Hezbol­lah: US strike pay­back has just started

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD -

BEIRUT — The leader of the Le­banese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah said Sun­day that Iran’s mis­sile at­tacks on two bases in Iraq hous­ing U.S. forces was only the start of the re­tal­i­a­tion for Amer­ica’s killing of a top Ira­nian gen­eral in a drone strike.

Has­san Nas­ral­lah de­scribed Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile re­sponse as a “slap” to Wash­ing­ton, one that sent a mes­sage. The lim­ited strikes caused no ca­su­al­ties and ap­peared to be mainly a show of force.

The leader of Hezbol­lah, which is closely aligned with Iran, said the strikes were the “first step down a long path“that will en­sure U.S. troops with­draw from the re­gion.

“The Amer­i­cans must re­move their bases, sol­diers and of­fi­cers and ships from our re­gion. The al­ter­na­tive to leav­ing ver­ti­cally is leav­ing hor­i­zon­tally,” Nas­ral­lah said in a tele­vised speech.

Nas­ral­lah praised Iran Gen. Qassem Soleimani for his stead­fast sup­port for Hezbol­lah. Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard has pro­vided train­ing for Hezbol­lah, which fought in the war in Syria along­side Iran-backed mili­tias that Soleimani directed.

Nas­ral­lah said that the world is a dif­fer­ent place af­ter Soleimani’s death, and not a safer place as some U.S. of­fi­cials have de­clared.

Iran had for days been promis­ing to re­spond force­fully to Soleimani’s killing. But af­ter the bal­lis­tic mis­sile strikes, Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted that the coun­try had “con­cluded pro­por­tion­ate mea­sures in self­de­fense.”

Nas­ral­lah also praised Iran’s lead­er­ship for ad­mit­ting to ac­ci­den­tally shoot­ing down a Ukra­nian pas­sen­ger plane on the night it launched the mis­sile at­tacks. He called the ac­knowl­edg­ment “trans­parency that is un­par­al­leled in the world.”

The plane crash early Wed­nes­day killed all 176 peo­ple on board, mostly Ira­ni­ans and Ira­nian Cana­di­ans.

MAYA ALLERUZZO/AP

A sup­porter of Hezbol­lah’s Has­san Nas­ral­lah holds a placard of slain Iran Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 5 in Beirut.

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