BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said during a televised speech Tuesday that new US sanctions would aim to starve Lebanon, stressing that the party would not submit to the latest “American move.”
"The Caesar Act aims to starve Lebanon just as it aims to starve Syria," Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah’s speech comes the night before a Syria sanctions bill called the “Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019” goes into effect.
“They’re trying to lead us to an equation where we surrender our arms in return for bread. We won’t accept this trade,” Nasrallah said.
The bill authorizes additional sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals doing business with the Syrian regime or helping it in postwar reconstruction.
“Syria has emerged victorious against all previous American efforts, so the Caesar Act is the last American weapon to defeat Syria,” Nasrallah said.
Seen as a stern warning to Syria’s allies and economic partners in Lebanon, the Caesar Act also sends a clear message to the Lebanese government against normalizing ties or restoring economic and trade cooperation with the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose country has been expelled from the Arab League and remains boycotted by the majority of Arab and Western countries.
The US law is bound to deepen divisions in Lebanon, which is sharply split between political parties such as Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement and their allies, which call for normalizing ties with Syria, and other groups, like the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party, which oppose dealing with Damascus as long as Assad remains in power.
The Hezbollah leader also accused the US of preventing the transfer of sufficient amounts of dollars to Lebanon and stopping Lebanon’s Central Bank from pumping sufficient dollars into markets. In retaliation, he said he had “confirmed information” that Chinese companies were willing to inject money into Lebanon amid the worst financial crisis since The Civil War.
The national currency has lost over 70 percent of its value on the parallel market over the last week. Among measures agreed to halt the pound’s devaluation was the Central Bank’s injection of dollars into the market.
“I have confirmed information that Chinese companies are willing to inject money into this country,” Nasrallah said. “If the Chinese are ready to help us, why are we waiting for the Americans?”
Nasrallah also took the opportunity to address claims that Hezbollah was trying to bring down Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. He said these claims were “false and baseless,” stressing that Hezbollah had no intention of bringing down the government.
“We haven’t heard anything about this from our allies, or in our discussions with them. It is entirely false,” he said.
The allegations come after Amal and Hezbollah supporters advanced on protesters during demonstrations that turned violent on June 6.
“On the one hand, they call Diab’s government a Hezbollah government. They then say we want to bring down this government, which they claim is ours. Are we so stupid as to want to bring down our own government?” Nasrallah said.
The June 6 protests saw a new call by some protesters for Hezbollah to disarm and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which demanded the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. This demand caused anger among many Hezbollah and Amal supporters.
Addressing this demand, Nasrallah said that protesters were “going about this the wrong way.”
“What you need to do is to convince the supporters of the Resistance that there is a better alternative to Hezbollah's weapons,” he said.
Violent clashes between security forces and protesters in Downtown Beirut erupted over the course of last week in protests over the country’s deteriorating economic and living conditions, exacerbated over the last three months by coronavirus restrictions.
The national currency has lost more than half of its value on the parallel market, prices have soared, and many have lost their jobs.
The Hezbollah leader condemned all acts of violence during protests over the last week.
“I want to condemn these acts totally. Even if someone is hungry or upset, they have no right to commit vandalism or violence,” he said.