groups, and then advanced toward Baghdad. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki at that time, asked for the American support to give him back all the weapons that he paid for, and Barack Obama waited four months to do so, allowing ISIS to expand. This is where Iran moved in and helped to form the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi and the resistance.

So you see, when I said all the mistakes committed by the Americans allowed the fertile ground for Iran to create the Axis of the Resistance made by the people, by the will of the people to fight the occupier, that is the result of the creation of this Axis of the Resistance.

Matteo Capasso:

Absolutely. I mean, Elijah has already provided a very comprehensive and holistic picture of the rise of this axis out of America’s endless wars in the region in West Asia. But we also need to understand, I think here, that what I can add is that we need to understand that this is a material war, it’s a military war, but it’s also an intellectual war. I’ll pick up exactly on what he was talking about. Because you see, every time that we approach the question of the Axis of Resistance, the issue discussed around the Axis of Resistance, the Western media immediately goes into each and every actor being Iran puppets. The idea is that they work, and only according to what Iran says, Iran does. So they do not have, basically, a capacity to act in concert, or independently, or by gaining the strategic independence in relations also with their allies.

Basically, they are in Palestine. What they’re doing in Palestine, it’s not about because they’re interested in the question of Palestine, it’s simply because there is hatred of the US and the Jewish people. We have seen this over and over, when in the description, also, of Iranian presidents. Think about Ahmadinejad, think about even if we go back to other leaders, that they were not part of this Axis of Resistance. The demonization that takes place always is aligned through specific framings that they use, the idea that they are dictators. So in this way, what you’re presenting is a picture of a government that is not legitimate vis-a-vis their own people. The idea that they are repressive, so that they’re just ruling with force, and again, there is no legitimacy. Then all these countries, what do they have? Iran, it’s oil. Oil allows them, basically, to pursue these very radical activities that are only interested in disrupting the international liberal order.

What I’m saying here is, basically, that the material war that it’s taking place in the region is also… It aligns. It takes place through an ideological war, and we are part of this war as well. As Fidel Castro used to say, “Guns follow ideas and vice versa, ideas follow guns.” In the sense that every time that we try to flip the picture, and to understand what it’s happening in the way Elijah just did, we are faced with an amount of propaganda that does not allow us to really to go through the fog. In fact, as he rightly pointed out, if instead of looking at all these actors of the Axis of Resistance, we just look at one element that all these sociopolitical forces have in common. Immediately, you’ll start looking at history, and at the present, and eventually at the future in a very different way.

Look at Iran. Iran has been under sanctions since the early days of the revolution, 1979. US sanctions first, UN multilateral sanctions after. Who invaded Iraq and put sanctions on it? The US or the Western world as a whole. Who invaded Lebanon, as Elijah was saying? It was the Israeli under US clout. Who unleashed a war since at least… since the war on terror, which then escalated in 2015 through their proxies, Saudi Arabia and Yemen? The US. Who destroyed Syria progressively as a revolution, and eventually in 2011, much more violently? Again, it was NATO, it was the US, and their allies. Who did not allow Hamas to go into power when they actually democratically won the reelection in 2006? It was the US and Israel.

What we are seeing is that all these actors, what they have in common is the rejection of the project of American domination and the consequences, because this is very important. The consequences paid by the people of these countries for having dared to imagine a future. One where national liberation, regional solidarity was possible, yet not under the terms of US control. Imagine now, if all these pundits and experts that are constantly being brought to mainstream television, they start talking in this way. They start talking about the centrality of the American project. They start talking about the consequences that the people of each of these countries had to pay, in order to find their dignity and their freedom. It will make immediately sense, and it will immediately become so easy for people, even in the US, to understand that the American project of dominance is a problem. Is a problem for the region as much as is a problem for the American people.

This is why there is a centrality, again, to the Palestinian question, which is far away from all this nonsense about the annihilation of Jews, or Muslims against Jews and Christians, and so on, and so forth. The problem is one, the problem is that actually the most reactionary and religious project in that region is actually the Zionist project. The reason why these forces ended up using Islam as a tool to launch a political struggle, it’s also related to the fate of the same forces, like the secular ones, that were undermined by US wars in the region back in the ’70s and the ’80s, by turning secularism into a bourgeois attitude or a tool of the US. One needs to look no further than the Palestinian Authority or Egypt to understand that.

The same US and its reactionary allies weaponized Islam, as Elijah was saying, into a force needed to undermine progressive projects in the region. So it seems to any intellect or mind that is willing to question US State Department propaganda, it seems natural that these actors owned up to their own history and tradition. They showed that there is an Islam that is progressive, it is for the masses, and for everyone who stands for justice. Something that Christianity and Judaism will have to do at some point, I hope.

But again, you see, we go back to the intellectual war. Why? That’s exactly what Elijah was talking about, the sectarianism here. Because instead of presenting the progressive side of the axis and the weaponization of Islam, what the pundits come back to us and say, “Oh, this is Shiism. It’s a sectarian version of the region.” There’s always an ideological twist used to undermine these progressive forces. But this is why we always have to get… to remind ourselves that this is, again, a material as much as an ideological struggle in which we have to counter on all levels.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Right, and again, I stress for folks listening, that that’s a really important, necessary, and urgent, but intense project. To undo decades worth of propaganda that has convinced so many Westerners, especially Americans, including many like my own family. We were conservative in the post 9/11 era. We bought into all this crap, right? I mean, we believe that the region, the people were so uncomplicated that we would buy into the narrative that… It was like everything we’ve been unpacking here, gives people the context that we did not have 20 years ago. To tell us that, “No, it’s not just because they hate us because of who we are, right? They hate us because of Islam, right? They hate us because of our way of life, and it’s something embedded in the DNA of brown people living on the other side of the world wearing balaclavas. They’re somehow less than human than we are, and they just have this hate written into their DNA, their culture.”

That’s a very different story than the one we are trying to unpack here. But again, there still are a lot of folks who have been given that impression because of the propaganda we’re trying to unpack here. And again, I say it to listeners, that doesn’t mean that the situation is not complicated. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t nuances here, but we got to start with that basic fact. I want to ask you both if we could address that as well, right? Because what we’re really trying to do here, as we try to do with all of our work at The Real News Network, is to show people the human side of all of this. To really bring our attention to the ground and to the human beings that we’re talking about here. Giving that sort of texture to the story, instead of again, presenting this as an uncomplicated story of human-shaped cardboard cutouts in another part of the world.

Elijah, you’ve been on the… I mean, you’ve written extensively about, say, the situation in Israel’s northern front with Lebanon and the situation with Hezbollah. I want to turn this into a question to ask you both if… given the work that you’ve done, the research, the reporting that you’ve done, what would you most want to stress to folks about the human beings who make up the resistance? Who are they? What are they fighting for? What does that look like for them on a day-to-day basis? Or Elijah, what have folks been telling you as you’ve been reporting on US intervention in the region, about where their feelings are coming from? And how is that impacting the military logic that is driving the activities of the resistance axis, especially in the wake of the war on Gaza?

Elijah Magnier:

That’s a very good question. But before that, if I may, I really liked very much what Matteo said, and that gave me an idea to address the audience in a different way, and ask a question. How the American people have benefited from all the American wars, what that brought to America as benefit for the individual. If you look at the American debts, it went in 2001 from $4 trillion to $34 trillion today. In Afghanistan, the Americans occupy Afghanistan because they want to get rid of the Taliban. After 20 years, they gave back the power, handed over to the Taliban, and they confiscated $9 billion of the poorest country in Asia. They held it, because they thought they can achieve something in term of political gain, what they have failed to achieve in the military.

In Iraq, I lived there for 10 years, the country is destroyed. They have destroyed the electricity, the water supply, everything. It’s one of the richest country in the Middle East. Nothing was given to the Iraqi in terms of education, culture, hospitals, communication, transport, nothing. In Syria, occupying Syria and still occupying Syria, only to cripple the Syrian economy. How that can benefit any American individual, to see the Syrians, and the Iraqis, and the Afghani suffering out of the American wars, and nothing an American individual is benefiting from individually, or the society. You have inflation as we have an inflation. Everybody is suffering the increase of prices, and we have problems to survive these days.

Now, to go back to your question, the members of Hezbollah are members of the society. When the American envoy, Amos Hochstein, went to Lebanon to negotiate on behalf of Israel, the removal of Hezbollah to 20 kilometers off the Lebanese borders so the Israelis can feel secure, it was an impossible demand for a simple reason. These members that the Americans are asking to remove them are people who live in the south of Lebanon. They are part of the society. They love life. They love their family, their children. They think of the future, but they’re ready for sacrifices to protect, at least, not only their homes, but to prepare a better future for their children if they can.

Now, where is the benefit of Israel to continue occupying part of south of Lebanon? Are we talking about Israel as a state? Now, let’s see. Israel doesn’t recognize the border, its own borders. It says its borders is from the river to the sea. That’s a Likud Party charter in 1977. It says they don’t have a constitution. They don’t recognize any right of anyone to live, including the Palestinians, because that is considered a threat to the State of Israel. In their charter, they say they are democratic, but then they say they are Jewish state. How you can be democratic in a state only for the Jew? They call anyone who attack them as antisemite, when they are living in an ocean of Semite. That Lebanese are Semite, the Syrian, all the countries in the area. Most of the Jew in Israel are not Semite, because they come from non-Semitic background and origin.

So the people in Lebanon, the people in the south of Lebanon, the people who are member of the Axis of the Resistance that formed Hezbollah, they have one objective, is to free their land. But they also align themselves with the Iranian objective, that to support all the oppressed, at least not around the world, but in the Middle East. So they support the Iraqis when they need them. They support the Yemeni when they need them. They support the Palestinian when they need them. Iran and its Constitution Article 151 or 152 said that it is the duty of the state to support all the oppressed people around the world. This is why Iran support the Sunni in Gaza and in Palestine. They support the Sunni and the Shia in Syria. They support the Kurds, and the Sunni, and the Shia in Iraq. They support Venezuela, that had nothing to do with Islam.

So exactly the same, in Lebanon, people want to live in peace with all their neighbors. They want their right, and they want the right of the Palestinian to return to the Palestinians. That is the only objective. During the daylight when there is no war, they go to their job. There are doctors, there are engineer, there are farmers, there are people from all walks of life. There are ordinary people that people cannot distinguish them, because they form part of the society.

One last point, no non-state actor can survive in any environment if the society doesn’t support it. In Lebanon, the reason why Hezbollah is growing, and becoming very powerful without taking the control of the government, even if it has the potentiality and the strength, the military strength to take over Lebanon, but that doesn’t fit with its objective. Its objective is not to control the country. Its objective is to free the country, because the Lebanese army is not allowed to have weapons enough to deter Israel. And Israel believe that it’s an obligation to continue holding the air superiority, and to continue violating the Lebanese space, airspace, and land, and sea, because under the title of the right to defend itself and the right to protect itself. Well, stay within your borders. At least don’t go into other borders. Don’t occupy other land. No, because again, as Matteo said, the essence is Palestine, and Palestine occupied by the Israelis, who do not have borders, and who think they have the right to cross the borders.

So people in Lebanon who formed the Axis of the Resistance said to the Israelis, “No, we are equipping ourself to stop you from crossing the borders.” And with this war on Gaza from the 7th of October, the Hezbollah have been attacking only the area that is occupied by Israel. It’s bombarding beyond that limit only when Israel bombards inland beyond the seven, eight kilometers that was more or less created as a rule of engagement for both side. To answer your question, they are Lebanese part of the society, like any member of the society. They are people who want to live with dignity, not to be occupied by a foreign force.

Matteo Capasso:

I am just going to follow up briefly on what Elijah said, because that’s every single word that’s been saying, I second. You need to look at history. When you look at history, and you understand beyond the fog of the propaganda that all these countries have been invaded, sanctioned, bombed, destroyed by the project of American dominance. You understand these are people who have suffered greatly because of these wars, and yet, yet, these are the only ones acting according to some sort of international principle of moral law. Because faced by a carnage, faced by a genocide that it’s taking place, that is being allowed to take place by the West in Gaza, on the face of this, the world rationally must stop to these crimes. But the Western world hasn’t stopped, it has actually lavishly showered Israel with all the weapons needed to perpetrate these crimes. It is instead these actors that they decided to institute a naval blockade, for example, on Israel, and block the entire Red Sea, because they want to see this genocide to be stopped.

So I mean, when you ask me, how is this human side go into effect, the military strategy, in a way, the military logic? Well, I would say that this is where the third element of what I think of the battle which is taking place, which is the material, the intellectual, but it’s also the spiritual battle that it’s taking place. It has nothing to do with religion here. What I’m trying to say is that the axis has put into place a humanitarian-military intervention, which is very different from the [inaudible 00:44:05] weaponized by NATO to destroyed Libya in 2011. Faced by a real massacre, which the Western-funded colonial, I call it jungle, is perpetrating in Gaza, the axis has intervened. In doing so, though, the axis is not fighting a war on the same pace of killing and violence that the system of imperialism and American domination is based on.

I think the key word are here, which Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah has used many times, are the word patience and steadfastness. Which are not just virtues, they are really necessities in this historical moment. I don’t mean patience in a way of resignation, like just let’s accept, be with the flow, or something like this. I mean holding a belief for justice and humanity that does not replicate the dimension in which Western imperialism and genocidal capitalism are perpetrating in Gaza.

You cannot, basically, counter such system by destroying and clobbering people at the same pace. You need to start also building a different structure here, different spiritual, moral, and material principles that guide you in this struggle. I think these principles are the ones of based on a long-term development. A strategy that cannot be tied to the next quarter, to the how much profit I’m going to be able to get in the next quarter, which is really the mentality of predatory capitalism. This is an idea of mutual prosperity. This is why I see, in the way I look at the war happening in Gaza, that this is not just the Axis of Resistance that is facing imperialism. It is the entire south that in different ways, and through different strategies like China, a long march out of humiliation with patient, is now facing and is now trying to build a different world.

Ju-Hyun Park:

I think you’ve both raised some incredibly salient points here. And as we’re coming to the end of this discussion, I want to pivot us more towards talking about the possibility of not just a regional war, which is already occurring in a low-grade scale, but really a regional conflagration. A kind of huge confrontation that we could see, that could pull in the forces of all of the resistance-axis actors in a more direct confrontation against the United States and Israel, as well as the various proxies and allies that are also present in and have interests at the region.

You’ve raised a lot of particularly important points, Matteo. I want to highlight, in particular, the things that you’re saying about the actions that various parts of the resistance axis are taking to essentially uphold international law. I would point out that Ansar Allah, better known to most of our audience as the Houthis in Yemen, have explicitly cited the Genocide Convention in this sort of counter blockade that they’re enforcing in the Red Sea. They’re saying, “Look, we signed this international document along with most of the world so many years ago, saying that we not only have a responsibility to not engage in genocide, but also to prevent it. So we are now fulfilling our international obligations to do so.”

That’s really the way that they are framing this and the logic that is driving them. I think the point that you’ve made about the comparison in the scale of brutality, the kinds of war tactics that we’re seeing play out between these two camps is very different, right? There is nothing comparable to the kind of decimation and destruction that Israel and the United States have rained down on Gaza, on the part of any of the resistance actors in this most-recent conflict.

But we are seeing something that has been simmering for months, in a situation that really is a lot hotter than most mainstream media will let on. It’s been months of attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria. It’s been months of this counterblockade in the Red Sea. It’s been months of Hezbollah rockets raining down on parts of Israel, slowly encroaching closer and closer to Tel Aviv, increasing in scale, increasing in sophistication. We’re now starting to approach six months, half a year into this genocide, into this war. How much room for further escalation is left before we reach that tipping point where we can’t put… My English idioms are failing me, but where everything will just be unleashed and we can’t put everything back into the box, so to speak? What do Israel and the US, in your view, stand to gain or lose from that kind of scenario? And do you think this sort of all-out regional confrontation, this sort of brawl is an outcome that they want?

As a final addendum to that, I would add, you’ve both made references to the US occupations and dominance in the Arab region not really benefiting the people of the US. So the question I would pose to you as part of that is, what can those of us living in the United States, those of us living in the West in general, what are our responsibilities in this historical moment, morally, politically, et cetera?

Elijah Magnier:

I’m going to start with the end. I think people in America have the responsibility when they cast the vote, and how to choose their leaders, and how to make their leaders responsible for their acts. The problem today, we’re facing an unlimited support to Israel by the Democrat and the Republicans. And today we’re facing a reality that there is nobody round the world is not talking about the dire situation in Gaza, and the violation of all the international laws that exist in all the books, every single paragraph, United Nation, the Geneva Convention, The Hague, the Rome accord, everything had been violated.

Now, the problem is the system itself is not allowing to choose another person or counting the blank votes. [inaudible 00:50:27] there is a person that is in power today, Joe Biden, who is saying, “What Israel is doing is unacceptable, but I will continue supplying weapons to Israel.” So you can’t really combine the violation of humanitarian laws in killing the civilians, acknowledging that, saying that there are 30,000 civilians killed, and mainly children and women, and saying, “I’m going to support the weapons that is killing the civilians.”

These two are incompatible, and this hypocrisy needs to end by the American people. Nobody can do it but the American people. When they can address all their leaders when they vote for them and say, “No, your foreign policy, it bringing hate. Why they hate us? It’s because what you are doing in their homes, not because what you bring. You did not bring any civilization. You killed a million people in Iraq, 250,000 Afghani, several tens of thousand of Syrian. Exactly the same in Libya. Where is the democracy and the freedom that you are bringing to these people? Keep at home and bring democracy to yourself, if this is what kind of democracy you want to bring to West Asia.”

Now, you spoke about Ansar Allah. I would like to highlight something to your audience that is very important. Ansar Allah are executing exactly what the European Union, the 27 countries are saying. What America is saying is to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population. The only thing between the Americans, the Europeans, and the Yemeni, is the first two are not acting. On the contrary, they’re sending their navy to bombard those who want to support the people in Gaza. The Ansar Allah are saying, “Allow people in Gaza to eat. Stop this war of starvation. Lift the siege, and all the boats can cross. All the ships can cross, including the Israelis.” But the Americans are bombarding positions in Yemen, to prevent the Yemeni from putting in practice exactly the same thing that the Americans and Europeans are saying they wish Israel not to do.

So here is, again, the double standard. People in the Middle East don’t really understand what is this double language that the Americans are using, and the Europeans. When European Parliament comes out and accuse Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that for the first time, are published live on social media. And the Israelis are saying, “Don’t lecture us.” The Israelis are saying, “Every child we do not kill today is a child that’s going to fight us tomorrow. Every woman we do not kill is the woman that’s going to bear a child that going to fight us tomorrow.” They’re saying that. They’re not afraid, because there is an impunity.

Now, if this is going to go an all-out war, I don’t think so. The way the Axis of the Resistance works is different from a classical army. The Axis of the Resistance works gradually. We’ve seen at the first beginning, the Iraqis sending messages to the Americans, saying, “If you do not stop the Israelis, and you have the power, and the power is stop sending weapons. You don’t need to dictate your policy on the Israeli. Don’t cover their back at the United Nations. Don’t stop the ceasefire resolution. The only thing that you need to do is that. And if you do not do that, you are responsible, and the Israeli, we’re going to hit you.”

But they started gradually. In Lebanon, they started only to bomb the Israeli position in the area occupied by Israel along the borders. They did not go inland. They started with light weapons, laser-guided weapons, by saying to the Israelis, “Look, we know if we increase the attacks here, you’re not going to stop the war in Gaza, but it’s going to cost you anyway. Stop this war.” And the Israeli continue, because they have the full support of the Americans at the United Nation and weapon supply. Why that weapon supply? Because in my experience, no country in the world can conduct a war without a continuous nonstop supply of ammunition.

Now, the Lebanese, the Iraqis, and the Yemenis are all not moving on the larger scale. Only in the last 24 hours, the Yemenis said, “Now, we started with the Red Sea. We started with the ship only going to Israel. Then because of the war by the Americans and the British, we start to hit American and British Navy, and now we’re going to enlarge to the Indian Ocean.” That is the gradual steps, by saying, “If you want to insist on a war that you are condemning, that you’re condemning the killing of the civilians, you’re condemning the starvation of the civilians, and you’re not doing anything, we’re going to enlarge the hitting of the ship going to Israel.”

But not to the level of going to an all-out war, because the presence of such a far-right-wing Israeli government, where Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, is a prisoner of a coalition that is threatening him. Either they resign or he continue the war. He doesn’t want to resign, because he will be facing the failure of the 7th of October, and three corruption accusation, then Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting a personal war. Dragging everybody to burn Israel and the area around him, careless about the consequences, because he doesn’t want to fall.

This is where we are at, and this is why the head of the Democrat at the Congress came out and criticized Netanyahu overtly for his behaving in this government, and for continuing the war, and refusing to negotiate. So bottom line, I think the Axis of the Resistance are much more wise than Israel, and will not extend. Even if it is really in the Israeli benefit to extend the war, and to drag by force the Americans into war. Where the Americans are very much aware, due to their numerous experience in wars in the Middle East, that they can start a war, but they can’t finish it, and they can’t control the consequences. This is why there is no appetite for the Americans to be involved, even if the Israeli would love to.

Matteo Capasso:

Yeah, Elijah is right, in the sense that we’re seeing a regional war that is already happening, as Ju-Hyun, you said as well. At the same time, Israel does not act according to military science, hasn’t done ever, because it always acts according to impunity. Even if you look currently at the military deployment in southern Lebanon, the northern part of historic Palestine, you see that the Israeli army does not have enough forces to launch a large-scale military offensive. I mean, there are 15, 16 weak Reserve brigades, 40 to 50,000 troops, and I think the core three mobile brigades. So even if they have been reshuffled from Gaza to the north, they’ve suffered also serious losses to various degrees. And let’s not forget, as Elijah was saying, that the Israeli army bomb inventory, with their pace of genocide, can only last seven days. This is why, again, we’re seeing the near and strict connection between Israel and the project of American dominance. You can only go for such a protracted war with such a scale of massacre, only if you have the support of the Western powers in this case.

On the other hand, though, Hezbollah has hardly shown its capacity so far, and it could inflict some very serious damage to Israel. But again, despite… Because I mean, you have to think that Hezbollah has 150,000… at least the estimates of what the experts are telling us… rockets of all kinds. It has special elite forces, the Radwan Forces that they were not used in 2006 when Israel was actually defeated. So Israel, it’s facing a major problem here. But at the same time, as we said, it’s not following the principle of military science right now, either. It’s actually using genocide to try to twist, in its favor, a political and military situation that is not to its advantage. We’re seeing this.

Because what has been compromised with October 7, but not just with October 7, we have to go back to 2006, and to the cumulatively efforts of the Axis of Resistance, of the actors within the axis, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and so on and so forth. What has been compromised is the idea of deterrence of Israel. When you compromise the idea of deterrence of Israel, you are compromising. Starting with the frame we discussed at the start, you’re compromising the idea and the power of the American project in the region. Israel is an unsustainable project, and I believe that the Axis of Resistance knows that Israel is weak right now. Because the meat of being militarily invincible has been shattered already, so they know that the liberation can happen. They know Israel is weak, because this military deterrence has been compromised, fundamentally compromised.

At the same time, though, the weakness of Israel, I argue that it’s not unique to Israel. Again, it needs to be located into a long historical trajectory, that has seen the transformation of US imperialism from the high times of unipolarity to what we’re seeing now, which is a complete decline. The American people can see this in the choice that they’re faced with their own elections, really. They have a senile leader on the one hand, and a complete clown on the other. When your ruling class is producing these type of leaders, it means that your country has a major problem. You don’t produce people that are taking care of your country, who have a vision in the long-term. You’re producing puppets, comedians, and this is what the American people is being faced with.

And this is, I’m going to reply to the other part of the question, what should the American people do? What kind of choices are they facing? As European as well, I’m seeing the same thing happening here. Somebody like Zelensky, who is a comedian, is held as a champion of freedom right now. We’re pumping money, and weapons, and taxpayer money. We’re suffering on our everyday lives to see a war happening in Ukraine for no reason, and the same is happening now in Gaza.

So I think what the American people and the Western people as a whole are facing is a choice, between either continuing to enjoy what I call the imperialist… not privileges, but crumbles. And to keep looking at the south as a barbaric space where there is nothing to learn from, nothing to share with. But just with arrogance, just looking at them and their struggles with complete arrogance. Or we can actually join the struggle and say, “No, we are not going to be complicit in this genocide. We want to have better life conditions. We don’t want to send our kids to the next wars that you, ruling elites, are pursuing. We want a world in which mutual prosperity is not just for you, but for the majority of the people of the world.”

Palestine offers us, really, a unique political and moral clarity, which must really be picked up right now in this historical moment. Because if we don’t do so now, well, then we might be seeing, really, a situation that could get even darker. Not just for the south, because I think the south, actually, has realized a long time ago how dangerous and violent Western history is. I think this is coming to us very soon. We might need to wake up quicker than the Palestinians have done.

Maximillian Alvarez:

I mean, I think that’s beautifully and powerfully put by both of you. We could genuinely talk to you both for three more hours, but we want to be respectful of your time, and we know we got to wrap up. But I just want to… a quick comment on that last point, because Real News viewers and listeners, you are hearing us try to dig into this, and show you what that resistance looks like here in the United States as well. Because don’t hear what we’re not saying. Literally no one believes that Donald Trump is going to be any better than Joe Biden in this regard. That is why regular citizens are trying to signal to the Democrats in states like Michigan and around the country with their uncommitted votes, “You are headed into a world of hurt in November if you don’t change course. Because we are in these communities, and we are seeing people lose faith in your party, and they don’t have faith in the other party. So it’s going to be a real shit show for everybody.”

But that is why we emphasize that the point is not political resignation, it’s understanding that the solution has to come from us. It has to come through collective power, like we are seeing on the streets through collective, strategic action. To pressure elected officials, and hold them accountable to their campaign promises, and to their responsibilities to their constituencies. But the constituencies need to drive that conversation, right? So not resignation, but fight, strategize, make power bend to the people’s will, because the people’s will is saying, “No more genocide.” Right? So that’s what I really want to leave folks with. I want you to take away the real important lessons from part one and part two of this conversation.

I know there’s so much more that we didn’t get to get into, and we want to hear your thoughts on these conversations. If they helped you, what else you would like us to address, what other sorts of issues you think we should dig into, and who we should have on. But Matteo, Elijah, I genuinely can’t thank you both enough for giving us so much of your time, attention, and experience, and sharing your thoughts and insights so generously with us over the past hour. I know we got to let you go. I just wanted to ask really quick by way of rounding out, where can folks go to stay up-to-date with your work? Where can they find you, or anything that you want to plug before we wrap up?

Elijah Magnier:

I have a blog, so just type my name. You’ll find me on X, Twitter, and my blog. You can subscribe to all my articles, and that would be good enough. Thank you for the opportunity.

Matteo Capasso:

Thank you, guys, for having me. I would just say that you can find me on Twitter, @capassomat. But I also want to point out that I am the editor of Middle East Critique, an academic journal, and just the other day, we launched a free online course titled the Ramadan Course on Palestine and Imperialism. This is an open pedagogical initiative in support of the Palestinian people, and part of a global action where people from all spheres of life dedicate their time and abilities to end the genocide in Gaza.

Our first speaker this week, this Sunday is going to be Dr. Ali Kadri. There’s going to be like 12 lectures so far, so I really… Go on Middle East Critique Twitter account and sign up on the… every week for the different lecture, if you want to know more from scholars that really are trying to provide their knowledge for free, to make sense of what it’s happening, if that’s of your interest. Thank you again for having me.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Thank you both, seriously. We will be sure to include links for those in the show notes for this episode when it comes out. Elijah, Matteo, again, thank you both so much for joining us today on The Real News Network. We really appreciate it. And to all of you out there listening, thank you for listening. Thank you for caring. Please, before you go, also head on over to therealnews.com/donate. Become a supporter of our work, so we can keep bringing you important coverage and conversations just like this. For The Real News Network, I’m Maximillian Alvarez, editor in chief.

Ju-Hyun Park:

I’m Ju-Hyun Park, engagement editor.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And we’re signing off for today. Thank you so much again. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Solidarity forever.

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Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
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