BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Sunday reaffirmed his stance on the government by saying it is crucial that it remains in place, however suggested that his rivals in the Cabinet “leave (the government and dialogue talks) if they wanted to.”
Nasrallah also touched on the ongoing war in Syria, vowing to step up his party’s battle against radical Islamist groups there.
Nasrallah spoke during a ceremony marking one week after the death of Hezbollah fighter Hassan Muhammad al-Hajj, in the village of Al-Louaizi in South Lebanon’s Jezzine province.
“We have been hearing things from the Future Movement about the dialogue sessions, that make us feel as if it’s doing the people a favor by taking part (in the dialogue),” Nasrallah said, adding “if this is the case, then you can leave and may God be with you, there is no need for you to stay,” addressing his political rival in the March 14 camp, headed by former Premier Saad Hariri.
Nasrallah reiterated his support for the all-party talks but refused what he described as “black mail” by the Future Movement.
“We are committed to preserving Lebanon’s political stability and security... However when we feel that we are being disrespected, our way of dealing with other factions will be different,” Nasrallah continued, signaling worsening ties with the March 14 party.
The country’s political leaders have been holding national dialogue sessions to try and end the government deadlock and agree on a head of state, but to no avail.
Hezbollah and its political rival the Future Movement have also held 19 separate dialogue sessions sponsored by Speaker Nabih Berri to try and defuse sectarian tensions in the Muslim community, aggravated by various conflicts in the region, particularly the Syrian war which Hezbollah has had a direct role in.
“We are against the government collapsing and want it to stay, and it is in the Lebanese peoples’ benefit that it does, as the alternative is a complete vacuum,” Nasrallah cautioned.
The government has been in paralysis for over a month as different sides disagree over the agenda of the Cabinet and its voting mechanism. Parliament has also not met since it extended its own mandate a second time in Nov. 2014, and the country has also been without a President since May of the same year.
Touching on the security situation in the northern Bekaa, the Hezbollah chief rejected accusations that his party and his ally the Amal Movement, headed by Berri, were behind outlaws in the region.
Both Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, Lebanon’s largest Shiite Muslim parties, have a strong presence in the northern Bekaa governorate.
“Some are calling on us (Hezbollah and Amal) to capture fugitives and hand them over to authorities, but doesn’t this contradict the presence of the State?” Nasrallah asked, saying that some parties wanted to see a confrontation take place between Hezbollah and Amal and tribes in the Baalbek-Hermel districts (which make up the northern Bekaa).
“The State is there to do its job; it has what it takes to carry out its duties in preserving security,” Nasrallah added.
The northern Bekaa region is known as a safe haven for fugitives, mainly wanted on arrest warrants linked to the possession of illegal weapons, kidnappings for ransoms and drugs.
In regards to the Syrian crisis, Nasrallah described the conflict that has swept through the war-torn nation and Iraq as an “extremist-Zionist conspiracy,” making clear that his party's involvement in the Syrian war was more likely to continue.
“There is resilience on the ground against the extremist groups (such as ISIS and the Nusra Front) and Zionist plans in the region, and the battle is long,” Nasrallah reiterated, despite a recent Russian intervention in Syria which has been targeting militant strongholds in the country for the last couple of weeks.
Hezbollah has on previous occasions said that the direct Russian intervention in Syria's war will help the government and opposition reach a political settlement sooner, while anti-Assad leaders consider that the (Russian) intervention will further complicate the crisis and drag on the war.
“With all due respect to our (former) leaders, martyrs and fighters, the resistance today does not rely solely on a leader here or there,” Nasrallah said.
“For four years we have been fighting the 'extremist' plan and have sacrificed martyrs... If it wasn’t for the resistance in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where would the region be now?” Nasrallah rhetorically asked, warning that if groups such as ISIS had completely taken over these countries, the fate of the people would have been similar to those in Mosul, Salah el-Din and Raqqa, all in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS launched a scathing attack on the aforementioned regions last year and overran the areas, after Iraqi and Syrian government forces pulled out, executing and forcing residents out of their homes. They have since imposed a harsh version of the Islamic Sharia law on the residents there.
Nasrallah reiterated that the battle against ISIS and other insurgent groups is not over, and is instead an “open battle.”
Touching on the events in Occupied Jerusalem and Gaza, Nasrallah gave his full support for the Palestinian people who have been clashing with Israeli security forces for weeks, in what is seen as the worst violence to ignite in the divided country in years.
“This new intifada is the only hope the Palestinians have of ending the (Israeli) occupation...Today we are seeing a new generation who is willing to sacrifice their lives for Jerusalem, and use knives to fight,” Nasrallah remarked during his speech, calling on all people in the region to stand by the Palestinians.