Lebanon News

Nasrallah lambastes Saudi Arabia, draws Hariri rebuke

Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks on al-Manar TV. (File/The Daily Star/TV grab)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah launched a fierce tirade against Saudi Arabia Friday night, saying its military offensive in Yemen was doomed to fail and vowing that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels would emerge victorious from the “Saudi-U.S. aggression.”

Nasrallah’s remarks drew a quick response from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who said the Lebanese were treated to “a storm of hatred against Saudi Arabia and Gulf states in response to the “Decisive Storm” campaign against the Iranian infiltration in Yemen.”

“This storm of hatred deserves only to be ignored because it is the outcome of anger, frustration and tension,” Hariri said on his Twitter account Friday night.

Hariri, however, pledged to pursue his Future Movement’s 3-month-old dialogue with Hezbollah “because the interests of our country are above any other consideration.”

“We stress the need to continue the dialogue in order to protect Lebanon,” he said.

In a fiery speech broadcast by Al-Manar TV and other local channels, Nasrallah said there was still a chance to reach a political solution to end the bloody conflict in Yemen, which has opened a new front in a long-brewing rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran.

He blasted Saudi Arabia for spearheading a coalition of 10 countries to launch a campaign against Yemen, while failing to carry out a similar action to save the Palestinians from Israeli killing and repression in their decadeslong struggle with Israel.

Speaking on the second day of the Saudi-led military assault against the Houthi rebels, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would have joined the coalition if its warplanes targeted Israel instead of Yemen.

He accused Riyadh of launching the war in an attempt to regain control over Yemen and rejected Saudi claims that Iran posed a threat to the kingdom and other Gulf states.

“The real reason for this war is that Saudi Arabia has failed in Yemen and felt that Yemen now belongs to its people and to real sovereign forces that do not fall under the hegemony of anyone,” Nasrallah said. “The aim [of the war] is to regain control and hegemony over Yemen.”

Nasrallah , who has voiced support in past speeches for the Houthis in their power struggle in Yemen, called for the “aggression” to stop and for the resumption of talks aimed at a political solution to the conflict.

“We call on the people of governments joining the coalition to consider that the blood of their armies are spilling in Yemen for the sole purpose of helping Saudi royalty reclaim control over Yemen,” he said. “A chance still exists for a political solution ... Let there be an Arab or a Muslim initiative [to end the conflict], or else invaders will be doomed to defeat and disgrace,” he added. “The Saudis must not be happy with some air raids. All military schools know that aerial bombing will not make victory.”

“It is the right of the oppressed and brave Yemeni people to defend and resist the aggression. They will do and they will emerge victorious because these are the laws of God and history,” Nasrallah said.

He rejected Gulf states’ claims that Iran was threatening to intervene and control the region and that Yemen was under Iranian occupation.

“Where is the evidence that Yemen is occupied by Iran? Where are the Iranian armies in Yemen? Are there Iranian bases in Yemen? These are lies,” the Hezbollah chief said.

In some of his harshest comments to date, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of sending suicide bombers to Iraq and of creating the ISIS group. Addressing Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expanded its influence in the region because “you are lazy, losers and you don’t take responsibility.”

Responding to Nasrallah, Hariri said: “Insistence on placing Iran’s interests above Lebanon’s has been existing for years. We will not recognize its benefits and we will not be pushed today to match it with hasty responses.”

He added that Lebanon’s relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states would not be shaken by “malicious campaigns.”

“Saudi Arabia has offered Lebanon and Arab states peace and honest brotherly support, while others have offered and are still offering sophisticated plans for wars, conflicts and hegemony,” Hariri said in a clear reference to Iran.

Nasrallah expressed hope that “this new political division in the Gulf” would not lead to negative repercussions in Lebanon, especially with regards to the government and dialogue with the Future Movement.

With regards to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Nasrallah said he wasn’t concerned with developments at the U.N.-backed court since the party didn’t recognize the legitimacy of the tribunal.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 28, 2015, on page 1.

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