(Reuters) – The Hezbollah leader described the radical Islamist movement that has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria as a growing “monster” that could threaten Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states, according to an interview printed on Friday.
In a separate speech, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Islamic State also posed an existential threat to his own nation, Lebanon, the target of an incursion by Islamist insurgents from Syria this month. He said his heavily armed Shi’ite Muslim group was ready to fight the threat in Lebanon – if required.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight a Sunni Islamist-dominated insurgency that spilled into the Lebanese border town of Arsal on Aug. 2, triggering five days of battles between the Lebanese army and militants including members of Islamic State.
“Here we live, and – if the battle is imposed on us – here we fight and here we will be martyred,” said Nasrallah. Hezbollah said it stayed out of the Arsal battle, wary of inflaming sectarian tensions with Lebanese Sunnis, many of whom have supported the uprising against Assad.
Nasrallah was speaking on the eighth anniversary of the conclusion of Hezbollah’s one-month war with Israel.
Addressing the wider threat to the region from Islamic State, Nasrallah said it could easily recruit in other Arab states where its hardline ideology exists. Even Turkey, the passage for many foreign fighters into Syria, should beware.