Fault lines in the Syria crisis
Hizbullah Will Defend Syrian Regime Even at Price of Sparking War with Israel
By Naharnet Newsdesk
Lebanon must not hesitate in supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, because backing it has major “strategic and fateful” repercussions, sources close to Hizbullah told the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper in remarks published on Sunday.
They said: “Hizbullah will not allow the fall of the Assad regime even if it means launching a war with Israel.”
This position echoed Israeli fears that a war with the party may be ignited in order to divert attention from the current developments in Syria, said the newspaper.
The Israeli leadership is mulling “the need to issue an open threat to Hizbullah as part of a wider strategy adopted by the Israeli government.”
“This strategy aims at deterring Hizbullah and Iran from carrying out any attack against Israeli targets,” stated several sources, including the Jerusalem Post.
The Hizbullah sources did not rule out the possibility of “surprises emerging, aimed at turning attention away from the Syrian crisis.”
“Should such a surprise take place, it would shift the international community’s priorities in the region,” they stressed.
On January 14, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that Lebanon should disavow itself from developments in Syria as the crisis will have negative repercussions on the situation locally.
“We call on the Syrian opposition to abide by Assad’s demands to engage in dialogue and cooperate with him to introduce reform that would resolve the country’s problems,” he stated.
During a speech in December, he voiced his support for the Syrian regime, while saying that his party backs reform and efforts to eradicate corruption in the neighboring country.
Nasrallah stressed, however, that “some people want to destroy Syria,” they reject dialogue, and they seek to “compensate their loss in Iraq.”
The Hizbullah chief accused the West of seeking to bring a new regime in Syria that would be disloyal to Arabs.
Revolutionary Guards exercises follow threats by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against US and Israel
Staff and agencies, guardian.co.uk
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are carrying out military exercises amid rising tensions over the country’s nuclear programme and rumours of a possible strike by Israel or the US.
The manoeuvres in southern Iran involve ground forces and follow threats by the Islamic regime to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in retaliation to western sanctions.
The show of military strength also follows a warning by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that any military strike by the US or Israel would only make Iran stronger. Khamenei also pledged that Iran will help any nation or group that confronts the “cancer” Israel,
He affirmed that Iran had assisted militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas – a well-known policy, but one that Iranian leaders rarely acknowledge explicitly.
“We have intervened in anti-Israel matters, and it brought victory in the 33-day war by Hezbollah against Israel in 2006, and in the 22-day war” between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, he said.
Israel’s large-scale military incursion against Hamas in 2008-09 in Gaza ended in a ceasefire, with Israel claiming to have inflicted heavy damage on the militant organisation. The war in Lebanon ended with a UN-brokered truce that sent thousands of Lebanese troops and international peacekeepers into southern Lebanon to prevent another outbreak.
“From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this,” said Khamenei. He said Israel was a “cancerous tumour that should be cut and will be cut”.
His speech followed suggestions by Israel that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to halt the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he wasn’t surprised by Khamenei’s remarks. “It’s the same kind of hate speech that we’ve been seeing from Iran for many years now,” Yigal Palmor said.
Khamenei said the US would suffer defeat and lose standing in the region if Washington decided to use military force.
“Iran will not withdraw. Then what happens?” asked Khamenei. “In conclusion, the west’s hegemony and threats will be discredited” in the Middle East. “The hegemony of Iran will be promoted. In fact, this will be in our service.”
Western forces have recently bolstered their naval presence in the Gulf led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Last month, Iran’s navy carried out 10 days of exercises in the Gulf. The manoeuvres by the Revolutionary Guard, under the direct control of Khamenei, were announced by Iranian state media.