LEBANON (OBSERVATORY) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday played down the risk of a slide into a war between the United States and Russia, but Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah raised the prospect of “direct fighting” between Iran and Israel.
The heavily armed group, backed by Tehran, is an important military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the eight-year war.
“The situation is developing into a direct American-Russian clash or a state of war,” said Naim Kassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general. But pointed out that it depends on the behavior of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The circumstances do not indicate a full-scale war … unless Trump and Netanyahu completely lose their right,” Kassem said in remarks published by Al-Gomhuriya newspaper on Friday.
But Hassan Nasrallah later on Friday referred to an air attack believed to have targeted a Syrian air base and killed a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
“I want to say to the Israelis, they have to know that they have committed a historic mistake and have committed a great folly and that they have entered into direct combat with Iran with this attack,” Nasrallah said in a televised address.
In the past few years, Israel has carried out strikes on targets in Syria, the purpose of which was to prevent the transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah, which it considers the biggest threat to its borders. Iran and Hezbollah are key allies of Assad.
Trump threatened to strike Syria after an alleged chemical attack on a city under opposition control that killed dozens. A Russian envoy expressed fears of a wider conflict between Washington and Moscow.
The White House said there had been “no final decision” on Syria after Trump met his national security team on Thursday.
Nasrallah said in his speech that US policy in the Trump era is inconsistent and incomprehensible.
– Israeli strike –
Damascus and its main allies, Russia and Iran, have accused opposition militants and rescue workers of fabricating reports of an attack and accusing Washington of using the reports as an excuse to attack the Syrian army.
Asked whether any US attack on Syria could develop into a full-scale war that could affect Lebanon, Kassem said: “If the attack on Syria is very limited, it is expected that the reactions from the parties involved in Syria will be linked to the Syrian arena.”
Iran’s growing influence in Syria is causing serious concern within Israel, which has carried out air strikes in Syria against what it calls Hezbollah and Iran targets.
Iran threatened to retaliate against an air strike on a Syrian military base on Monday. Tehran, Damascus and Moscow have accused Israel of responsibility for the strike.
Commenting on the strike, which killed seven Iranians, Kassem said: “The Israeli raid on the airport is an attack on Syria and Iran together and this has consequences I do not know now what are its limits.”
Qassem noted that Hezbollah, which was the last war between Israel and Israel in 2006, would not “start by opening a war front against Israel from Lebanon … but resistance is ready for surprises.”
In an interview with Reuters last month, Kassem said Hezbollah did not expect Israel to start a war at the moment but was ready.