Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called on Lebanon to unite against the Islamist threat coming from Syria during a speech on Sunday evening, adding that such groups thrive on sectarian strife.
Nasrallah also discussed the recent formation of a Lebanese government after a ten-month political vacuum, as well as the resistance against Israel during a speech commemorating fallen members of Hezbollah.
Referring to Islamist fighters operating in Syria and staging attacks in Lebanon, Nasrallah said these groups were a danger to all who didn’t abide by their belief system.
“Takfiris are present all over the region and they spill the blood of everyone against them, regardless of religion, even Sunnis,” he said. “This slaughtering is not the religion of God.”
He accused such groups – some of whom having claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Lebanon – of trying to sow sectarian discord among the Lebanese.
“Any action that serves sectarian sedition serves takfiri goals,” Nasrallah said. “Takfiris want us to target our Sunni brothers, but this won’t happen.”
The Hezbollah leader rejected accusations that the bomb attacks which have hit Lebanon since July were a reaction to the resistance group’s involvement in the Syrian conflict at the government’s side.
Pointing to attacks in northern Lebanon prior to Hezbollah sending fighters in Syria, Nasrallah argued that the Islamist groups saw Lebanon as a “battleground for victory.”
“It was only a matter of time before they came here” in Lebanon, he said.
Drawing parallels to similar critiques of Hezbollah during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon between 1982 and 2000, Nasrallah said that the movement’s actions were critical in assuring the withdrawal of Israel.
“If we had listened to [these criticisms], Israel would have still been in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and it would have gone all the way north, occupied our land and water,” he said.
Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, he claimed, is similarly necessary to prevent an expansion of Islamist groups into Lebanon.
“If the takfiris take over the [Lebanese-Syrian] border, they will continue car bombs and suicide bombings because that is their mindset,” he said. “This danger threatens all Lebanese, whether they believe it or not.”
“The battle will require sacrifices just like the resistance against Israel, and here too we will be victorious.”
Nasrallah brought up several countries supporting the Syrian opposition on the ground, who have begun to restrict their citizens from fighting in Syria out of fear of extremism.
“Saudi Arabia has realized that when these people come back, it will be a catastrophe, just like after Afghanistan” in the 1980s, he said.
Nasrallah criticized Lebanon’s ongoing policy of official disassociation from the Syrian conflict.
“I ask the Lebanese, if all these countries far away from Syria have the right to be concerned about their youths there, why don’t we have the right to take measures when we are neighbors to the conflict and suffer its consequences?” he said. “Don’t we have the right to fight back?”
Nasrallah saluted the efforts of the Lebanese security and intelligence forces who have arrested militants and dismantled several car bombs in the past week, and reiterated calls to neutralize such militant groups in Lebanon.
”This is a settlement government”
Nasrallah then discussed the government lineup established by Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Saturday after ten months of power vacuum in Lebanon.
However, he rejected accusations that Hezbollah had contributed to the lengthy political stalemate.
“We (Hezbollah) always said that we support national partnership in Lebanon, even with our opponents,” he said.
“What prevented the formation of the government was not disputes around portfolios. The other side was obstructing the process and accused us of obstructing ourselves.”
“After ten months of calling on Hezbollah to be left out (of the government), they have now made a concession, and that is a good thing,” he added. “But we were the ones who made the most concessions. We didn’t discuss portfolios until the end because that wasn’t our priority.”
“We don’t consider this to be a national unity government because not all factions are included. This is a settlement government,” he said.
However, Nasrallah expressed hopes for the new cabinet.
“Maybe this government can break the rivalries and decrease the tensions in the country,” he said. “We want partnership, we want cooperation and we want to protect Lebanon from waves of sedition.”
“What’s most important is the bigger political process. We never wanted a power vacuum.”
”To all those who have Palestine in their hearts”
Nasrallah reiterated his movement’s commitment to the resistance against Israel, marking the issue’s importance.
“I want to speak today about Israel, even if some say it is not a priority right now,” he said. “The United States and Israel don’t want Palestine to be a main priority for Arabs.”
“ Israel is a threat to all Lebanese, regardless of sect. But Israel knows that Hezbollah is not scared of it and is ready to fight it.”
Nasrallah called upon Arab nations and other foreign powers to push for an end to the Syrian conflict for the sake of Palestine and Lebanon.
“To all those nations who have Palestine, Lebanon and Syria in their hearts: end the war in Syria and allow Syrians to reconcile with one another.”