Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
(photo credit: ALMANAR)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave yet another speech on Wednesday in an effort to motivate Shi’ite supporters in Lebanon to help keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.
“The party that has fought and experienced wars can lead to victory,” Nasrallah said, according to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International website.
In a speech honoring the memory of a Shi’ite cleric, Nasrallah said “new milestones were opened” for Muslims following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Nasrallah sees Shi’ite Iran and its leading cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as the spiritual authority, and perceives the struggle against Sunni powers in the sectarian regional war as a continuation and spreading of the revolutionary ideology of the Iranian regime.
The joint struggle to maintain Assad in power is Hezbollah’s primary mission at the moment and, through a string of recent speeches, the group’s leader is trying to rally his forces in the face of high casualties and the need for new recruits.
“It is true that I said the day may come when we will have to declare general mobilization.
But I did not declare it,” Nasrallah said in last speech in May, according to MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute) “To all those people, I say: Even if I do not call for general mobilization, if the Hezbollah leadership decides to take to the streets, you will find tens of thousands of men there,” he said.
Tony Badran, a columnist for the Beirut- based website NOW Lebanon and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Nasrallah’s last speech was more significant in terms of his calling Shi’ites to fall into line and the broader context of the Iranian effort to mobilize Shi’ite fighters to protect Assad.
The Hezbollah leader has successfully “framed the Syrian war as existential for the Shia of Lebanon,” Badran said.
This has included drawing in Christians by insinuating that if Hezbollah fails and Assad falls, they, too, would be slaughtered by jihadists.
The current battle in the Syrian-Lebanese border region of Qalamoun is key for ensuring Assad’s survival and for securing an Iranian protectorate in western Syria contiguous with Lebanon, he added.
Consolidating this enclave has been Iran’s strategy since late 2012.
Hezbollah’s support has been crucial to Assad in the four-year-long Syrian conflict.
Its operation in Qalamoun is part of Assad’s effort to shore up his control over western Syria.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah said Wednesday it seized ground from jihadists near the Lebanon- Syria border, widening its joint offensive with the Syrian army to try to clear the area of militant groups including al-Qaida’s Syrian wing.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group said in a statement that its fighters had seized three hilltops in the mountainous area east of the Lebanese town of Arsal, the target of an incursion last August by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and Islamic State.
Reuters contributed to this
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