Hezbollah admits to having military 'presence' in Iraq: Nasrallah
Hezbollah has a “limited presence” in Iraq, the group’s chief Hassan Nasrallah told supporters in a televised speech on Monday.
The group has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is seen as having played a key role in the fight against rebel groups. However, this is the first time that Nasrallah has admitted to having forces further afield in Iraq, although Hezbollah’s main international supporter, Iran, has long been known to have been supporting Baghdad-led troops as well as the country’s various Shiite militias.
"We may not have spoken about Iraq before, but we have a limited presence because of the sensitive phase that Iraq is going through," Nasrallah said in reference to ongoing clashes between Iraqi troops, several militias and Kurdish forces against the Islamic State group.
Nasrallah was speaking at a memorial event in Beirut to commemorate Hezbollah members killed last month in an Israeli strike in Syria.
The speech touched on many issues affecting the region, including the takeover of Yemen by Shiite Houthi rebels, who Nasrallah said were "rightful" and "brave," preventing an IS expansion into Saudi Arabia.
During the speech, supporters observed Nasrallah's call not to shoot into the air in celebration, an event that usually marks his speeches.
Instead, white and yellow helium balloons were released into the skies above a southern suburb of Beirut, along with Chinese lanterns.
Nasrallah's speech comes just two days after his leading Lebanese opponent, Saad Hariri, urged Hezbollah to return its troops to Lebanon - a suggestion rejected in Monday’s speech.
"I say to those who call on us to withdraw from Syria, let's go together to Syria," said Nasrallah.
"I say, come with us to Iraq, and to any place where we can fight this threat that is threatening our (Muslim) nation and our region," he added.