BEIRUT: Syria’s allies Iran and Hezbollah will unlikely retaliate in the event of a U.S.-led military strike against the regime of President Bashar Assad, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said in remarks published Monday.
“The response to the strike is likely to come from inside Syria only. I assume that Hezbollah and Iran are wise enough to avoid slipping into a large-scale war,” Geagea told As-Safir newspaper.
He also said that a “regional war” was an unlikely scenario following any U.S. and Western military strike in Lebanon’s neighbor.
Geagea said he supported a “balanced foreign intervention” against the Syrian regime, “otherwise we would be partners in the ongoing crimes being committed against the Syrian people.”
President Barack Obama is seeking congressional authorization for limited military strikes against Assad’s regime over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. Assad has denied the claims.
However, the LF leader admitted that any military strike against Syria by the U.S. and West would have an impact on Lebanon – “one way or another.”
“Political affiliations in Lebanon will not change in light of a strike against Syria but that does not mean that Hezbollah will not be affected by any hit against its ally [Syria],” he said.
“The internal scene will become exposed to all possibilities,” he warned.
Geagea also said that the current situation required the formation of a neutral Cabinet that excludes political partisans from both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.
“The political disputes between these two teams have increased since the Syrian crisis which means a neutral Cabinet is urgently needed,” he said.
“A political government would transfer [from the street] the volatile local and regional situation to Cabinet [table].”
Geagea also slammed the Free Patriotic Movement and accused it of exploiting politically the developments in the historic Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, which was recently seized by rebels.
“I sympathize completely with the town but I must express my deep regret that some Lebanese factions have exploited its suffering for political gain,” Geagea said.
“It is shameful that the Movement is allied with a regime that does not hesitate to use chemical weapons against its people,” he said, condemning the FPM for its position on Syria.
He also slammed recent remarks by caretaker Energy Minister Gibran Bassil, who claimed that the Maaloula attack was aimed at driving Christians out of the Levant.
“Such allegations are a form of propaganda in an effort by dictatorships to portray themselves as being secular regimes that safeguard minorities,” he said.
“The only way to save Maaloula and the whole of Syria is through changing the regime and replacing it with an open and democratic one,” the LF leader added.
Bassil Sunday alleged that events in Maaloula represented a genuine signal that a “plot” to displace Christians from the Levant had commenced and warned of the rise of Islamists in the region.
Geagea also said “the talk about Nusra Front being involved in Maaloula were mere allegations ... We cannot pinpoint the identity of the armed opposition groups that are fighting in Maaloula.”
Over the weekend, reports said Syrian opposition forces including jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda had taken control of Maaloula in a battle that left over a dozen rebels dead and more than 100 wounded.