Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned of the threat posed to Lebanon by Islamist fighters in the Syrian conflict on Saturday.
In a televised speech, Nasrallah discussed Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, as well as the criticisms leveled against the resistance movement within Lebanon.
“If takfiris achieve victory in Syria, we would all be eliminated in Lebanon, not just the resistance,” he said, as his speech was broadcast to an audience commemorating the opening of a cultural center in south Lebanon.
Nasrallah said that Hezbollah had advocated for a political solution to the Syrian conflict from the beginning, a position which he said countries backing the Syrian opposition were just beginning to support.
“From the beginning we said we wanted a political solution, whereas the Arab League wanted to topple Assad,” he said. “Did it need three years of destruction for the Arab League to make a decision it should have done from the beginning?”
“Now after three years of armament, incitement and sabotage, they are putting together terrorist lists and putting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other takfiri groups on them.”
The Syrian conflict, which recently entered its third year, has killed more than 100,000 and displaced millions of Syrians, both internally and in neighboring countries. The United Nations stopped updating its estimated death toll in July, saying it no longer had sufficient reliable sources.
“What is happening in Syria is no longer about reform and democracy,” Nasrallah said. “The armed takfiris are now fighting each other, and thousands of victims have paid the price.”
Speaking of Hezbollah’s military involvement alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that “this axis is not looking for revenge, it is looking for peace.”
Hezbollah, he said, intervened in the conflict for the first time in Ghouta, in order to protect the shrine of Zeinab, prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter.
Nasrallah compared Hezbollah’s protection of Zeinab’s shrine with Turkey, which recently threatened to intervene in Syria should anything happen to the shrine of an ancestor of the founder of the Ottoman empire.
“Turkey says that it has the right to protect a shrine in Syria from ISIS fighters,” he said. “Why is Turkey allowed to do this and not us?”
“Our stance in Syria is political, not military. We intervened late,” he added.
Nasrallah rebuffed critiques within Lebanon of its involvement in Syria, calling for a change in positions.
“I’m not going to tell you (Lebanese opponents) to come fight with us in Syria, but to re-evaluate your stance,” he said.
Nasrallah added that certain political groups, which he did not name, had offered to join Hezbollah in Syria, but that Hezbollah had turned them down, saying there was “no need” for additional fighters.
The Hezbollah leader reiterated the group’s commitment to fighting alongside the Syrian government.
“We didn’t bow down to this (opposition) campaign because it poses a strategic existential threat to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine,” he said.
Nasrallah dismissed statements by March 14 politicians attacking the role of the resistance in Lebanon.
“The three-way equation established Lebanon as an important player in the region,” he said, referring to the army, the people and the Resistance. “You who speak about the failure of the three-way equation, but tell me how you succeeded in protecting Lebanon?”
Nasrallah chalked up opposition to Hezbollah as a long-standing hostility towards the resistance in Lebanon.
“Some have a problem with the Resistance because its fighters are Shia, but did you use to support them when they were secular fighters?” he asked, noting that the Lebanese resistance against Israel began in 1948 and was then mainly composed of nationalist secular parties.
“Ever since the foundation of the Zionist entity, there has been a debate on the resistance.”
“This resistance will remain solid, with its head hung high, protecting its people and its nation,” he added.
However, Nasrallah added that animosity against Hezbollah since the formation of a new cabinet could affect its decision to participate in Lebanese political dialogue.
“Regarding the national dialogue, I don’t want to declare a stance, but this way of thinking will impact Hezbollah’s decision to participate in the national dialogue,” he said. “But Hezbollah’s decision won’t affect its allies’ decision to participate.”