Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday claimed Israel was not serious about actually attacking Iran. But if it does, he said, his Lebanese terror group will not automatically retaliate on Tehran’s behalf, but will decide whether or not to get involved.
In an interview with Iranian state TV, the leader of the Iran-backed Shiite organization appeared to attempt to assert Hezbollah’s independence from Tehran, while also claiming Israel was afraid to go to war against either.
“Iran is a strong regional state and any war with it will blow up the entire region,” he said, according to Naharnet.
Amid domestic criticism that his group acts in Tehran’s interests and not Lebanon’s, he challenged anyone to “tell us about a single act that Hezbollah did for the sake of Iran rather than for the sake of Lebanon.”
He denied the Iranian embassy in Beirut was involved in Hezbollah’s decision-making.
Nasrallah claimed that the United States fears going to war with Iran, asserting it was incapable of stopping Tehran’s nuclear program. He also warned of “a very intense and harsh” Iranian response if Israel attacks Iran.
“Iran is not on joking terms with anyone,” he was quoted as saying by Press TV.
He claimed that Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles were spread all around Lebanon, so Israel would need to launch a full-scale war in order to destroy them.
He also accused Israel of being afraid to go to war against Hezbollah.
“Were the Israeli regime certain that it would be victorious in a war with Hezbollah, it would not hesitate for even a moment,” Nasrallah said.
He also claimed that Israeli drone flights over Lebanon have been “greatly reduced” due to Hezbollah’s improved air defenses.
Nasrallah added that he opposes sharing offshore gas with Israel and does not really care about negotiations between Beirut and Jerusalem over determining the countries’ exclusive economic zones.
“We do not consider ourselves to be concerned with the technical discussions about the sea border demarcation with Israel,” he said.
Nasrallah’s remarks come several weeks after both Israel and Lebanon announced their intentions to resume talks over an area of about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea that both countries claim as being within their exclusive economic zones.
The US envoy mediating the talks has since met with Israeli and Lebanese officials.
The two countries started indirect negotiations through a US mediator in 2020 at a UN peacekeeping base in Lebanon’s Naqoura, but the talks have stalled several times. The last round of talks on the matter was held last May.
Lebanon has sunk deep into an economic and financial crisis that started in late 2019 — a culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class.
The small Mediterranean country is eager to resolve its border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potential lucrative oil and gas deals.
Agencies contributed to this report