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Hezbollah leader welcomes Russia's growing presence in Syria

J.D. Gordon and Col. Cedric Leighton on Russia's expanding influence in the Middle East

 

The leader of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group said Friday that he welcomed what he described as Russia's growing "combat presence" in Syria, saying it will have a significant impact on the war in the neighboring country.

Moscow has denied that it is building up its presence in Syria to protect its long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, but says instead that it wants to help him fight the Islamic State group.

Hassan Nasrallah said the deployment of Russian warplanes and precision missiles, as well as "resources with operating teams" is a "great development" that will influence the situation on the ground.

Nasrallah made the comments Friday on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.

He said Russia has been talking with allies about an expanded alliance against the IS after U.S.-led airstrikes failed to uproot the extremists.

During the interview, Nasrallah said it was the failure of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State that had forced Moscow's hand, Reuters reported.

"The failure of America and the international coalition to bring defeat to Daesh was one of the reasons which called or pushed Russia to also come, and to get directly involved," he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

"We welcome any force which intervenes and supports the front in Syria, because through its participation, it will contribute to pushing away the major dangers that are threatening Syria and the region,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.