BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanese guerrilla movement Hezbollah said on Saturday his group would stay in the Syrian war “to the end of the road” and bring victory to its ally President Bashar al-Assad.
Hassan Nasrallah, head of the militant Shi‘ite Muslim group, said in a televised speech that Syria and Lebanon were facing a threat from radical Sunni Islamists, which he argued was a plot devised by the United States and its allies to serve Israel’s interests in the region.
“We will not rely on anyone ... like all the battles before this one: We will be its people, its men, and we will be the ones who bring it victory,” he said, speaking from an undisclosed location.
“We will continue to the end of the road, we accept this responsibility and will accept all sacrifices and expected consequences of this position,” he said in the televised footage, which showed thousands of cheering people watching him on big screens in the Lebanese town of Mashgara.
Assad comes from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi‘ite Islam. He has been bankrolled by regional Shi‘ite power Iran and now increasingly by Hezbollah, Tehran’s Lebanese proxy which was founded as a resistance movement to Israel.
Violence from the Syrian conflict, which began as a peaceful protest movement but descended into civil war, has increasingly spilled over into Lebanon, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli.
Hezbollah’s participation in a battle at the town of Qusair on the Syrian-Lebanese border risks dragging Lebanon into a conflict that has increasingly become overshadowed by Sunni-Shi‘ite sectarian violence.
Nasrallah for the first time confirmed that his combatants were actively fighting in Syria, and said they had been there for several months. He said Hezbollah was not acting out of sectarian motives but to defend Lebanon from radical groups.
“Syria is no longer a place where there is a popular revolution against a political regime, rather it has become a place for imposing a political plan led by America and the West, and its tools in the region,” he said in a speech to mark the 13th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Reporting by Erika Solomon and Laila Bassam; Editing by Pravin Char