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December 11, 2017 1:01 pm

Top Hezbollah Leader Boasts of New Military Skills Acquired Defending Assad Regime in Syria

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Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem alongside top Iranian regime adviser Ali Akbar Velayati at a conference in Beirut in 2016. Photo: Reuters / Aziz Taher.

The second-in-command of Hezbollah, Iran’s Shia proxy in Lebanon, has told an audience in Tehran that the terrorist organization vastly improved its military and fighting capabilities during its defense of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria in recent years.

Speaking with students at the Imam Sadegh University in Tehran on Sunday, Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem said that before engaging in the fighting alongside Iranian troops to rescue Assad’s crumbing rule, Hezbollah fighters only knew how to use “weapons like machine guns and missiles but did not have heavy weapons and equipment like tanks.”

Qassem underlined that Hezbollah had now “gained more experience” as a result of the fighting in Syria. “When we went to Syria, we learnt how to fight in the desert and we also learnt urban warfare and how to liberate cities, one house and one street at a time,” Qassem said, in remarks reported by Iranian official news agencies. “We became skilled in driving tanks and using all types of missiles.”

Qassem — who answers directly to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah — also ridiculed the idea that Hezbollah forces in Lebanon would ever disarm, in a speech to a separate “International Islamic Unity” conference in the Iranian capital.

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“America and Israel and their allies speak of disarmament because Hezbollah has been successful in defeating Israel in Lebanon,” Qassem declared. “Lebanon’s resistance was also able to effectively fight against Takfiri (ISIS) terrorism, so nobody talks about disarmament of Hezbollah in the current situation.”

Hezbollah’s complete disarmament is regarded by the United Nations Security Council as a critical step toward creating peace in Lebanon. Resolution 1701 — adopted in August 2006 at the end of the 34-day Second Lebanon War — mandates “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that…there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.”

Described by Western military experts in a recent report as the world’s “most powerful” terrorist organization, Hezbollah has significantly built up its arsenal in the subsequent decade, and now possesses over 100,000 missiles, according to Israeli intelligence estimates. Last month, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accused Iran and Hezbollah of plotting his assassination and destabilizing the country.

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