Beirut, Lebanon – Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has accused Saudi Arabia of exporting ISIL (ISIS) ideology and transporting cars rigged with explosives for suicide attacks to Iraq.
In a televised speech on Monday, he addressed Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
“Your Majesty, the terrorist is who exported the Daesh ideology to the world,” Nasrallah said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
“The terrorist is the one who sent thousands of Saudis to conduct suicide operations in Iraq and Syria, and it’s you.”
Nasrallah also slammed the kingdom for its close ties with the United States and for the military campaign it is leading in Yemen.
Nasrallah’s comments came in response to political opponents and critics in Lebanon who criticised the Iran-backed party for damaging ties between the cash-strapped country and Saudi Arabia.
“We didn’t attack Saudi Arabia. They were involved in the greater conspiracy that was destroying the region,” the Hezbollah leader said.
Following the speech, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said in a statement Nasrallah’s comments did not reflect the government’s position and a broad segment of the population. It added the government was committed to dissociating from regional conflicts, and urged all political forces to cooperate to get the country out of its economic crisis.
“While we call for Hezbollah to be part of Lebanon’s diverse affiliation, its leadership is in opposition to this trend with positions that first harm the Lebanese and secondly Lebanon’s relations with its brothers,” the statement read. “For God’s sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese, and stop the hateful political and sectarian charge.”
Lebanon is struggling to resolve a diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which have been critical of Hezbollah for their role in Yemen and other regional conflicts.
In October, the Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors, and Saudi Arabia banned all Lebanese exports, after a video surfaced of the then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in a speech last week called on Lebanon to stop “the hegemony of terrorist Hezbollah over the Lebanese state”.
Hezbollah has recently come under scrutiny from key allies the Free Patriotic Movement, one of Lebanon’s most important Christian political parties, founded by President Michel Aoun.
Last week, Aoun indirectly criticised Hezbollah for straining relations with Gulf countries by “interfering in matters that do not concern”, as well as its military dominance as an armed group in Lebanon.
Tribute to Soleimani
Nasrallah’s speech marked the second anniversary of the assassination of senior Iranian military official General Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani headed the elite Iranian Quds Force from 1998 until he was assassinated in January 2020 in a United States drone attack near Baghdad international airport.
“The assassination established a new stage of awareness, insight, and knowledge of the main enemy,” Nasrallah said, referring to the US, who he accused of “creating Daesh in Iraq and Syria”.
“The martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani resisted the American occupation of Iraq, contributed to establishing the Iraqi resistance factions, and provided them with money, weapons, strength, hope, and confidence until the great victory and expulsion of the American forces from Iraq,” Nasrallah added.
The Quds Force, the foreign arm of the IRGC, played a key role in the fighting in Syria and Iraq and is responsible for spreading Iranian influence in the Middle East. Soleimani had played a critical role in militarily backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and strengthening ties with Hezbollah, Iraqi paramilitary units Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces), and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, dubbed the “Axis of Resistance”.
With Iran’s support, Hezbollah transformed into a regional paramilitary force that played a crucial role in supporting the Assad government in Syria and Iran-backed militias in Iraq. It is also a major political party with parliamentarians and ministers within the Lebanese government.