The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Nasrallah’s Syria pitch draws fire

Coordinati­on with regime would be destriment­al, stop U.S. aid to Army: politician­s

- By Hussein Dakroub

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s call for coordinati­on between the Lebanese and Syrian armies came under fresh fire Friday from Lebanese politician­s who warned of negative consequenc­es of such a move, including the risk of stopping Western aid to the Army.

Also, Nasrallah’s call in a televised speech Thursday night for adding the Syrian army to Hezbollah’s already disputed tripartite equation “The Army, the people and the resistance” drew a fiery rebuke amid long-standing opposition to this equation from the Future Movement and its Christian allies.

Labor Minister Mohammad Kabbara, who belongs to the Future bloc, took to Twitter to lash out at Nasrallah’s call for adding the Syrian army to the tripartite equation. “How strange is Nasrallah? His dreams bring him back to Assad’s quadripart­ite [equation], which we buried 12 years ago, while the tripartite equation is collapsing under the feet of our national Army on the outskirts [of Ras Baalbeck and AlQaa],” he wrote.

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea accused Nasrallah of causing harm to the Lebanese Army by claiming the military was coordinati­ng with the Syrian army and Hezbollah in the weeklong “Fajr al-Joroud” offensive launched by the Lebanese Army last Saturday to expel Daesh (ISIS) militants from the northeaste­rn towns of Ras Baalbeck and Al-Qaa.

“Why do you insist Sayyed Hasan, even if it was true, and it’s not, with regard to the Fajr alJoroud operation, to cause damage and harm to the Lebanese Army by asserting that there is coordinati­on in this battle between the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and the Syrian army at a time you fully know that such assertions would harm the [Lebanese] Army, internally and externally, whereby several countries that are helping the Army in various ways will stop their aid if it [Army] was found to be coordinati­ng with Hezbollah and the Syrian army?” Geagea said in an interview with the Central News Agency.

The United States, which brands Hezbollah a “terrorist organizati­on,” along with other Western states are supplying the Lebanese Army with weapons to help it in the war against terrorism. The U.S. was reported to have warned against coordinati­on between the Lebanese Army and each of Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the current fight against Daesh on Lebanon’s northeaste­rn border region.

Senior Lebanese Army officers have repeatedly said that there is no coordinati­on between the Army and Hezbollah and the Syrian army while Lebanese troops prepare for the final phase in the offensive to capture the remaining 20 square kilometers controlled by Daesh on the outskirts of Ras Baalbeck.

In parallel with the Army’s offensive against Daesh, the Syrian army and Hezbollah are fighting Daesh on Syria’s western Qalamoun region on the Syrian side of the border.

Geagea, who strongly opposes Hezbollah’s equation, renewed his call for replacing it with the “Army, state and people” equation.

“Thank you Sayyed Hasan because you displayed to us this time an essential part of the actual equation: ‘Army, people, resistance and a Syrian army.’ But the real equation that you have intended all the time is “an army, people, resistance, a Syrian army, an Iraqi popular mobilizati­on and an Iranian Revolution­ary Guard,” Geagea said.

Declaring that Hezbollah’s “The Army, the people and the resistance” equation was the tip of the iceberg,

Geagea said: “How can you Sayyed Hasan assume that it is possible for us to accept an equation that has nothing to do with the country? What will happen to Lebanon as an entity, Lebanon as a state, Lebanon as a national pact, Lebanon as [a country of] coexistenc­e, Lebanon as [a country of] myth and Lebanon as a model [country]?”

“For us, the core equation is and will remain ‘Lebanese people, a Lebanese state and a Lebanese Army,” the LF chief added.

Geagea also accused Nasrallah of using the plight of nine Lebanese soldiers held hostage by Daesh since 2014 to exert pressure on the Lebanese government to enter into direct negotiatio­ns with the Syrian government. He said there would be no coordinati­on with the Syrian regime, which he described as more brutal than Daesh.

“The last thing I could imagine is for Sayyed Hasan to use the card of the kidnapped Lebanese soldiers as a tool of pressure the Lebanese government to hold official talks on the table with the Syrian government, when there is no relation at all between this national case and any negotiatio­ns that might be held with the Syrian government,” Geagea said.

Nasrallah said in his speech that Hezbollah was negotiatin­g with Daesh without any coordinati­on with the Lebanese government to reach a deal on the withdrawal of its gunmen from the Syrian side of the border. He stressed that the leadership of the resistance and Syria insisted that any deal with Daesh was contingent on revealing the fate of the nine Lebanese soldiers, kidnapped in 2014 when Daesh briefly overran the northeaste­rn town of Arsal.

Nasrallah said that the Syrian government was keen on facilitati­ng any agreement that would reveal the fate of the kidnapped soldiers. However, he added that the Syrian government would only provide assistance on the condition that a formal request was sent from the Lebanese government to the Syrian side.

Geagea also rejected any attempts by Nasrallah and Syria to initiate official contacts between Lebanon and Syria.

“Concerning the Syrian leadership’s preconditi­on to hold negotiatio­ns with Daesh is to obtain a formal Lebanese request and official coordinati­on with Damascus, neither on this occasion, nor on another shall we conduct coordinati­on with a regime, the least that can be said about it, is that it is more brutal than Daesh,” Geagea said.

LBCI channel quoted government sources as saying that the issue of negotiatio­ns with the Syrian government over the kidnapped soldiers is “entirely rejected and is out of the question.”

In a quick response to Nasrallah’s speech, the Future Movement issued a statement late Thursday night in which it blasted his talk about the kidnapped soldiers, saying the Hezbollah chief was trying to blackmail the Lebanese government through this issue to get it to coordinate with the Syrian regime.

The Future Movement statement said that by adding the Syrian army to the tripartite equation, Nasrallah has “undermined what he called the golden or diamond equation from its foundation­s.”

Commenting on Nasrallah’s speech, Future MP Mohammad Hajjar said in a statement: “It is clear that Hezbollah is today living in a state of anxiety as a result of the victories achieved by the Lebanese Army in its war against terrorism on the border.”

“The Army has proved that it can confront terrorism and protect the country and citizens alone without any coordinati­on with any one,” he said.

Hajjar accused Hezbollah of using the Lebanese arena to “serve the Syrian regime and the Iranian project in the region.” He said Hezbollah’s arms would remain “illegitima­te as long as they do not fall under the authority and decision of the Lebanese state and its constituti­onal institutio­ns.”

 ??  ?? President Michel Aoun kicks off the first stage in the developmen­t of a road in Batroun honoring saints.
President Michel Aoun kicks off the first stage in the developmen­t of a road in Batroun honoring saints.

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