Hezbollah's Leader Slams Saudi 'Aggression' in Yemen

As the Arab League meets in Egypt, Nasrallah slams Arab states for not helping against 'Israeli aggression,' but getting involved in Yemen to maintain Saudi control there.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, in an image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on March 27, 2015.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, in an image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on March 27, 2015.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah publically attacked the Saudi royal family on Friday, saying that the Saudi-led attack on the Shi'ite rebels, the Houthis, and their allies in Yemen is "criminal aggression."

In a speech, Nasrallah also asked why Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners had embarked on the operation in the Gulf kingdom's southern neighbor when Lebanon and the Palestinians have not had any assistance from Arab states in the face of Israeli aggression. "Palestine is still dealing with a cruel occupation and we have not seen even a decisive breeze from an Arab state to help," he said.

According to the Shi'ite militia's leader, the aggression against Yemen is additional proof that Israel is not seen as an enemy by various Arab states. He added that if the attack was against Israel, his organization would take part in the operation.

Nasrallah also said that a solution in Yemen can not be achieved through military force, but with dialogue between the different groups fighting each other. He said that the coalition was helping Yemeni President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi because the Saudis have not managed to gain control in Yemen through extremist Islamic militias. He blamed the Saudi royal family for supporting Islamic State and other extremist groups active in Iraq and Syria, and also accused them of preventing a diplomatic solution in these states.

The Shi'ite Hezbollah and Houthis are supported by Iran, as part of its successful strategy that relies on local organizations to obtain influence in and control over countries. By forging an alliance of interests with Iran, the Houthis, whose Shi'ite Zaidi sect is not the same as the Shi’ite sect of Iran, were able to gain strategic significance, Haaretz's Zvi Bar'el explains in an analysis.

Nasrallah's remarks are likely to generate responses in the Lebanese political sphere, especially given the influence of Saudi Arabia on the party led by leading Lebanese political figure Saad al-Hariri. Recently, it was reported that there were talks between Hezbollah and al-Hariri, mainly about the efforts to reach consensus on the identity of Lebanon's next president. The discussions between the two sides have also been about the Al-Qaida militias and ISIS militants that are threatening Lebanon.

Nasrallah expressed readiness to continue these discussions, but al-Hariri will probably get instructions from Riyadh to stop the talks. In Lebanon and other Arab states, some have sensed a significant change in the way that the Saudis are running things ever since the new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, came to power. They argue that he is strengthening the alliance with the U.S., and is acting more firmly, and more quickly than his predecessor.

As serious fissures continue in countries across the Arab world, such as Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq, most Arab states were taking part in a summit held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday. Arab foreign ministers met over the past two days in preparation for the summit and agreed to establish a joint Arab force. Membership to this force will be up to the members of the Arab League. The force would act as a quick response force in states that ask for immediate help.

This decision, defined by the secretary general of the Arab League as historic, is expected to be approved by Arab leaders at the summit itself. There was criticism by pundits in the Arab world that the aim of this force is to protect existing regimes from internal uprisings, and not to bring about any real change.

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