Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah rejected calls for the resignation of a Lebanese minister who sparked a diplomatic spat with Riyadh by criticising the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, underscoring the crisis’s bleak prospects for a quick resolution.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, also claimed that Saudi Arabia was failing miserably in the Yemen war, reminding that the fall of Marib to the Iran-aligned Houthi movement would have disastrous consequences.
Saudi Arabia’s relations with Lebanon, which have been strained for years due to the growing role of the heavily armed Hezbollah, have reached a new low. An interview in which Saudi Arabia’s information minister, George Kordahi, sided with the Houthis, showed Kordahi claiming that Yemen was being attacked from the outside.
Saudi Arabia has expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, summoned its envoy to Lebanon and has imposed a ban on all Lebanese imports. Several of Lebanon’s Gulf allies have also expelled Lebanese diplomats while recalling their own.
Kordahi’s remarks were ‘calm and objective’ and the Saudi reaction was exaggerated, Nasrallah said.
He accused Saudi Arabia of attempting to foment a civil war in Lebanon, claiming that Riyadh orchestrated the crisis over the Kordahi comments as part of ‘the resistance’s battle.’
Riyadh has claimed that Kordahi’s remarks are a result of its hegemony in the country. Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah dominated in Lebanon, claiming that the group did not always get its way.
Kordahi claims the interview was taped before he was ordained, and he has refused to apologise or resign.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged Kordahi to prioritise the national interest, implying that he wants him to resign. However, he has refrained from formally requesting his resignation.
After the Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military intervention.
The Houthis have made progress in Marib governorate and have promised to march on Marib city, the last stronghold of pro-government forces in northern Yemen.
Hezbollah, according to Saudi Arabia, provides arms, supplies and training to the Houthis. But according to Nasrallah, Hezbollah played no role in the Houthi ‘victories’ in Yemen.
‘I say to the Saudis, if you truly want to solve the Yemen problem, it is not through putting pressure on Lebanon or Hezbollah in Lebanon… there is only one way: accept a ceasefire, lift the siege, and engage in political negotiations,’ he said.