BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Sunday announced that Hezbollah had covertly sent fighters to combat ISIS in Iraq, saying that his party had fought under local command and not interfered in the country's internal affairs as Saudi Arabia had in some Arab states.
“Sunnis have been harmed by ISIS in Iraq more than the Shiites. After being asked to help in the fight against this globally renowned terrorist group, we took some fighters from south Lebanon, some from Syria and some from Yemen, and flew them to Iraq secretly without any public fuss,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech.
The Hezbollah chief spoke from the southern Lebanese town of Ansar during the one-week commemoration of the death of Ali Ahmad Fayyad, a Hezbollah field commander who died in battle against ISIS in northern Syria late last month.
He went on to criticize an unnamed official who called for the withdrawal of Hezbollah and popular mobilization forces in Iraq.
“If it weren’t for the popular mobilization forces in Iraq, ISIS would have been in your palaces, violating your dignity,” said Nasrallah.
He lambasted the Gulf Cooperation Council for its recent decision to label the party as a "terrorist organization," saying their "regimes" were acting as sureties for Israel.
“This Shiite-Sunni conflict is a lie, the GCC’s problem is not really with the Shiites. [The Gulf] regimes' main concern has always been protecting Israel – and some of them have conspired against those who stood in the face of Israel, especially Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He continued to say that Lebanon would still be under Israeli occupation if it had solely relied on assistance from Arab countries.
“If we had waited for an Arab strategy to save Lebanon from Israeli occupation, Israel would still be in Lebanon, controlling Lebanon ... There would have been Israeli settlements in the country and the Lebanese youth would have been in Israeli prisons,” he said, reiterating a previous accusation that Saudi Arabia had pushed Israel to continue its war on Lebanon in 2006.
Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and continued to occupy parts of the south until May 2000.
He also asked GCC states why have not armed the Palestinians to fight Israeli occupation if it considers Hezbollah a "terrorist group" unworthy of their support.
“We do not want anything from you, we just want you to leave this resistance (Hezbollah) alone. It is the last remaining hope for the region’s people,” he added.
Nasrallah also touched on Saudi-Lebanese relations, which have witnessed heat over the last month due to what Saudi Arabia says are stances taken by Lebanese officials which go against the countries' "brotherly ties."
The Hezbollah chief had told Riyadh in a speech this week to take up its problem with his party instead of Lebanon, saying Riyadh was only angry at Hezbollah because it dared to speak out against the wealthy Gulf state.
“We understand why Saudi Arabia is angry at us, because one becomes frustrated when one fails,” he said, referring to what he labeled as Saudi failure in its role in the region’s crises.
Nasrallah rejected earlier this week charges that Riyadh’s decision to halt $4 billion in military aid was motivated by positions taken by his party or Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a party ally.
“Saudi fears of its military grant to Lebanon falling into the hands of Hezbollah are nothing but an excuse,” he added.
The decision to halt the aid for Lebanon’s army was the beginning of a series of moves by Saudi Arabia against Lebanon, which has rushed to mend ties with the Gulf country and reassure it of its “Arab identity” and abidance by “Arab consensus.”
Nasrallah renewed his criticism of what he called blackmail against Lebanon, saying Saudi Arabia could not expect “the Lebanese” to refrain from interfering in Syria to fight extremists just because Saudi Arabia is letting them work in the Gulf state.
Touching on the war in Yemen, Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia was paying a heavy price for its conflict on the country. He stressed that the Saudi airstrikes were killing the Yemeni people and not just the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia has since early last year led an air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, after the militants’ takeover of the capital Sanaa in 2014. It has backed forces loyal to it in a bid to prevent Houthis from gaining any control.