BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday accused militants with links to Saudi intelligence of being behind last month’s suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, saying the attack was linked to the kingdom’s hostility against Iran.
The accusation contrasts sharply with earlier statements by Iranian and Hezbollah officials who had blamed Israel and takfiri groups for the blasts.
Nasrallah also defended Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad’s forces, saying this intervention had protected Lebanon against the threat of takfiri groups and prevented the country’s slide into civil war.
Nasrallah’s accusation drew a quick response from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who charged the Hezbollah chief with stoking tensions and rekindling strife in the people’s souls.
Hariri accused Nasrallah of twisting facts by blaming Saudi Arabia for the attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.
“Nasrallah exploited the Iranian-American agreement [on Tehran’s nuclear program] to launch an unprecedented campaign against anyone who disagrees with him in Lebanon and the region and opposes the policy of draggling Lebanon into the Syrian conflict and linking it to the deterrence axis,” Hariri said in a statement released by his office.
“Sayyed Nasrallah managed to issue from his heart all elements of hatred he harbors against Saudi Arabia and its leadership,” he said.
Hariri added that Nasrallah descended into a language that would “only damage Lebanon’s relations with the Arab world by accusing Saudi Arabia of waging and organizing all regional and Arab wars from Pakistan to Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon and also accusing it of the Iranian Embassy bombing.”
Hariri said Hezbollah was the main suspect involved in the 2005 car bombing that killed his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and was responsible for undermining coexistence among the Lebanese in general, and the Sunnis and Shiites in particular. He also accused Hezbollah of responsibility for a series of bombings that struck the Saudi city of Khobar, Argentina, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt.
In a wide-ranging interview with OTV network, Nasrallah said: “The Iranian Embassy bombing is linked to the [verbal] war on Iran by those who publicly declare their hostility against Iran ... The bombing is linked to the Saudi rage against Iran over its failure [in Syria]. Saudi Arabia holds Iran responsible for the failure of its projects in the region.”
Nasrallah said he believed the responsibility claim announced shortly after the twin blasts struck the Iranian Embassy by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate, which threatened more attacks unless Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria.
“Some groups which uphold Al-Qaeda’s ideology are operated by the Saudi intelligence. We believe the statement issued by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. This group is led by a Saudi emir and its command is linked to the Saudi intelligence services, which direct groups like this one in several parts of the world,” Nasrallah said. He added that the Saudi intelligence services stood behind a string of car bombings in Iraq.
On Nov. 19, two suicide bombers – one wearing an explosive belt and the other driving a bomb-laden vehicle – attacked the Iranian Embassy in the upscale Bir Hasan Shiite neighborhood in south Beirut, killing 30 people, including the embassy’s cultural attache and four guards, and wounding over 150.
Nasrallah accused former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Future MP Okab Saqr of sending fighters to Syria and funding opposition groups seeking to overthrow the Assad regime. Hariri, who backs the anti-Assad uprising, has denied sending fighters or funding opposition groups in Syria.
Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia has rebuffed Iran’s repeated attempts to normalize ties with the kingdom, strained by the conflict in Syria, where Riyadh and Tehran support opposing sides in the 32-month war.
Asked on the chances of improving Saudi-Iranian relations, Nasrallah said: “There is a real problem in this matter. Iran has for years been seeking to open doors with Saudi Arabia but all these attempts have failed. Saudi Arabia had worked to close the doors.” He added that Saudi Arabia had rejected a Pakistani attempt to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.
“Saudi Arabia’s problem is that it had dealt with Iran as an enemy. Saudi Arabia does not have the guts to go to war with anyone,” Nasrallah said. Instead, he claimed, Saudi Arabia launched its wars by proxy by funding anti-Iran groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan and even inside Iran.
He added that Saudi Arabia was acting as if it was the supposed leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and did not accept a partner in this leadership.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was fighting in Syria to prevent takfiri groups from threatening Lebanon’s stability.
“Had Hezbollah not intervened in Syria, hundreds of car bombs, and not three, would have entered, not only [Beirut’s] southern suburbs, but all of Lebanon. We went to Syria to prevent this matter,” he said.
“Had armed groups controlled border areas with Lebanon, Lebanon would have plunged into a civil war,” he added. “What will Lebanon’s future be if Syria falls into the hands of armed groups?”
He blamed Saudi Arabia for the eight-month-old Cabinet deadlock, arguing that Riyadh blocked the formation of a new government through its March 14 allies. He reiterated his support for a 9-9-6 Cabinet lineup, in which the March 8 and March 12 parties would have a veto power.
Nasrallah said last month’s deal between Iran and Western powers over Tehran’s nuclear program would have “big repercussions” in the region, adding that the biggest winner from the deal is the region’s peoples, particulary the Gulf region.