Lebanon News

Nasrallah renews support for Assad

A poster showing Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is seen attached on a building in Beirut's southern suburbs, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah renewed his support Wednesday for the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and praised the three generals killed in a bombing in Damascus, describing them as comrades-in-arms to the resistance party.

He also reiterated his call for dialogue between the Syrian regime and opposition to end the 16-month unrest.Nasrallah also called for genuine national consensus among Lebanon’s rival political parties on the need to bolster the country’s Army after the role of the military establishment had come under fire by some March 14 politicians in the wake of the May killing of two sheikhs in the northern district of Akkar.

In a televised speech addressing a mass rally organized by Hezbollah at Al-Raya Stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs marking the sixth anniversary of the 2006 war with Israel, Nasrallah said Syria under Assad was the main backer of the resistance against Israel, not only at the popular and political level, but also at the military level.

“The most important weapons in which we fought Israel during the [2006] July war came from Syria,” he said, speaking through a giant screen via a video link.

Declaring that Syria had sent rockets to Hamas in the Gaza Strip to fight Israel, Nasrallah said: “Syria risked its presence and regime for the sake of the resistance.”

He offered condolences over the killing of three Syrian generals in an attack in Damascus, saying that such acts served only Israel’s interests.

A bombing claimed the lives of Assad’s brother-in-law, his defense minister and a former defense minister, in the boldest attack in the 16-month revolt against Assad’s regime. The attack was claimed by both the rebel Free Syrian Army and an Islamist group.

“We are sad over the killing of the three [generals] because they were comrades-in-arms to the resistance and comrades in the [struggle] against the [Israeli] enemy,” Nasrallah said.

He said the turmoil in Syria comforted the Jewish state. “Israel is happy today because there are pillars in the Syrian army that have been targeted and killed,” he said.

Nasrallah spoke of “an American-Israeli plan” to crush the resistance in Lebanon, topple the Assad regime and destroy the Syrian Army. “But the resistance’s victory in Lebanon [in 2006] had foiled the plan,” he said.

He reiterated his call for dialogue between the regime and opposition groups to solve the crisis in Syria.

“We renew our call for the protection of Syria, its people and army. The only solution is through the acceptance of dialogue and this should be done swiftly,” Nasrallah said.

He voiced confidence that the Syrian army wound stand fast in the face of armed rebel and opposition groups seeking to topple the Assad regime.

“We are confident that the Syrian army, which has had to cope with the intolerable, has the ability, determination and resolve to endure and foil the enemies’ hopes,” Nasrallah added.

The Hezbollah chief placed the Syrian crisis within the context of what he described as a long-term policy by the U.S. and Israel to strip Arab states of real military capabilities. “They just want a police [force],” he said, noting that one of the U.S. military’s first acts in Iraq following the conquest of Baghdad was to disband the military. He said this plan served only to protect Israel at all costs.

He warned Israel against staging “a first strike” in any future attack on Lebanon, saying the Jewish state would get “a big surprise” from Hezbollah.

Nasrallah reiterated Hezbollah’s support for a strong Lebanese Army and called for genuine national consensus on boosting the Army’s military capabilities.

“In order to confront internal and external threats, there is one point of national consensus on strengthening the Lebanese Army as an institution defending the country. But is there really a national consensus on this? I doubt it,” he said.

“What weakens the Army these days most is accusing it of confessionalism and sectarianism, infiltrating it by groups and casting doubts about its patriotism and neutrality on national issues even though it has proved its neutrality,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 19, 2012, on page 1.




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