Lebanon News

Nasrallah ‘ready’ to confront Trump

Hezbollah supporters wave flags as they listen to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah in a televised speech in Dahiyeh, Friday, April 13, 2018. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: While acknowledging the unpredictability of whether U.S. President Donald Trump will call for airstrikes inside Syria, Hezbollah’s leader Friday said the group and its allies are ready for anything. Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah also said that Israel committed a “historic mistake” and has now dragged itself into a direct conflict with Iran after last week’s airstrike on the T-4 air base in Syria’s Homs.

In response to an alleged toxic gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma that medics and rescuers said killed at least 40 people on April 8, Trump took to Twitter to threaten to fire “new and smart” missiles at Syria.

“All these tweets and threats ... do not scare Syria, Iran, Russia or any of the resistance movements in the region,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech Friday.

He went on to accuse the U.S. of “deciding to be judge, jury and public prosecutor in determining whether there was a chemical weapons attack, even before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons made a decision.”

Trump later scaled back his original threats, tweeting that he “never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

Nasrallah ridiculed the tweets about the potential strike and said Trump was “ignorant, unaware,” and unpredictable.

He warned the U.S. that they must realize “that if it carries out a war in Syria, it will not be against regimes or armies but against the people of this region.”

Nasrallah claimed there was no proof or logic to the claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies carried out a chemical weapons attack. “Someone who is cornered might use chemicals, but why would someone victorious need to do this?” he said.

However, the Hezbollah leader said fear over the potential for the region to be dragged into a broader conflict was warranted “as long as Donald Trump is in the White House. ... Everyone in the world has the right to be worried.”

At the same time, he was quick to play down any concerns about the role of Hezbollah or its allies.

He said the U.S. has no clear strategic vision for the region. “Just a week ago he [Trump] was talking about [the U.S.] withdrawing from Syria and now he wants a war against Syria. We must know that Trump is a businessman and obsessed with money,” Nasrallah said, citing Trump’s recent meeting at the White House with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The U.S. president displayed posters of purchases and amounts paid for weapons by Riyadh to Washington. “Now he tells Saudi Arabia that if they want the U.S. troops to remain in Syria, they must pay. This means that the American Army is a group of mercenaries,” Nasrallah claimed.

He went on to say the Israeli bombing of the T-4 air base changed the rules of the game in the region.

“The first of two events last week was Israel’s blatant and foolish aggression against the T-4 air base in Homs that killed seven members of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] ... something that has never happened before in the 7-year-old Syrian war,” he said, adding: “I tell the Israelis that with this strike they should know they committed a historic mistake. They took a foolish step and dragged themselves into direct combat with Iran.”

Shortly after the Hezbollah leader’s speech, Israel fired back at Nasrallah and Iran, claiming an Iranian drone shot down inside Israel in February was on a mission to attack the Jewish state.

Israel’s military spokesperson Avichay Adraee tweeted that an investigation carried out on the drone showed that on Feb. 10, 2018 “the aircraft was loaded with explosive materials and intended to carry out a subversive operation inside Israeli territory.” – With agencies

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 14, 2018, on page 2.

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