Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of putting the squeeze on Lebanon to end his party’s criticisms of Saudi policy.
“Saudi Arabia is angry with Hezbollah since it is daring to say what only a few others dare to say against its royal family,” Nasrallah said in one of his most scathing critiques of Riyadh to date.
But Nasrallah rejected accusations that Riyadh’s decision to halt $4 billion in military aid was motivated by positions taken by Hezbollah or Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a party ally.
“We have information that shows the decision to halt the aid was made after the death of King Abdullah more than one year ago,” Nasrallah said. “They didn’t want to give us the money to begin with.”
Hezbollah and Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, were merely scapegoats in Riyadh’s strategy to silence dissenters, he added.
He said if Saudi Arabia had a problem with Hezbollah to take it up with the party itself, and not target Lebanon, its people, army and Hezbollah’s allies.
Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia has been trying to pick a fight with Hezbollah since 2005, but that the party would not give in. It wasn’t until Saudi Arabia launched its war in Yemen that Hezbollah could no longer be silent, he added.
“I am now 57, and I say this with all honesty… The greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life was speak out on the second day of the Saudi war in Yemen, as I am doing now,” he said.
“Even U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon spoke out against the massacres being committed by the Saudi regime in Yemen.”
He also held Saudi Arabia directly responsible for some of the car bombs that have targeted Lebanon, Syria and Iraq since 2003.
He criticized his political rivals who back Riyadh, warning them that whatever aggressive actions Saudi Arabia takes in Yemen, Bahrain or Iraq would also be taken in Lebanon.
“Some in March 14 hope for a Decisive Storm in Lebanon, as if the Decisive Storm on Yemen has even reached its goals,” Nasrallah said, in reference to the name given to the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in the country.
He said that while Hezbollah was calling for dialogue between Bahrain’s factions in the wake of the 2011 crisis in the tiny island kingdom, Saudi Arabia had sent in its tanks to crush the peaceful uprising.
He ridiculed the attempts made by some Lebanese officials to mend ties with Saudi Arabia and assure it of Lebanon’s “Arab identity,” asking why some had all of a sudden come to remember that they were Arabs.
He said Israel and Saudi Arabia were working to cause strife between Sunnis and Shiites wherever they were in the world. Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January aimed to ignite inter-Muslim conflict, he added.
Regarding the street protests Lebanon witnessed over the weekend denouncing a comedy skit mocking Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief urged his supporters not to block roads or take to the streets unless the party issues an official call.
The comedy skit, aired on Saudi-owned MBC, was an attempt to ignite sectarian strife in Lebanon, Nasrallah said.
“Who are we affecting when we cut off roads? We are affecting our own people and causing inconvenience in their neighborhoods, and I ask you to act in a civilized manner next time you hear or see something,” he said.
The acts carried out by young men were merely spontaneous and further raised fears of a possible outbreak of Sunni-Shiite violence. “These acts benefit our enemies and rivals,” he added.
He completely denied rumors that Hezbollah was preparing for an armed confrontation with anyone, saying statements from unknown sources were spreading fears and lies within the Sunni community to exacerbate the tense situation in the country.
Rumors were spread on social media last week that Hezbollah was preparing to invade Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood, a majority Sunni area, and other Sunni areas and Palestinian refugee camps.
He expressed his support to continue with the dialogue between his party and its rival, the Future Movement, saying the talks benefited the country.
“We do not wish to leave, however others are free to do so,” he said. He was referring to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk from Future who said he supported ending the dialogue in a televised interview last week.
Regarding the upcoming municipal elections scheduled for May, Nasrallah said there was a certain side seeking to postpone them under different excuses.
While all parties have said they are with holding the local government polls on time, there are fears that the elections might be postponed as were the legislative elections twice. Parliament extended its own term in 2013 and again in 2014, under the pretext that the security situation was unstable and the absence of a new voting system.