By Chloe Benoist
The axis of resistance will achieve victory against its opponents in Lebanon and in Syria, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Sunday.
“The project against the resistance is crumbling. The resistance axis will achieve victory,” he told a cheering crowd in a televised speech. “We pledge to all our leaders […] our martyrs, our umma and our people that we will stay in our perseverance and achieve victory.”
The speech, celebrating the fourteenth anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation, touched on the current security and political situations in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Speaking of Hezbollah’s victory in 2000, when Israeli forces left southern Lebanon after nearly two decades of occupation, Nasrallah said the resistance group’s power of deterrence was responsible for preventing major Israeli action in Lebanon.
“We gather here on the occasion of the victory on May 25, 2000. Repercussions of this victory still exist on both sides of the front,” he said. “This achievement is a Lebanese, Arab and Islamic achievement.”
“We respect the great sacrifices made by our people, and stress that this achievement is a result of all these sacrifices,” he added. “This victory did not come for free.”
“Deterrence is the only way to protect Lebanon and its resources,” Nasrallah said. “The resistance is working day and night to develop this deterrent capability.”
“There is no point where there will be ‘enough’ deterrent capability. Israel has one of the strongest armies in the world.”
While Nasrallah noted an increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, as well as numerous incidents along the border involving kidnappings of Lebanese shepherds and destruction of Lebanese property and crops, he attributed it to Israeli fear.
“This is an expression of Israeli anger. Their entity is based on humiliating and insulting. They can’t stand seeing people across the border living with their heads held high,” he said.
“Their army is more afraid than it causes fear,” he added. “We can see how they rely on shields, unmanned vehicles. They are afraid to that extent. Israeli leaders and its population are afraid of the readiness of this resistance.”
“The resistance possesses the capability, the wisdom to prevent any realities the enemy wants to impose in the region.”
Switching to Syria, Nasrallah hailed its governments under both presidents Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, saying Syria was “the heart of Arabism” and one of the few steadfast opponents of Israel in the region.
“Syria was and still is the country that has the honor of not having any kind of ties with Israel,” he said.
The Hezbollah leader spoke of a recurrent “project” by Israel and its international supporters to destroy the resistance axis – consisting of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran – in the Middle East.
“The US and those who support them are sending weapons and political cover to takfiris from all over the world and bringing them to Syria,” he said. “They do so in order to destroy the resistance axis against Israel.”
However, he claimed, the efforts to dismantle the Syrian regime have been unsuccessful.
“There is no doubt that the plot targeting Syria has witnessed a lot of problems and suffered many defeats,” Nasrallah said.
“But Syria has persevered, and the resistance axis has shown cohesion. The other project has not achieved a decisive victory, and it won’t.”
“The battlefield of this project is now in Syria, but Syria will achieve victory. They won’t impose their ideas on us,” he added. “The time will come when people will discover that Syria was able to fend off dangers and catastrophes. Even the governments who conspired against Syria will come to regret their actions and thank Syria for its perseverance.”
As in previous speeches, Nasrallah pointed out that international efforts to fund the Syrian rebels have already backfired.
“One factor [in the resistance’s struggle] is uncovering the true face of the armed groups in Syria. It is now clear that these groups are threatening everyone, even the ones of funded them,” he said.
Nasrallah came out in support of the upcoming Syrian presidential elections, in which Bashar al-Assad is widely expected to win against the two other candidates, who are largely unknown.
He denounced the Syrian opposition’s position against the elections, saying the rebels were trying to intimidate potential voters.
“They are trying to prevent elections in Syria,” he said. “They are threatening attacks, saying anyone who participates in the elections will be executed, even those who don’t vote for Assad.”
“For groups like the Al-Nusra Front, the elections are not only forbidden, they are heresy. Why impose your belief on others?” Nasrallah added.
Nasrallah ended his speech by discussing the current political situation in Lebanon, Sunday marking the beginning of a political vacuum in the country as parliamentarians failed to elect a president before the May 25 deadline.
Without directly naming Lebanese Forces leader and presidential candidate Samir Geagea, Nasrallah accused the March 14 coalition, which opposes Hezbollah, of knowingly championing a controversial candidate who could never be elected.
“This candidacy [Geagea’s] aims to prevent the discussion of a serious candidacy from the other side [March 14],” he said. “The other side never aimed to elect a president before May 25. Their goal was to extend the president [incumbent Michel Suleiman]’s term.”
“There was never an opportunity to elect a new president, just an opportunity to extend the term.”
March 8, the other main political bloc, has not officially nominated another candidate for the presidency.
“We hear people say we are behind the political vacuum. When it comes to rumors and accusations, everyone can say what they want,” Nasrallah said.
“You can hold us responsible, but it’s no simple issue. It’s an issue of national responsibility.”
Nasrallah called for continued dialogue to find a president.
“This is a difficult period, but people can’t lose their temper,” he added. “We must maintain civil peace and continue dialogue nationally.”
“We want a president as soon as possible,” he said. “There is still a real opportunity to elect a strong president who can maintain stability, enjoy real support and unite all sides.”
“We are humble in our goals. We want a president who does not conspire against the Resistance, who doesn’t stab us in the back,” Nasrallah added. “We’re not looking for a president who protects the Resistance.”
“Otherwise, we have no difficult conditions. Such an opportunity exists.”