BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah hinted Tuesday that his group, as well as President Bashar Assad’s other allies Iran and Russia, could intervene militarily to prevent the downfall of the Damascus government.
The head of the resistance group also said his fighters would continue to defend Lebanese in Syrian border villages from rebel attacks, arguing that the Lebanese state was unable to fulfill the task itself.
“Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall in the hands of America, Israel or Takfiri groups. They will not let this happen,” Nasrallah, Assad’s closest ally in Lebanon, said in a televised speech.
“How will this happen? Details will come later. I say this based on information...rather than wishful thinking,” Nasrallah added.
Syria accuses Western states and Israel of waging a war to topple Assad through the backing of “armed gangs,” Damascus’ term for rebels. Earlier this month, Assad told a visiting Lebanese delegation from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition there would be no reconciliation with “Takfiri and terrorist groups.”
The Hezbollah chief said that judging by facts on the ground, Syrian rebels lacked the military capabilities to topple Assad, who is supported by Tehran and Moscow.
“We tell you that you [rebels] are unable to topple the regime through military means. After two years and based on facts on the field ... you have no ability to do so,” Nasrallah said.
“This is the case when you are now only fighting the Syrian army and the popular forces loyal to the [government]. Up to this moment there are no Iranian forces in Syria.” Nasrallah said.
“What if dangerous developments occur, forcing states or resistance groups to step in the field in Syria”? Nasrallah, who commands Lebanon’s largest military force, asked.
But the Hezbollah leader reiterated that only a political solution would resolve the conflict in the war-ravaged country.
“Whoever wants to save Syria ... feels sad for the daily bloodshed in Syria ... and does not want the Palestinian cause to be lost ... should push for dialogue and a political compromise,” Nasrallah said.
On the subject of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, Nasrallah said the Lebanese state could not fulfill its duty of defending Lebanese populations in Syrian border towns.
The party argues that its members are helping Lebanese residents of a string of Syrian villages in rural al-Qusair in defending themselves against attacks by Syrian rebels. However, Hezbollah’s rivals in Lebanon maintain that the party is assisting Assad in its crackdown on the uprising.
Nasrallah pledged that his party would not let down residents of these villages.
“What can the [Lebanese] state do? Let us be objective ... can it send the Army to Syrian border towns that are inhabited by Lebanese? ... the Lebanese state, given its nature and structure cannot do so,” he said.
“The most that the Lebanese state can do is to file a complaint to the Arab League. But the Arab League is arming, funding, inciting [rebels] and managing this battle,” he added.
Nasrallah said Lebanese residents of Syrian villages have the right to defend themselves, adding that assisting them did not require authorization from any side.
“This is a moral and humane issue. We are not talking about Lebanese from a specific sect but about all Lebanese living in rural villages of al-Qusair,” he said.
“We clearly will not let the Lebanese in rural al-Qusair be subjected to attacks from armed groups and we will not hesitate to offer this help to whoever wants to stay in his village,” he said.
In response to Hezbollah’s involvement in al-Qusair, two Salafist sheikhs in Lebanon issued calls for Jihad to defend residents of the area against attacks they claimed Hezbollah was carrying out.
Nasrallah said these calls only made public what had been happening since the uprising in Syria began.
“In Lebanon over the past two years all those who could issue fatwas, stir incitement, send fighters and arms [to Syria], not only through Lebanese borders but also through Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, all that they could have done to Syria from Lebanon they have done,” he said.
Nasrallah blasted what he called was exaggeration by some Arab and Lebanese media outlets of the number of Hezbollah fighters that had been killed in al-Qusair but gave no exact figures of the party’s casualties.
He also said his group had definite information that a massive rebel force was mounting an operation to take over these villages and accused some Lebanese of being involved in the affair.
The Hezbollah chief also said fighters defending the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad who is revered by Muslims, Shiites in particular, were thwarting sectarian strife. The shrine falls in a suburb of the Syrian capital.
He said that some Syrian rebels were positioned hundreds of meters away from the shrine and that some Takfiri groups have threatened to blow it up.
Media reports have emerged recently on Hezbollah’s involvement in defending the shrine.
“Blowing up or demolishing this shrine by Takfiri groups will have very dangerous repercussions, things will spin out of control,” Nasrallah warned.
“There are people who are dying as martyrs defending this spot. These [fighters] are ... preventing sectarian strife rather than opening the door for it,” he said.
Commenting on the ongoing case of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria, Nasrallah said no one in Lebanon knew yet what the captives wanted in return for their release.
“Do they want a ransom, money, or to release them in exchange for prisoners in Syria? If you want money, say it,” Nasrallah said.
“Where do you want things to go? Demonstrations and sit-ins here and there could not solve the problem. The state’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and other states have led nowhere so far,” he said.
“Do you imagine that we can stand by idly seeing women and children moving from one street to another and allow this tragedy to continue?” Nasrallah asked, referring to almost daily protests in Lebanon by the relatives of the kidnapped.
He reiterated that the abduction of the Lebanese pilgrims would not change the party’s stance on the crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor.
Nasrallah reiterated his party’s eagerness to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.
“But I want to tell everybody that what is happening in Syria concerns all of us ... the Lebanese people, Muslims and Christians, the state and the government, all who have ties with Arab and foreign states should tell them: the war should stop in Syria.”