A Sunday speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is fueling concerns that the Iran-backed terror group intends to use Lebanon’s off-shore energy resources to provoke a conflict with Israel, with the terror group chief reportedly insisting at least three times that Israel is engaged in a plot to plunder Lebanese oil. Lebanese media noted that Nasrallah began his extended speech by invoking Israel as a threat to Lebanon.
“I remind those who have forgotten in Lebanon that Israel is still an enemy and a threat to Lebanon’s people, water, oil, security and sovereignty,” said Nasrallah.
“The enemy does not scare us and after all these experiences and achievements, it knows that the resistance maintains high readiness despite everything that is happening in Lebanon and Syria. Our assets are ready and are growing and although martyrs from the resistance are falling in Syria, it is capable to confront the Israeli enemy,” he reassured.
Foreign Policy Magazine Middle East Editor David Kenner described parts of the speech as “hitting on energy, sovereignty, and the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” There are long-standing concerns that Hezbollah is attempting to manufacture a conflict with Israel by pushing Lebanese officials to create a crisis over disputed underwater energy resources. The Journal of Diplomacy’s Ziad Achkar noted, in the context of Nasrallah’s speech, that the energy issue is attractive for Hezbollah because it allows the Iran-backed terror group to “comeoff as Hero of Lebanon, defending resources where government can’t,” in the process creating a pretext for holding on to advanced weapons that the militia uses to maintain a state-within-a-state in Lebanon. Achkar read the strategy as a “flashback to 2006, provoking Israeli war to regain public support that was dwindling.” Hezbollah’s brand as a Lebanese organization defending Lebanese interests has been shattered by its involvement, at the behest of Iran, in Syria’s nearly three-year conflict.
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