- Shiite leader cites remark that nominee now says was sarcasm
- Pence’s view: Trump wasn’t joking about ‘failed’ U.S policy
The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group cited Donald Trump in accusing the U.S. and President Barack Obama of creating Islamic State, becoming the latest American adversary to quote or praise the Republican nominee.
Echoing Trump, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also accused Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of helping create the militant Sunni group, a rival to the Shiite Hezbollah. Both are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S., and Nasrallah’s remarks revived a claim that Trump initially trumpeted and then downplayed as being sarcastic.
“This American candidate, who speaks in the name of the American Republican Party, has facts” that can support this assertion, Nasrallah said in a speech on Saturday, according to a transcript published by Al Manar TV.
The Hezbollah comments expanded the roster of rogue foreign leaders or groups making comments complimentary or supportive of Trump. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin termed the Republican “the absolute leader of the presidential race.” An official mouthpiece of North Korea’s government lauded Trump in June as “a wise politician.”
Trump called Obama and Clinton, who served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, “co-founders” of Islamic State during a campaign rally on Aug. 10. He has since played down the comments as having been meant as sarcasm, echoing his response to the outcry over earlier remarks in which he exhorted Russia to hack Clinton’s e-mails. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the most recent comments.
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, in an interview taped on Aug. 12 and broadcast Sunday on Fox News, said Trump hadn’t been joking.
“He was being very serious, and he was making a point that needs to be made, that there is no question that the failed policies of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the wider Middle East, created a vacuum within Iraq in which ISIS was able to arise,” said Pence, governor of Indiana.
Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel, has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against Islamic State and U.S.-supported rebel groups.
“Who can imagine that the U.S. can’t know who is behind sending money and arms to the terrorists in Syria and Iraq?” Nasrallah said. Beyond quoting Trump, he offered no proof to back up his claim.
Nasrallah’s remarks come after U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, along with Gulf Cooperation Council countries, labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization in March, blacklisting companies and individuals with ties to the group.