Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia group has the capability to defeat Israel without any foreign assistance, IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami has alleged, speaking to officers in Urmia, northwestern Iran on Wednesday, his remarks quoted by the FARS News Agency.
“They (the US and its allies) intended to undermine Iran’s regional influence, but everyone witnessed how this policy backfired to increase Iran’s influence and a united front was formed against the Zionist regime,” Salami said.
“The Lebanese Hezbollah has now developed such an extent of power through the experience of confrontation against proxy wars that it is now able to wipe the Zionist regime off the map in any possible war by itself,” Salami warned, adding that “wherever the enemy is, we are already there.”
War of Words
Israel, which classifies Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist group,’ and which has conducted hundreds of strikes targeting it and other Damascus-allied forces operating in Syria in the anti-Daesh (ISIS)* effort, has repeatedly threatened to destroy the militia movement’s fighting capabilities in the event of a new war.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that if Hezbollah “dared to do something foolish and attack Israel, we would impose a crushing military blow on it and on Lebanon.” Earlier, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Tel Aviv that Israel would be on the “verge of vanishing” in the event of a new war against the 65,000 militiamen-strong group.
The Israeli military last clashed with Hezbollah in a ground war in 2006, with Israeli troops invading Lebanon after the militant group kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The war claimed the lives of over 1,300 people, and caused billions of dollars in damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure. It was halted after 34 days by a United Nations-brokered ceasefire.
Brig. Gen. Salami is well-known for his aggressive firebrand rhetoric against Israel, and has repeatedly threatened to “raze” Tel Aviv “to the ground” if it attacked Syria or Iran, and has claimed that Netanyahu and his allies would be forced to “flee into the sea” by Hezbollah in the event of war and should “practice swimming” ahead of time.
Relations between Iran and Israel have been virtually nonexistent since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In recent years, Israel has successfully lobbied the Trump administration to scrap the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. More recently, amid reports that Israel would take part in the US-led ‘maritime security coalition’ in the Persian Gulf, Iranian officials have warned that the Israeli presence in such a coalition could spark a war.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Tehran’s rejection of US maritime security coalition plans, stressing that regional powers are perfectly capable of ensuring security in the region by themselves, and that any US-led coalition would have the opposite effect. Rouhani called any potential Israeli participation in the mission “absurd.”
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.