BEIRUT: The leader of Hezbollah warned that US troops would have to leave the region dead or alive, and that their withdrawal from the Middle East was a long process rather than a single operation.
Hassan Nasrallah made the threat more than a week after a US drone strike killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the late commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
He addressed his supporters on giant screens that had been set up in Bekaa and southern Lebanon in tribute to Soleimani and the deputy leader of the paramilitary group Hashd Al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. Both men were killed by the US strike on Jan. 2.
Iran in retaliation fired missiles last week at air bases in Iraq used by US forces.
The response to Soleimani’s death was a long process that should lead to the eventual withdrawal of Americans from the region, the Hezbollah secretary-general said.
“What happened in Ain Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq is a mere slap on the US and not a full reprisal, and whoever thinks otherwise is wrong, yet it is a very strong military response and a first step on a long path in reaction to the crime. After this slap, the Axis of Resistance should go to action,” he said referring to an anti-Western, anti-Israeli power bloc. “The Americans have to either leave the region vertically or horizontally (in coffins) and this is the ultimate resolution of the Axis of Resistance, and it is a matter of time for this to be achieved. It is a new era in the region and the upcoming days will prove it.”
He said the attack on Al-Asad had put the region on the brink of war, demonstrating “an unprecedented Iranian courage” as it targeted a US base and forces, something which had not happened since World War II, and that the strike was led by a state rather than an organization or resistance group.
It showed the “might of Iranian military capabilities,” which meant all US bases in the region could be subjected to similar missile attacks, he added, pointing out that Iran had more sophisticated and accurate missiles than the ones used in the Al-Asad attack.
He addressed his supporters on giant screens that had been set up in Bekaa and southern Lebanon in tribute to Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, the deputy leader of Hashd Al-Shaabi.
Nasrallah said the strike was also a message to anyone who conspired with the US against Iran. He urged the chief of the Iraqi Kurds, Masoud Barzani, to recognize what Soleimani had done for him.
Barzani had contacted the Iranians asking for help when Iraqi Kurdistan almost fell to Daesh, he claimed, and they swiftly responded by sending aid overnight. Soleimani went with the Lebanese to Erbil to support the Kurds, and what was expected now was for them to press for a US withdrawal from the region, he added.
Nasrallah then turned his focus toward US President Donald Trump, branding him a liar and denying his accusation that Soleimani was planning to target the US Embassy in Baghdad.
He said that the huge crowds participating in Soleimani’s funeral terrified Trump and his administration.
“During the Israeli aggression against Lebanon in 2006, Soleimani came to Beirut via Syria, and stayed with us in the southern suburb of Beirut throughout the war in the military command headquarters under heavy bombing. After the war ended, he asked us about our needs, which resulted in Iranian assistance for the reconstruction of Lebanon.”
He heaped praise on Soleimani, saying the slain military man had stood alongside Syrians in the fight against Daesh.
“Had Daesh not been defeated in Iraq, it would have threatened all countries of the region, and its defeat in Iraq led to its defeat also in Syria, and had this not happened all Gulf states, in addition to Iran and Turkey, would have been in danger; this is why the peoples of the region should thank the Hashd Al-Shaabi for saving them and the region too.”