AP Interview: Hezbollah’s deputy chief warns the U.S., Israel against attacking Iran
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – The deputy chief of Hezbollah warned Tuesday that any “military adventure” by the United States and Israel against Iran would have dangerous consequences across the Mideast.
Sheik Naim Kassem suggested his pro-Iranian group would not get involved if the U.S. attacks Iran Inflatable Boats, but he raised the possibility that Israel might attack Lebanon as part of such an assault _ in which case, he said, Hezbollah would “definitely” respond.
He said Hezbollah guerrillas were making plans in case Israel, like last summer, attacks Lebanon again.
“The resistance is taking all the necessary measures to be ready and prepared,” Kassem said in an interview with the Associated Press. He would not elaborate but said Hezbollah is constantly changing its fighting tactics so the Israelis would not know its capabilities.
“We’ve evaluated the experience of the war and learned lessons from it and are taking steps to accommodate them with new realities,” he said. “We are making sure the enemy will be in the dark in the future. This is the strength of the resistance and the secret of its success.”
The United States insists it is not planning to attack Iran and is trying to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations. But fear of a strike is growing throughout the Middle East.
Kassem, a Shiite Muslim cleric, warned that an assault on Iran could expand across the region.
“It remains to be seen what the level of an American aggression on Iran would be,” he said. “Is it going to be limited or an all-out war? Will other countries become involved? Will it spread to the entire region?”
Asked if the U.S. attacked Iran, Hezbollah would retaliate by striking Israel, Kassem said Iran is capable of defending itself because it “possesses the means, a tenacious populace and a wise leadership.”
Iran has threatened to attack the hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces based in the Persian Gulf and in Iraq if America launches a strike.
Kassem warned, “we will definitely respond and defend ourselves” if Israel attacks Lebanon.
Kassem’s comments aimed to counter speculation that Hezbollah may stir up trouble in the region _ including attacking Israel _ if Iran is attacked: “They have to know that any military adventure, if widened and involves several countries in the region, would have dangerous consequences for everyone.”
In Lebanon, Hezbollah has been locked in a power-struggle for months with the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. The Shiite group and its allies are demanding a new government in which they would have greater power. Washington has dramatically beefed up support for Saniora, who has rejected the opposition’s demands.
Kassem blamed the United States for the deadlock, saying it is pressuring Saniora to refuse a compromise. Washington’s goal is to undermine Hezbollah’s resistance against Israel, he said.
Kassem, who is the deputy of Hezbollah’s charismatic leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, dismissed Lebanese and American government charges that Hezbollah was a tool of Iran and Syria. In contrast, he said, “the (Saniora) government is directly dictated by the Americans.”