Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

‘Leave Lebanon alone’

Hizbullah’s Nasrallah ridicules Saudi charges that his Iranian-backed group provided ballistic missiles to Yemen. But this is unlikely to close the matter, reports Khaled Dawoud


‘Leave Lebanon alone’
‘Leave Lebanon alone’

One day after the Arab League meeting the foreign ministers in attendance issued a strongly worded statement on Sunday, condemning Lebanon’s Hizbullah and dubbing it a “terrorist” organisation that serves Iran’s agenda, the charismatic leader of the Shia group, Hassan Nasrallah, slammed the oil-rich Saudi kingdom, claiming that its campaign against Hizbullah was part of a wider US-backed plan to normalise relations with Israel.

In an hour-long televised address, Nasrallah highlighted his group’s role in fighting against the terrorist Islamic State (IS) group, in Syria and Iraq. He noted that while his group sacrificed the lives of its commanders and fighters to end IS’ presence in all Iraqi and Syrian cities, “we ask Saudi Arabia, where are your officers and generals? Aren’t you members of the international alliance led by the United States against terrorism?”

Nasrallah denounced Saudi moves to isolate and attack his group as “silly” and “absurd”, flatly denying Gulf Arab accusations that Hizbullah has been shipping weapons to loosely-aligned movements in countries like Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait, while striking a triumphant tone about his fighters’ recent military victories abroad.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia called for the urgent Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday after a ballistic missile was fired from Yemen, 5 November. “This is part of their [the Saudis] problem. They are belittling the Yemeni people, and cannot believe that fired this missile on their own” amid an intensive Saudi bombing campaign in which “thousands of civilians” have been killed in the last three years.

With a smile on his face, Nasrallah said Saudi allegations that Hizbullah possessed advanced ballistic missiles were “absurd” and “cannot be taken seriously”. He repeated that Hizbullah “did not provide any ballistic missiles, any advanced weapons, or even a pistol to any Arab country, whether Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain or Kuwait”. He added that the only two countries Hizbullah provided weapons to were Gaza, Palestine, who were provided with powerful Russian-made Korent anti-tank missiles to target Israel, “something that I proudly confirm”, and Syria, where Hizbullah troops have been providing support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad over the past seven years.

He added: “I categorically deny it. Not a single fighter from Lebanese Hizbullah had any part in the firing of this missile or any missiles fired previously, or any missiles that will be fired.”

According to a recently-leaked confidential brief by members of a UN Security Council-appointed panel of experts, Saudi Arabia has failed to provide evidence proving its claims that Iran or any other party transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in violation of Security Council resolutions. Likewise, the panel analysed possible supply routes for sending large shipping containers containing ballistic missiles and found that any such shipment would stand a very high chance of being intercepted.

Nasrallah questioned why Arab ministers failed to call for a peaceful resolution to the war in Yemen: “Ask Saudi Arabia to stop the crushing of children’s bones and its massacres... Press for a political solution; this blatant and suspicious silence in the Islamic world is unacceptable.”

Addressing the Arab and Muslim people, Nasrallah said: “You can listen to Israeli comments on coordination between them and some Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia... There are Arab countries that want to forge ties with Israel — namely Saudi Arabia. The interview by the Israeli army chief-of-staff to a Saudi website, Elaph [last week], is a dangerous development for the Palestinians.”

Continuing, Nasrallah discussed last week’s reports suggesting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was delivered an ultimatum earlier this month by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to accept a yet-to-be-revealed White House “peace plan” favouring Israeli interests or resign. He was also instructed to halt the ongoing rapprochement process between Palestinian factions Hamas and the Fatah movement.

“There is pressure on the Palestinians to accept dictates that will kill the Palestinian issue under what some are calling the ‘deal of the century,’” Nasrallah said, in reference to US President Donald Trump’s “peace initiative”.

Meanwhile, a member of Hamas’ politburo sparked controversy after announcing that a meeting of Palestinian factions in Cairo would discuss rejecting to classify Hizbullah a terrorist organisation.

While praising Hizbullah’s involvement in major battlefield victories against IS, Nasrallah noted that he was ready to pull Hizbullah’s fighters back from Iraq after the Sunni extremists lost the town of Rawa near the border with Syria.

“We consider that the mission has been accomplished, but we are waiting for the final Iraqi announcement of victory,” he said. Nasrallah said Hizbullah had deployed “large numbers of our commanders and cadres” to Iraq and would gladly return home or stay to assist their Iraqi allies if needed.

This past weekend, the Syrian Arab Army and allied militia ousted IS from Albu Kamal, the last town IS terrorists had controlled in Syria.

“Today, with the liberation of the last pocket... of Albu Kamal, history will mark the end of IS as a state,” Nasrallah said. “We must work to attack the remnants of IS because it is a cancerous entity that can return.”

Continuing, Nasrallah claimed what he described as US military support for IS, an allegation Russia and Turkey have also made in recent weeks.

Nasrallah accused the US Air Force of securing aerial coverage for IS, allowing the extremists to manoeuvre openly in US-controlled territory in Syria while preventing Russian jets from targeting the group east of the Euphrates. He also said the US has provided coordinates to the group, provided helicopter evacuation for IS leaders and facilitated the withdrawal of combatants to conflict zones in Syria where IS could be used to fight government troops.

“This is a scandal for the US administration and this has become exposed, as Turkey’s president has accused the US of supporting IS financially.”

Shifting to Lebanese domestic affairs, Nasrallah discussed the issue of prime minister Saad Al-Hariri, whose sudden resignation earlier this month from Riyadh and extended stay in the city prompted accusations that Al-Hariri was being held “hostage” by Saudi authorities. He added that the best thing Riyadh could do was to “leave Lebanon alone” and to stop “sending us extremists from Al-Qaeda and similar organisations”.

Nasrallah said he did not consider Al-Hariri’s resignation to be final adding that all Lebanese factions were awaiting Al-Hariri’s scheduled return Wednesday. “The priority is the return of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to Lebanon,” he said.

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