Hezbollah chief: Saudi and Turkey ready to take region to war

Nasrallah warned Sunni leaders in the region that Israel was aiming to manipulate them.

Martyr Leaders ceremony. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

BEIRUT – Hezbollah’s leader has blasted growing rhetoric from Turkish and Saudi leaders over the possibility of intervening in the Syrian war, warning that both countries were prepared to drag the region into war.

“The Saudis and the Turk want to establish a foothold in Syria, and they are ready to take the region to war in order to achieve their interests,” Sayyed Hassn Nasrallah said in a Tuesday night address delivered on the occasion of honoring his party’s “martyr leaders.”

“Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s bets on terrorist groups are not guaranteed to yield results, so they started talking about entering on the ground [in Syria] under the auspices of the ‘international coalition’,” he added during a fiery speech in which he repeatedly warned about “conspiracies” facilitated by Israel against Syria.

Nasrallah further claimed that Turkey and Saudi Arabia believe that intervening in the Syrian civil war would give them a stronger negotiation position in talks regarding the conflict in which Hezbollah has thrown its military weight behind the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The Hezbollah chief’s speech comes on the heels of public statements by Saudi and Turkish officials regarding the possibility of both their countries entering Syria as pro-regime forces continue to inflict defeats against rebel factions.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavuslogu over the weekend was quoted in the Turkish press as saying that Ankara and Riyadh were coordinating plans regarding a military move in Syria. He also said that Saudi was dispatching F-16 fighters to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase near the Syrian border.

Riyadh, for its part, announced Friday that it had taken an “irreversible” decision to deploy ground troops against ISIS in Syria, however the Gulf Kingdom has since softened its hardline stance, saying it the decision was in the hands of the US-led coalition fighting the transnational jihadist group.   

The Hezbollah chief directed much of his ire against Israel, saying in his speech that the country was aiming to take advantage of sectarian tensions to manipulate Sunni leaders in the region.

Nasrallah said that political, and not sectarian, conflicts were affecting the region, arguing further that Israel benefitted from labeling regional tensions along Sunni-Shiite lines.

He questioned how Arab leaders could enjoy closer ties with Israel when it was occupying Palestine, launching a broadside against unnamed leaders by calling them “agents.” The Hezbollah chief also claimed that Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all found it mutually beneficial to prevent Assad from staying in power.

“You can consider Iran to be a foe, but how can you consider Israel to be a friend,” Nasrallah said.

The Hezbollah chief also returned to his usual threats against his arch-foe southern neighbors, boasting at the end of his speech that his party possessed “advanced weapons” allowing it to prevent Israel from achieving a quick victory.

Nasrallah said that Tel Aviv would not dare launch a war it could not easily win against Hezbollah, touting that “there is no need to fear an Israeli war.”

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