BEIRUT - The leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah said Wednesday that the organization would defend Iran in the event of war, saying the Islamic Republic would not be alone in a confrontation with America.
Hassan Nasrallah said the Islamic Republic was currently the strongest state in the region, and that the so-called axis of resistance led by Iran was the strongest it has ever been. The axis groups the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad with Shiite militias in Iraq and Hezbollah.
Nasrallah was speaking to supporters at a rally marking the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the shah.
"If America launches war on Iran, it will not be alone in the confrontation, because the fate of our region is tied to the Islamic Republic,'' he said.
Speaking via a large screen, Nasrallah said America was set to retreat from the region and had no real option to squeeze Iran except with sanctions.
"We see the struggle in the region may escalate and may take different forms but in all cases, today the Islamic Republic is the strongest state in the region ... and America is headed for more withdrawals and retreats from the region,'' he said.
Nasrallah spent over an hour extolling Iran and the Islamic revolution's political and economic accomplishments.
Formed to counter Israel
The Shiite group was formed in 1982 under the guidance of Iran's Revolutionary Guard to combat Israel as Iran's most successful investment abroad, serving as the Islamic Republic's arm at Israel's doorstep.
The group dominates the political and military landscape of Lebanon and possesses tens of thousands of trained fighters as well as an array of sophisticated armaments. Its intervention in Syria on the side of Assad also expanded its influence and reach in the region.
At home, the group remains the unrivaled armed force, also making significant political gains along with allies in the last parliamentary elections. This positioned the group to secure three ministerial posts in the new government, sworn in last week, including the powerful Health Ministry, which has one of the country's largest budgets.