Lebanon News

Nasrallah hints Assad’s allies could intervene

People watch Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaking on TV in Beirut, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah hinted Tuesday that Syria’s allies Iran, Russia and “resistance groups” could intervene militarily to prevent the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Nasrallah also said his fighters would continue to defend Lebanese in Syrian border villages from rebel attacks, arguing that the Lebanese state was unable to fulfill the task itself.

“Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall at the hands of America, Israel or takfiri groups. They will not let this happen,” Nasrallah, Assad’s closest ally in Lebanon, said in a televised speech.

“How will this happen? Details will come later. I say this based on information ... rather than wishful thinking.”

Nasrallah said judging by facts on the ground, Syrian rebels lacked the military capabilities to topple Assad, who is supported by Iran and Russia.

“We tell you that you [rebels] are unable to topple the regime through military means. After two years and based on facts in the field ... you have no ability to do so,” the Hezbollah chief said.

“This is the case when you are now only fighting the Syrian army and the popular forces loyal to the [government],” he added. “Up to this moment there are no Iranian forces in Syria.”

Nasrallah, who commands Lebanon’s largest military force, asked: “What if dangerous developments occur, forcing states or resistance groups to step in the field in Syria?” But the Hezbollah leader reiterated that only a political solution would resolve the conflict in the war-ravaged country.

On the subject of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, Nasrallah said the Lebanese state could not fulfill its duty of defending Lebanese in Syrian border towns.

The party has argued that its members have been helping Lebanese residents in a string of Syrian villages in rural Qusair to defend themselves against attacks by Syrian rebels. However, Hezbollah’s rivals in Lebanon maintain that the party is assisting Assad in his crackdown.

Nasrallah pledged that his party would protect the residents of these rural villages. “What can the [Lebanese] state do? Let us be objective ... can it send the Army to Syrian border towns that are inhabited by Lebanese? ... The Lebanese state, given its nature and structure, cannot do so,” he said.

Nasrallah said Lebanese residents of Syrian villages have the right to defend themselves, adding that assisting them did not require authorization from any side.

“This is a moral and humane issue. We are not talking about Lebanese from a specific sect but about all Lebanese living in rural villages of Qusair,” he said.

“We clearly will not let the Lebanese in Qusair be subjected to attacks from armed groups and we will not hesitate to offer this help to whoever wants to stay in his village,” Nasrallah added.

In response to Hezbollah’s involvement in Qusair, two Salafi sheikhs in Lebanon issued calls for jihad to defend residents of the area against attacks they claimed Hezbollah was carrying out.

Nasrallah said these calls publicized what had been happening since the uprising in Syria began.

“In Lebanon over the past two years all those who could issue fatwas, stir incitement, send fighters and arms [to Syria], not only through Lebanese borders but also through [those in] Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, all that they could have done to Syria from Lebanon, they have done,” he said.

Nasrallah blasted what he said was exaggeration by some Arab and Lebanese media outlets of the number of Hezbollah fighters that had been killed in Qusair, but provided no exact figures.

“This is not the first time we face psychological warfare ... we have been living in the heart of psychological warfare for 30 years,” Nasrallah said.

He also said his group had definite information that a massive rebel force was mounting an operation to take over these villages and accused some Lebanese of being involved in the affair.

Regarding the ongoing case of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria, he said no one in Lebanon knew yet what the captors wanted in return for their release.

“Do they want ransom, money, or to release them in exchange for prisoners in Syria? If you want money, say it,” Nasrallah said.

“Where do you want things to go? Demonstrations and sit-ins here and there can not solve the problem. The state’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and other states have led nowhere so far,” he said.

“Do you imagine that we can stand by idly seeing women and children moving from one street to another and allow this tragedy to continue?” Nasrallah asked, referring to almost daily protests in Lebanon by the relatives of the kidnapped.

He said that up to this moment, Israel had not provided proof for its claim last week that it had shot down an unmanned drone coming from Lebanon. Hezbollah denied responsibility shortly after the news emerged. “I tell the Lebanese there is nothing so far confirming that the incident happened,” he said.

Nasrallah ruled out the possibility that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard sent the drone. “This is unrealistic, impossible and not true,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader enumerated a number of possibilities on who might have sent the drone, including friendly Lebanese or Palestinian groups in Lebanon.

“The third possibility is that a non-friendly side, other than Israel ... has sent this drone from Lebanon or elsewhere ... in order ... to drag ... Israel and Hezbollah into a confrontation,” he said.

The fourth possibility, Nasrallah continued, was that Israel sent this drone to Lebanon and back to Israel before shooting it down in order to achieve psychological, political and deterrent goals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2013, on page 1.




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