Hezbollah throws its support to Syria
The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia on Saturday vowed to help propel President Bashar Assad to victory in Syria's bloody civil war, warning that the fall of the Damascus regime would give rise to extremists and plunge the Middle East into a “dark period.”
In a televised address, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah members are fighting in Syria against Islamic radicals who pose a danger to Lebanon, and pledged that his group will not allow Syrian rebels to control areas along the Lebanese border. He pledged that Hezbollah will turn the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor and stay as long as necessary.
“We will continue this road until the end, we will take the responsibility, and we will make all the sacrifices,” he said. “We will be victorious.”
The Hezbollah leader's comments offered the clearest public confirmation yet that the Iranian-backed group is directly involved in Syria's war.
Hezbollah has been designated as a global terrorist by the United States since 1995 for a long history of terrorist attacks against American citizens and officials, including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in the 1980s. Last week, Britain, Germany and France announced that they would pressure the European Union to put the “military wing” of Hezbollah on the European Union's terrorist list.
Hezbollah fighters recently pushed to the front lines of the battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese frontier.
The fighting in Qusair, which government troops backed by Hezbollah pounded with artillery on Saturday, has laid bare the Lebanese Shiite group's growing role in the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah initially tried to play down its involvement but no longer could do so after dozens of its fighters were killed in the town and buried in large funerals in Lebanon.
Nasrallah, who was speaking on the anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, used his speech in part to brace the community for the possibility of more of its men returning home in coffins.
The fight in Qusair has proved to be a deadly grind for both sides. Government forces backed by Hezbollah militants shelled the town in the heaviest barrage yet of a weeklong assault to dislodge rebels from the opposition stronghold, activists said.
Since the regime offensive began Wednesday, Syrian state media has said government forces have steadily gained ground.
Local activists deny that pro-Assad forces have made headway and say rebel fighters are defending their positions.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 30 people, including 27 rebels, were killed and dozens wounded Saturday in the town, which holds strategic importance for both the regime and the opposition.
For Assad, Qusair's value lies in its location along a land corridor linking two of his strongholds, the capital of Damascus and towns on the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. For the rebels, holding Qusair means protecting a supply line to Lebanon, six miles away.
Hezbollah has come under harsh criticism at home and abroad for sending its gunmen to Qusair, and Nasrallah's gamble in Syria primarily stems from his group's vested interest in the Assad regime's survival. The Syrian government has been one of Hezbollah's strongest backers for decades, and the militant group fears that if the regime falls, it will be replaced by a U.S.-backed government that will be hostile to Hezbollah.
Nasrallah defended his group's deepening involvement and sought to frame the fight next door as part of a broader battle against Israel.
“Syria is the back of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand, arms folded while its back is broken,” Nasrallah told thousands of supporters from a secret location via a video link.
“If Syria falls into the hand of America, Israel and takfiris, the resistance (Hezbollah) will be besieged and Israel will enter Lebanon and impose its will,” Nasrallah said.
Takfiri Islamists refers to an ideology that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel.
Syria's fall, he said, would mean “Palestine will be lost” and “the people of our region and its nations will enter a bad and dark period.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PLO offers truce as at least 100 killed in Gaza
- Shelling adds to mounting civilian toll in Ukraine
- Syrian casualties surge amid rise in attacks by Islamic State
- Libya torn by worst fighting since 2011 revolution
- Israeli leader signals no quick end to Gaza conflict
- Israel targets sites linked to Hamas
- Kurd elected president of Iraq
- Iraq’s split into 3 states becomes a reality