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When Assange meets Nasrallah, you learn the most about Assange (+video)

Julian Assange, the embattled Wikileaks leader, started his new chat show with an interview of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

By Staff writer / April 18, 2012

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (l.) interviews Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during his new 'The World Tomorrow' talk show, in this frame taken from video footage provided by Russia Today on April 17.

Courtesy of RT/Reuters

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Julian Assange's new talk show debuted yesterday on the Kremlin satellite channel Russia Today with a whale of a "get:" Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's politically and militarily dominant Hezbollah.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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It's been years since Mr. Nasrallah has given an interview to a foreigner. The conversation took place in late February and there should have been plenty to talk about. There's the awkward position that Hezbollah, which styles itself a lion of Arab resistance to Israel, now finds itself in. The group is a client of Syria, where Bashar al-Assad has spent the past year using his army to flatten his domestic political opponents, and of Iran, which has been helping Mr. Assad and recently crushed an opposition movement of its own.

Questions about the UN tribunal which indicted members of Hezbollah last year in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri would not have gone amiss. More general and obvious questions could have been about Lebanese politics, and under what conditions Hezbollah might be willing to give up its private army. Perhaps some challenges on whether Hezbollah is a threat to Lebanon's fragile democracy, or the risks of the sectarian fighting in Syria spilling over the border.

But while Mr. Assange touched on Hezbollah's ties to Syria, his highly deferential and general interview of Nasrallah didn't press him very hard (this was no Mike Wallace vs. Ayatollah Khomenei). Six years ago, Hezbollah's image was soaring in the region as a direct opponent of Israel and of the US. Today's environment is far more complex, with a clamoring for democratic change and Hezbollah closely linked to two of its greatest regional opponents. The word "Iran" wasn't mentioned at all. And the choice of questions, the apparent lack of background knowledge, and Assange's typically flat and robotic delivery, were all reminders that he isn't a professional journalist.

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