Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned the Lebanese state that the U.S. “is not an honest mediator” in the dispute with Israel over offshore gas drilling rights, urging it to show “strength” and “courage.”
“It seems that the entire region has entered the oil and gas battle,” Nasrallah said in an annual televised speech commemorating Hizbullah's slain leaders Ragheb Harb, Abbas al-Moussawi and Imad Mughniyeh.
“The Americans did not withdraw from eastern Syria because the most important oil and gas fields are present there... The Americans are overseeing the oil and gas battle,” Nasrallah charged.
Noting that the offshore oil and gas reserves could be Lebanon's “only hope for economic relief” and “salvation,” Nasrallah said “the unified official and popular stance is the most important factor to win this battle.”
“The Lebanese must not allow the devils to sow discord among them, and by devils I mean the Americans,” Hizbullah's leader added, referring to visits to Lebanon by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield.
“State officials and institutions must rise to the level of confidence and responsibility regarding this critical file and they must show courage. The state should approach this file from a position of strength. Showing weakness would spell the end of the battle,” Nasrallah warned.
Pointing out that “the Americans know that Lebanon's only strength in this oil and gas battle is the resistance,” Hizbullah's leader warned Lebanese officials that “the Americans are not honest mediators, especially when the other party is the Israeli entity.”
“The state must deal with the U.S. mediator as being Israel's lawyer,” he cautioned.
And in Hizbullah's strongest warning to Israel since the beginning of the latest gas row, Nasrallah threatened that “should the Higher Defense Council decide that Israel's offshore oil installations should cease to operate,” Hizbullah “can disable them within hours.”
“Can anyone deny the presence of expansionist Israeli ambitions and threats against Lebanon?” Nasrallah added.
On the possibility of war, Hizbullah's leader said Lebanon “must remain vigilant and alert.”
“I'm not saying that we're heading to a war but vigilance is needed. What prevents Israel from waging a war is its inability to confirm in advance that it would emerge victorious,” Nasrallah noted.
Details of the U.S. mediation over offshore gas and oil rights are yet to be unveiled but Tillerson was in Lebanon on Thursday and the issue topped his agenda. Satterfield was on Friday holding talks with Lebanese officials over the matter.
The dispute dates back years but recently resurfaced when Lebanon invited companies to bid for drilling in areas near Israel's maritime border.
Commenting on the downing of an Israeli F-16 warplane during raids in Syria, Nasrallah announced that “Syria can defend itself,” describing the development as “a major military achievement.”
“The situation from now on will not be the same and Israel is no longer operating freely,” Nasrallah noted.
“Claims that the Israeli warplane was shot down by the Russians or the Iranians are empty claims. The decision to down the plane was taken by the Syrian leadership and President Bashar al-Assad,” Hizbullah's leader stressed.
Turning to Lebanon and the upcoming elections, Nasrallah emphasized that “Iran does not interfere in anything in Lebanon.”
“Iran does not try to impose presidents and premiers on Lebanon, unlike other countries... Iran does not detain a Lebanese premier,” Nasrallah added, referring to Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation from Saudi Arabia in November that was later rescinded.
Describing the new electoral law that is based on proportional representation as “one of the most important achievements in the country,” Nasrallah noted that “this law takes us to calm elections that do not stir strife in the country.”
“There will be no sharp rift and the elections won't be between two camps – March 8 and March 14 – but rather between several political forces that will form mixed lists,” Hizbullah's leader said.
“Hizbullah is not seeking the parliamentary majority in Lebanon,” he added.
And responding to Hariri's announcement on Thursday that al-Mustaqbal Movement's electoral battle “will be against Hizbullah,” Nasrallah said: “We had never thought of allying with al-Mustaqbal and our electoral battle is not targeted against anyone.”
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