Khatib tells Hezbollah to leave Syria, warns of regional religious war
The recently resigned head of Syrian’s opposition National Coalition demanded that the leader of Hezbollah withdraw his fighters from Syria, warning of a “plot” to drag the Muslim world into long-term Sunni-Shia strife.
“I demand that you withdraw all Hezbollah troops from Syria and begin communicating with rebels in all Shiite villages, to secure the safety of all,” Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib wrote on his Facebook page, addressing Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.
“There is a massive plot to drag the entire Muslim world into a Sunni-Shia war beginning from Syria, and then to Lebanon and the rest of the region, including Iran and Turkey, destroying these two countries,” Khatib warned.
The conflict, Khatib said, would “completely exhaust the money of Gulf states in order to support the war or purchase weapons, for the sake of an insane war in which there will be no victor.”
Khatib urged Nasrallah to meet with two Salafist Lebanese sheikhs who earlier this week called for a jihad to defend Sunnis in the central Syrian town of Qusair, where Hezbollah fighters have taken the lead in battling anti-government rebels.
Khatib said that Nasrallah and the two Lebanese figures, Sheikhs Salem Rifai and Ahmad Assir, should sit down and work together to stave off a calamity.
“Haven’t over 1,000 years of Sunni-Shiite strife and disputes been enough for us to bury this rigid [sectarian] mentality and leave behind illusions of one side achieving victory over the other?” he asked.
“Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has complicated matters greatly; I had expected someone of your political and social stature to act as a positive factor, halting the shedding of blood of Syrians,” Khatib told Nasrallah.
Khatib said the call for jihad “was nothing but a response to chilling incidents” of violence by regime forces against Syrian civilians.
He also cited the summer of 2006, when an Israeli offensive against Lebanon forced thousands of mainly Shiite Lebanese to take refuge in Syria.
“Is this the gift that you give as a reward to those generous and charitable people?” Khatib asked, referring to Hezbollah’s military involvement in the war in Syria.
Khatib said it was “unacceptable” for Hezbollah to justify its military involvement as coming to the defense of Lebanese Shiites who live in a string of villages located just inside Syria.
“Have they ever been under any threat in past centuries? Is Syria an area of conflict in which each power will come to defend a certain faction?” Khatib asked.
“I am not addressing you as a politician or a leader; I am addressing your conscience and heart, your mind and wisdom, and am addressing Syria and Lebanon,” he added.
Separately, and in the wake of the call for jihad in Lebanon, President Michel Sleiman urged against sending military aid to fighters in Syria or establishing training camps on Lebanese territory.
“This not only implements the Baabda Declaration and the policy of not interfering in Syrian affairs, but also aims at fortifying Lebanese national unity and protecting coexistence,” Sleiman said, according to a statement from Baabda Palace.
For its part, the FSA rejected the recent calls for jihad voiced by Salafists, emphasizing that the rebels required material support, but not fighters, from abroad.
“Our official position as the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army ... is that we thank them but we reject any calls for jihad in Syria,” FSA political and media coordinator Louay Meqdad told AFP Wednesday.
“We reject any presence of foreign fighters, regardless of where they are from. We have said that what we are missing in Syria is weapons, not men,” he added.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt also criticized the calls to war, and urged a return to Beirut’s disassociation policy. “Just as we call on Hezbollah to end its participation in the fighting in Syria, calls for jihad in Syria are also rejected,” Jumblatt said in a statement.
“The Syrian people are not in need of jihadists from Lebanon or abroad to support their struggle,” he added. “We also hope the resistance ... will reposition its weapons toward [Israel].”
In Baalbek, Hezbollah held a funeral service for its fighter Qassem Sharafeddine, who was killed in fighting in Qusair, while media reports maintain the party also laid to rest Ali Alaaeddine the previous day, in the Baalbek village of Zboud.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said during a meeting with American University of Beirut students that Lebanon should carry on with its dissociation policy in order to distance the country from conflicts in the region.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who is on an official visit to Lebanon, said that Madrid believed only a nonmilitary solution would be viable in Syria.
“Spain’s position has remained the same. We have always said that a military solution [in Syria] will not produce results and that’s what Minister Mansour and I agreed on,” he told reporters after a meeting with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour. The Spanish official also met with Sleiman, Berri, Mikati and Salam, and visited Spanish peacekeeping troops in South Lebanon.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will begin a three-day visit to Lebanon Thursday with developments in Syria high on the agenda of his meeting with top officials.