Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Syrian opposition figures have rejected Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s recent statement, in which he denied that elements from his group are involved in the fighting in Syria. According to members of the Syrian opposition, “The funerals of Hezbollah elements refute Nasrallah’s claim that his men are not involved in the fighting in Syria, alongside the Syrian regime”. They also stressed that the opposition has not issued threats to any Lebanese entity [as alleged by Nasrallah], and hoped that “the Lebanese will remain neutral”.
George Sabra, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, explained that Hezbollah’s participation in the fighting “needs no further evidence since the party has held funerals for its men who have been killed in Syria”. He asked: “Why were these men in Syria?” In response to Nasrallah’s assertion that these were Lebanese nationals who had been living in Syria for many years, and who recently found themselves in the eye of the storm, Sabra told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this is a story [Nasrallah] is using to justify his involvement in the conflict alongside the Syrian regime”. He pointed out that “even if Hezbollah denies its participation, it is implicated by virtue of Iran’s involvement in the conflict, something Tehran has admitted. Needless to say any Iranian war is certainly Hezbollah’s war as well”.
Sabra voiced his hope that the Lebanese “will continue to keep their distance from the ongoing conflict in Syria, maintain their neutrality, and not follow this thorny path.” He stressed that “the revolution and its noble goals will liberate the Lebanese – along with the Syrians – from this bloodthirsty and security-driven regime, which has dominated Lebanese politics for decades.”
There had been earlier reports that some Syrian opposition members had threatened to take the battle to [Beirut’s] southern suburbs, to which Nasrallah responded that threats or intimidation would be of no use against Hezbollah, given its longstanding experience. However, Sabra rejected these threats “to the Lebanese or anyone else,” stressing that “the Syrian people are not focusing on anything that could distract them from their main goal of overthrowing the Syrian regime and its President Bashar al-Assad”. He said: “We want to spare the region from the language of threats, which security regimes have long endorsed, particularly al-Assad’s regime.” He said: “We do not seek to threaten anyone. Neither the revolutionaries nor any Free Syrian Army member would possibly threaten the Lebanese”. He added: “The revolution shuns the language of threats and intimidation, which both the Lebanese and Syrians have experienced.”
For his part, Bassam Jaarah, the official spokesman for the Syrian Revolution General Commission, said: “A ‘resistance’ party should never get involved in a dirty war waged by a regime against its own people”. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone, he went on to say that: “If Hezbollah persists in waging this war, as Nasrallah is threatening, then this will lead to severe repercussions for the party”. Furthermore, “it will be tantamount to a major catastrophe for the Lebanese, the Syrians, and the region. Everyone will perceive Hezbollah as a sectarian militia that kills Syrians”.
Regarding Nasrallah’s claim that Hezbollah is not participating in the conflict, Jaarah equated this to al-Assad’s denial that his army is killing children and committing crimes. He pointed out that “Hezbollah elements were seen fighting in rural Homs, and this is no secret. Lebanese Hezbollah members have fought alongside the Syrian regime in the villages adjacent to the Lebanese border”. Addressing Nasrallah, Jaarah pointed out that: “The people of Al-Qaseer, who hosted their Lebanese brethren during the July 2006 war, do not deserve to be bombarded by Hezbollah and for it to participate against them in a dirty war.”
Jaarah said that Hezbollah “did not make the decision to participate in the war alongside the Syrian regime”. He said that this was up to the “Wali al-Faqih in Iran, and Hezbollah merely carried out its decision to fight alongside elements of the Revolutionary Guard, whose presence in Syria has already been revealed.” He called on Nasrallah “not to get himself and his party embroiled in a battle that is not theirs”. He stressed that Hezbollah’s continued participation in the conflict alongside the Syrian regime would “affect future relationships between Lebanon and Syria, and between the various sects that live in both countries”. Jaarah sought to point out that “Bashar al-Assad’s downfall will not mean the end of the resistance”, noting that “the Syrians have fought in Palestine since the 1930s”.
Meanwhile, a leading source in the Syrian opposition said: “Our dealings with Hezbollah now depend on its political stance towards the Syrian crisis, a stance that currently supports the Syrian regime as it kills its own people”.