BEIRUT - Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that his party was willing to defend Shiite shrines in Iraq, after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham overrun large areas of the country.
“We will do whatever we are asked to do, and will go wherever we have to be…” a source close to Nasrallah quoted him on Tuesday as saying during his meeting with leaders of Imam al-Mahdi Scouts on the occasion of the twenty-ninth anniversary of the scouts formation.
The source also noted that the remarks published for Nasrallah by As-Safir newspaper earlier on Tuesday were “just a small part of what he said during the meeting.”
“We are ready to sacrifice martyrs in Iraq five times more than what we sacrificed in Syria, in order to protect shrines, because they are much more important than [the holy sites in Syria],” Nasrallah said.
“Gone are the times when it was allowed to destroy and desecrate our religious shrines in Najaf, Karbala and Samarra.
“How will we face Imam al-Mahdi if the Samarra shrines were harmed?” he asked.
However, he voiced his relief that “as long as there is a man called Sayyed [Ali Husseini] Khamenei, [our] leader, and as long as there is a resistance, Iraqi people and religious clerics, nothing will happen to our shrines in the world.
The Hezbollah leader also called his supporters to refrain from shooting gunfire in the air during funerals of Hezbollah fighters.
The source also noted that Nasrallah told the scout leaders that the appearance of Imam al-Mahdi was imminent.
“We are living today the era of the coming of Imam Mahdi,” he said.
Faced with a militant offensive sweeping south toward Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced the Iraqi government would arm and equip civilians who volunteer to fight, and thousands have signed up.
And on Friday, influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a call to arms for people to fight "terrorists," a move that will boost recruitment.