Flags of Hezbollah, Assad's Syria 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)
BEIRUT - Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite militant movement Hezbollah, said on Sunday the rebels in Syria could not emerge victorious from the 21-month-long uprising against President Bashar Assad.
Nasrallah, a staunch ally of Assad, said: "The situation in Syria is getting more complicated (but) anyone who thinks the armed opposition can settle the situation on the ground is very very very mistaken." Syrian rebels accuse the Shi'ite Muslim group of sending fighters to neighboring Syria to help Assad overcome the largely Sunni Muslim revolt. Hezbollah denies these accusations.
The uprising started as peaceful demonstrations calling for greater freedoms but turned into an armed insurgency largely in response to heavy crackdown and attacks by Assad forces.
The revolt pits majority Sunnis against Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. With Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian tensions smouldering in the region, Syria's conflict has drawn Sunni radicals from elsewhere into rebel ranks.
But Nasrallah, whose Shi'ite movement is despised by Sunni hardliners, said the West and some allied Arab countries had lured al-Qaida-affiliated fighters into Syria to be killed.
"I warn al-Qaida: the Americans and the European countries and Arab and Islamic countries have set a trap for you in Syria, and opened for you a battlefield so you come from across the world ... to be killed and to kill each other..."
Alarmed by the growing strength and influence of al Qaeda-inspired fighters in Syria, the United States has put the al-Nusra Front on its official blacklist of terrorist organizations, angering many Syrian rebel brigades.