Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah boasted in an interview published Monday that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime was no longer in danger of being overthrown by opposition elements, as U.S. lawmakers moved to target the Iran-backed terror group over its critical support for Damascus:
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose fighters have been supporting Assad inside Syria, also said that after three years of conflict the danger of the country fragmenting was receding.
“In my estimation, the phase of overthrowing the regime and overthrowing the state is over,” Nasrallah told Al-Safir newspaper, adding that he believed Assad would put himself forward for a third presidential term in a vote due by July.
The point was echoed by Assad himself, who reportedly bragged in a meeting with former Russian prime minister Sergei Stepashin that he was different from recently deposed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych:
“The Syrian president told me: ‘Tell Putin that I am no Yanukovych and that I will not go,’” Sergei Stepashin told reporters in Moscow after meeting the Syrian president last week.
Assad was referring to Moscow-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by a pro-European popular uprising in February and fled to Russia.
Assad had more explicitly told Stepashin that “[w]ithin this year the active phase of military action in Syria will be over.” Steady gains by Hezbollah-backed regime forces have in recent weeks and days triggered responses from Western capitals in general, and from Washington in particular.
Multiple outlets issued reports on Monday that lawmakers in Congress were advancing the Hezbollah International Financial Prevention Act, which a statement issued by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs described as the beginning of a “comprehensive approach to addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah by imposing severe new sanctions on Hezbollah’s fundraising channels and restricting its ability to use its funds to support global terrorist activities.”
Reuters had reported on Friday that Washington was also finalizing a plan that to provide “modest” supplies to anti-Assad elements. The outlet noted, however, that the limited scope of the plan was “raising questions over the impact in a civil war that has killed an estimated 136,000 people, produced nine million refugees and threatens to destabilize the region.”
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