BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah dubbed the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) an “existential threat” menacing Lebanon and the whole region but highlighted that the resistance party was capable of thwarting new conspiracies devised for the country and the region.
“The Lebanese need to be aware of this existential threat and the need to confront it,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech to mark the end of the 2006 war with Israel. “We must find true, realistic and serious means to counter this threat.”
Nasrallah said ISIS now sold oil and received funding from regional groups, adding that this “raises serious questions.”
“Therefore,” he said. “Let’s gather our forces and strong points to counter those threats.”
Nasrallah said fighting the terrorist threat did not require “national consensus.”
“Logic, our religion, ethics and experience have taught us that if a society is facing an existential threat, the priority becomes to counter that existential threat and whoever fails to do so expose their people to danger and slaughtering.”
Nasrallah said supporting the Lebanese Army and supplying it with qualitative weapons was a primary and primordial requirement toward countering the looming dangers.
"The [ISIS] project does not have a future in our region," he said. "Yes, we have the ability to defend our country. Yes, we have the ability to defeat this project."
Nasrallah spoke of a fresh conspiracy to redraw the map of the Middle East and argued that both Israel and takfiri extremist groups, ISIS namely, were the main pillars of the new project.
He said that sacrifices were needed to counter the existential threat manifested by ISIS and emphasized that political and sectarian differences must be set aside in such difficult times.
Nasrallah mocked the suggestion to expand the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to include the borders with Syria in the east and the north to safeguard the country from the threat of terrorist groups, saying the peacekeeping force in south Lebanon was “barely capable of defending itself.”
Nasrallah maintained that it was the tripartite formula of “the Army, the people and the resistance” that had proven to be the most effective in protecting the country, adding that “popular, moral and financial” support to the Army was crucial.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah welcomed any kind of support to the military and security forces “as they are entrusted with protecting the country, not Hezbollah.” He said he hoped the Army would receive qualitative weapons in the next period so as to efficiently combat terror.
Earlier this week, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a $ 1 billion grant from Saudi Arabia to modernize Lebanese security services in their fight against terrorism. The donation came a few days after bloody fighting between the Army and gunmen from ISIS and the Nusra Front in the Lebanese village of Arsal in the country’s northeast.
Nasrallah said the priority was to liberate the 19 soldiers and 17 Internal Security Forces still being held by the jihadists, who retreated to the mountainous areas on the outskirts of Arsal.
“Priority today is to liberate our soldiers and policemen,” Nasrallah said. “Any delay to liberate them is humiliating not only to the security forces but to the country as a whole.”
Addressing the people of Arsal, Nasrallah said their future was with their people and neighbors in Baalbek and Hermel rather than with ISIS and the Nusra Front.
Nasrallah suggested that large-scale reconciliations be held in areas where tensions prevailed. “We must mend fences in various regions through reconciliations,” he said.
The Hezbollah chief said accusations that the Army was controlled by Hezbollah were baseless, saying the military served the entire nation.
He also highlighted that the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam must be preserved as it was among the few remaining state bodies holding the country together.
“We must preserve the current government and prevent its collapse regardless of the problems or differences until a new president is elected and parliamentary elections are held,” Nasrallah said. “All forms of incitement must also stop.”
As for the thorny issue of Syrian refugees and the serious burdens the crisis poses on Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure, Nasrallah said the Lebanese state must open up to Syrian authorities, despite differences, so as to find solutions to this “serious issue.”
Touching on the issue of the stalled presidential election, Nasrallah reiterated, without naming him, that the March 8 alliance’s candidate was still the same, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun. Nasrallah advised various groups to address Aoun directly when it comes to the presidency, adding that Lebanon must not wait for external interference to elect a new head of state.
Nasrallah also urged Lebanon’s Christian community to learn from the experience of Christians in Iraq and not rely on the West to bolster their status.
“The West never cared about Christians in this part of the world,” he said. “If you (Christians) are counting on the West, you are delusional.”