Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

August 25, 2018

Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has said that recent claims made by ‘Hezbollah’ leader Hassan Nasrallah on Iran’s alleged “victories” are outdated.

“There have been swift and unprecedented changes in the world, setting new foundations in international relations,” Machnouk told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview.

He criticized Nasrallah’s recent speech on the anniversary of the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, saying “the world is no longer led through mobilization and wrong estimates.”

He downplayed the ‘Hezbollah’ secretary-general’s claims that we have ushered in an “era of victories for the Iranian axis.”

Giving the example of Syria and Iran’s involvement in support of the regime of Bashar Assad, Machnouk said that 70 percent of the war-torn country’s homes are destroyed and half of its population has been internally displaced and has fled to neighboring states.

There are countless victims and the country is ruined, he added.

Machnouk told the newspaper that Iran has been playing a role in Syria, but Russia and the United States consider it a “burden.”

Russian officials also believe that Tehran is a “tiresome friend.”

“I don’t think that its stay in Syria is part of the Russian or US strategy,” Machnouk stated.

As for Iraq, he said cooperation between Washington and Tehran would cause further “political chaos” and place more burdens on the Iraqis.

On the conflict with Israel, Machnouk mocked ‘Hezbollah’ claims that Israel is in continuous fear of an aggression from Lebanon.

Since the end of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, “not a single shot has been fired,” he said.

Machnouk also discussed pressure on Lebanon’s PM-designate Saad Hariri to normalize relations with the Assad regime.

Hariri has said “no government would be formed” if these demands persisted, irking Speaker Nabih Berri, who advocates for restoring normal relations with Syria.

But according to Machnouk, “Berri has been clear in saying that no one has asked Hariri to head immediately to Damascus.”

On Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen, the interior minister stressed that Riyadh has not made an aggression on the country.

The Iran-backed Houthi insurgents, he said, have dozens of ballistic missiles and are firing them on Saudi territories.

They have allowed Iran to enter Saudi Arabia’s “backyard,” said Machnouk.

“Saudi Arabia is a legitimate country defending its territories and people from attacks carried out by a sectarian neighbor that takes pride in following Iran’s strategy,” he added.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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