Lebanon News

Hezbollah at its strongest, Nasrallah warns Israel

Hezbollah supporters listen to Nasrallah s speech in Beirut, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Hezbollah was “stronger than at any time since it was launched,” in a televised speech Tuesday.

Delivering an address marking the anniversary of the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, Nasrallah said Hezbollah’s arms, equipment, numbers and determination have never been stronger.

He asserted the strength of Hezbollah’s forces compared to Israel’s. “Twelve years and [Israel] is threatening to go to war, but at the same time [Israel] talks about the increase of the forces of the resistance and says its army is the second-strongest army in the Middle East after the Israeli army,” he said. “This is not accurate. ... Hezbollah is stronger than the Israeli army.”

Addressing Hezbollah’s role in Syria, where it is fighting alongside the forces of President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah said the group would celebrate victory “very soon.”

He scoffed at reports ahead of the speech that he was planning to use the occasion to announce the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters from Syria.

Nasrallah claimed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had changed his stance and has now accepted the Syrian regime and army remaining in power, but is insisting on the ouster of Hezbollah and Iran from Syrian territory.

He further cautioned Israel and the U.S. against military action against Hezbollah and Iran, saying the countries “failed” in Iraq and Syria and have resorted to imposing sanctions on Iran.

“No one should threaten us with wars,” he said. “If someone will go to war [with us] they are welcome. We are not afraid, we are prepared and if God is willing, we will win.”

He added: “They [the West] can’t go to war with Iran, so they impose sanctions, so it would pressure people and cause a fall in the local currency – and economic decline.”

Though he admitted the U.S. sanctions on Iran were affecting the country, Nasrallah insisted that “they do not touch our will and our strength. We have the strength and the infrastructure and human force.”

U.S. sanctions on Iran were re-imposed this month following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in May. Hezbollah’s leader also had biting words for Saudi Arabia, whose foreign policy – recently marked by a diplomatic row with Canada – he strongly criticized.

“When the Canadians tried to intervene for human rights [violations], Saudi Arabia called it an internal intervention. ... But Saudi Arabia intervened in Lebanon and detained the prime minister,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sojourn in Saudi Arabia in November last year, during which he announced his resignation, which was later rescinded.

On the domestic front, Nasrallah called on Lebanon and its allies to cooperate in addressing internal issues relating to corruption and embezzlement, adding that Hezbollah was crucial to future development plans.

“If someone wants development in Lebanon, they [should] want the cooperation of all political powers,” he said. “If someone wants development, they want to cooperate with Hezbollah.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 15, 2018, on page 2.

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