Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Monday hit back at al-Mustaqbal movement leader MP Saad Hariri, saying all Lebanese should go to Syria to fight the “serious and real” threat terrorism poses to the entire region, as he stressed keenness on the ongoing dialogue between the two parties.
“I tell those who are asking us to withdraw from Syria, 'Let us go together to Syria and Iraq and to any place that contains a threat to the future of our nation, because that is the right way to defend Lebanon,'” said Nasrallah in a televised speech commemorating Hizbullah's “martyr leaders” – Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Sayyed Abbas al-Moussawi and Imad Mughniyeh.
Nasrallah also revealed for the first time that Hizbullah is fighting the jihadist Islamic State group in Iraq.
"We may not have spoken about Iraq before, but we have a limited presence because of the sensitive phase that Iraq is going through," Nasrallah said in reference to ongoing clashes between Iraqi troops, several militias and Kurdish forces against the IS.
Hizbullah is already fighting in Syria, alongside President Bashar Assad's forces.
Nasrallah's speech comes two days after Hariri called on Hizbullah to withdraw from Syria.
“Where is Lebanon's interest in sending Lebanese youths to fight in Syria and Iraq and to interfere in Bahrain's affairs,” Hariri said, describing Nasrallah's recent remarks on “linking the Golan and the South fronts” as “an act of madness.”
However, in his Monday address, Nasrallah voiced support for Hariri's call to “devise a national anti-terror strategy.”
“We agree on the enemy that is terrorism and, unfortunately, we disagree over another enemy, which is Israel,” Nasrallah lamented.
Turning to the issue of the jihadist groups threatening Lebanon's eastern border, Hizbullah's leader noted that “we will face another challenge when the snow melts.”
“Daesh (Islamic State) and al-Nusra (Front) are present on the other side of the Eastern Mountain Range. Circumstances have limited or prevented the confrontations and the state must take a decisive stance on how to deal with this threat,” Nasrallah added.
He noted that these groups “can be easily defeated,” adding that victory requires a “national decision and will.”
Addressing Hariri, Nasrallah added: “Whether the Lebanese like it or not, Lebanon has always been affected by what happens in the region. Anything that happens in it has an impact on Lebanon.”
“The region went through major events and it is being recreated from scratch. Whoever wants to decide Lebanon's fate must be present in the fate of the region. If you want to be absent, you are telling others to control your fate,” he went on to say.
“No one can say, 'I'm Lebanese', because the fate of our people, country, dignity and the future of our generations is at stake.”
Commenting on Hariri's accusation that Hizbullah is “interfering” in Bahrain, Nasrallah said: “Those interfering in Syria, whose relation with Lebanon is more critical than Bahrain's relation with Lebanon, have no right to criticize our interference in Bahrain.”
“They have been interfering in Syria since the beginning of the crisis and they were part of the media and political war,” Nasrallah said.
“We did not call for toppling the regime in Bahrain, we only supported those who were calling for dialogue. We call for avoiding any response to the authorities' violence and Bahrain's blind government must applaud this stance,” Hizbullah's chief added.
“Italy's defense minister has said that her country is willing to join an international anti-terror coalition because 'terrorism is now only 350 kilometers away from the Italian border.' Terrorism is on our border in the mountains, (Syria's) Qusayr and Qalamun and some parties are speaking of right and wrong,” Nasrallah said.
Despite of his jabs at Hariri, Nasrallah affirmed that dialogue will continue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement.
“We believe it has yielded good results within the expectations we had in mind from the very beginning,” he said.
“Disregard what is being said in some speeches. Through seriousness we hope to reach a good and reasonable outcome for the sake of all Lebanese,” he added.
As for the issue of the presidential crisis, Nasrallah called for “renewing the domestic efforts,” noting that “the relevant parties in this regard are well-known.”
“I call on all those who are keen on preventing vacuum not to await foreign changes, neither the Iranian nuclear issue nor the Iranian-Saudi dialogue, because the region is heading to further crises and confrontations,” he noted.
“To all parties claiming to be advocates of independence and sovereignty I say: let us renew the national domestic efforts to resolve this issue and cross this juncture,” Nasrallah added.
Commenting on the latest controversy regarding the cabinet's powers in absence of a president, Nasrallah called on the political forces to support the government.
“It should continue its work because there is no alternative other than vacuum and chaos, and I don't think that anyone has an interest in this alternative,” he said.
As for the conflict in Syria, Nasrallah said “the game has ended in Syria and the insistence on fighting has become a form of intransigence.”
“The non-takfiri opposition must be allowed to seek a settlement and the regime will accept that,” he added.
He also called for coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies in the border region, calling on the Lebanese government to “coordinate with Damascus over the issues of refugees and security.”
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