Hezbollah leader Nasrallah accuses Saudi Arabia of terrorism
Beirut - Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese armed party Hezbollah, accused Saudi Arabia of terrorism in a speech on Monday night, saying the “ideology of ISIS” came from the Gulf country.
Nasrallah claimed that Saudi Arabia and the US were complicit in spreading “Wahabi ideology” throughout the region, and that Riyadh “cheered” when IS took control of parts of Iraq in 2014.
“[Saudi Arabia] sent its youth to kill Iraqi men and women and children in suicide operations, but Iran sent its men and youth to be killed in defense of Iraqi men, women and children,” Nasrallah said.
Lebanese PM Najib Mikati put out a statement after the speech, distancing the government from Nasrallah’s comments.
“While we call for Hezbollah to be a part of the diverse Lebanese nation and to demonstrate Lebanese affiliation, its leadership opposes this call with positions that harm the Lebanese and Lebanon’s relations with fraternal countries,” Mikati said.
“For God’s sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese and stop the hateful political and sectarian rhetoric,” he added.
The militia leader’s fiery rhetoric came as Lebanon continues to reel from a diplomatic crisis with four Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia expelled the Lebanese ambassador in October, after former Minister of Information Youssef Kordahi had made a comment condemning Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.
The Gulf represents a huge export market for Lebanon. Exports to the four Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE) who objected to Kordahi’s comments were valued at $1.1 billion at their peak in 2019. The foreign currency earned from those exports are sorely needed for Lebanon, whose national currency has lost over 90 percent of its value since 2019.
The crisis with the Gulf has cooled somewhat since the Lebanese information minister resigned, though tensions remain over Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon.
In recent weeks, Mikati has been keen to demonstrate his cooperation with Gulf countries according to their priorities, ordering the deportation of Bahraini dissidents from Beirut and publicizing drug busts destined for the Gulf.
Nasrallah objected to the accusation that Hezbollah was jeopardizing Lebanon’s relations with the Arab Gulf.
“Now someone will say, sir, you are coming back to sabotage our relationship with Saudi Arabia … Who started the assault? Who started the war? Who is the one plotting? They are the ones plotting,” Nasrallah said on Monday.
Nasrallah’s speech also commemorated the second anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' expeditionary Quds Force. Suleimani was assassinated by drone strike in Baghdad on 3 January 2020, under orders by then-US President Donald Trump.