May 25, 2013
The leader of Hezbollah has warned that the fall of the Syrian regime would give rise to extremists and plunge the Middle East into a “dark period”, and vowed that his Shia militant group will not stand idly by while its chief ally in Damascus is under attack.
In a televised address, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah members are fighting in Syria against Islamic extremists who pose a danger to Lebanon, and pledged that his group will not allow Syrian militants to control areas bordering Lebanon.
Nasrallah’s comments marked the first time he has publicly confirmed that his men are fighting in Syria, and were his first remarks since Hezbollah fighters have become deeply involved in the battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese frontier.
Hezbollah has been heavily criticised at home and abroad for sending fighters to Syria to fight along President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. In his speech, Nasrallah sought to defend the group’s deepening involvement, and frame it as part of a broader battle against Israel.
He also portrayed the fight in Syria as an “existential war” for anti-Israel groups including Hezbollah.
“Syria is the back of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand, arms folded, while its back is broken,” Nasrallah said.
“If Syria falls into the hands of America, Israel and the takfiris, the people of our region will go into a dark period,” he said in a speech to mark the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. “If Syria falls, Palestine will be lost.”
The term “takfiri” has become associated with an offshoot of the salafist movement, which condones violence to achieve ideological goals. Many of its practitioners embrace the teachings of al-Qaida.