Hezbollah Terrorist Organization Assessment

Subject: Warfare
Pages: 9
Words: 2369
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College

Introduction

While acts of terrorism are as old as human civilization, the terrible events of 11th September 2001 in America brought home the painful reality to Americans of the capability of terrorist attacks to disrupt society’s life. Terrorists had achieved the unthinkable on the very soils of America causing massive losses of life and property. From that day onwards, modern-day terrorism emerged as the most perilous global problem and nations in the world are still struggling to end this vice for the safety and freedom of humanity. Gearson (2002) documents that this new age of terrorism is characterized by fanaticism and religiously motivated groups which are equipped with weapons of mass destruction and ready to use them to achieve their ends.

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These new realities have brought about the need for nations to undertake counterterrorism measures so as to constrict the environment in which terrorists operate as well as crackdown on operational cells. Key to this activity is a deeper understanding of the particular terrorism movement; its organizational structures, ideologies, political affiliations and significant risk that the group poses. This paper proposes to give a deeper understanding of terrorism by undertaking a critical analysis of one of the currently active terrorist movements; Hezbollah in Lebanon. The group’s ideologies, economic factors and political significance shall be discussed. This shall be in a bid to come up with plausible predictions of the group’s future capabilities, their possible types of operations and survivability.

Brief History of Hezbollah

The Hezbollah group traces its roots to the long-standing crises of the Shiite community in post-independence Lebanon. On attaining independence, Lebanon proceeded to form a government that had an overrepresentation of the Christian minorities at the expense of the Shiite who constituted a larger proportion of the population. The Shia population was underrepresented in the legislative and military apparatus therefore leading to widespread dissatisfaction. In addition to this, most of the Shiites were very poor and mostly restricted to South Lebanon’s rural areas. These conditions were fertile grounds from which the birth of an armed movement that purported to advance the Shiite population’s cause could occur (Hamzeh, 2004).

Arguably the single event that led to an overflow of these conditions and the subsequent formation of Hezbollah as a potent fighting apparatus was the invasion of Lebanon by Israeli troops whose aim was to destabilize the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s operations in Lebanon. Hamzeh (2004) notes that Israel’s invasion led to the legitimization of Hezbollah as a militant movement group that engaged in guerrilla warfare against the foreign invaders. As such, Hezbollah emerged in 1982 as a Shiite Muslims organization in the Lebanese whose aim was to fight against foreign invasion as well as injustices to the Shia population n Lebanon. While Hezbollah may have begun as a resistance organization championing the rights of the Shiite population in Lebanon, the group’s affiliation with violent extremist organizations and its incessant attacks on Israeli and Western targets in Lebanon quickly elevated the group to a terrorist organization status.

Group Leadership and Organization Structure

While the Hezbollah leadership maintains that the group is not a formal organization with well-established structures, research indicates that Hezbollah does indeed have a clearly defined structure. The organization is both an armed force whose membership is made up of devoted Lebanese who believe in Islam and armed resistance as well as a prominent political party in Lebanon (Hamzeh, 2004). Hezbollah as an organization has its ideologies deeply grounded in religious thought. This is evident in the manner in which the organization gives clerics a central position in its leadership structure (Hajjar, 2002). The clerics who make up the top leadership of Hezbollah form what is referred to as “the Shura Council” and the secretary-general of this council is unquestionably the leader of the organization (Byers, 2003).

It is important to understand that it is the religious basis of the organization that results in a hierarchical structure that emphasizes the role of the clerics in society. The authority then flows from the top of the hierarchy down to the party members. This structure whereby the highest authority is a reverend Islamic teacher borrows from the Iranian religious and political leadership (Byers, 2003). The main reason for the adoption of a structure that revolved around clerical leadership was because the group sought to avoid a Western or Leninist-type structure that would not only be inconvenient to the group’s goals but also alien to Islam. In addition to this, the clerical structure offers final guidance on issues that might otherwise cause rife and dissensions among the members (Alagha, 2006).

Further on, the organization of Hezbollah can be divided into two main categories; the political and administrative arm and the Military and security faction. It is interesting to note that while some countries, notably the USA, Israel and Canada, indiscriminately classify Hezbollah as a terrorist outfit, some countries such as Britain and France categorize only its Military arm as the terrorist facet of the organization. The administrative wing of the organization performs administrative duties as well as social tasks most notably of which are the social services for widows and the disabled and the building of hospitals and the offering of medical care at very low costs to the general population (Byers, 2003).

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Hezbollah’s security wing is secretive and its leadership is composed of members who have military and intelligence knowledge. The military arm’s secretiveness can be attributed to the assassination risks posed by nations such as Israel. These fears are not unfounded as can be demonstrated by the 2008 assassination of the Hezbollah paramilitary commander, Imad Mughniyeh (Ajemian, 2008). This facet of the party is charged with safeguarding the security of the party and society. This armed wing also performs counterintelligence activities and involves itself in repealing invaders as was witnessed in the Hezbollah- Israeli confrontation at the south Lebanese border in 2000.

Group Ideologies

Hezbollah as a movement borrows most of its ideologies from the Iranian revolution and the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini (Cordesman, 2006). These ideologies are based on Islamic teachings as has been illustrated from the organizational structure of the group. The group is notorious for indoctrinating its members with Islamic extremist ideologies that reinforce the member’s beliefs to fight the enemies of Islam, in this case Israel and the US. Hezbollah also propagates the concept of martyrdom and has a strong base for individual sacrifice for the accomplishment of the organization’s greater good. Hamzeh (2004) best sums up the organization’s ideologies by quoting Nasrallah who asserts that “Hizbullah is a group seeking the heavenly world, martyrdom and death”.

Tactics Employed by Hezbollah

Hezbollah is a complex organization that is characterized by its use of diplomacy, democracy and violence to advance its causes. However, the tactic that has earmarked this organization is its use of suicide bombers. The group is infamous for training suicide bombers and sending them off to attack Israel and another part of the world. Hudson (2003) reveals that a raid into a Hezbollah operative’s house in Argentina led to the confiscation of material that included a CD that exhorted listeners to strike at the US and Israeli interests all over the world. This clearly demonstrates that Hezbollah is still keen to strike on Western targets in accordance with its Islam extremist ideologies.

One of the more notable terrorist acts by this group was the suicide truck bombing of 1983 (Hajjar, 2002). This attack on the US embassy and a Marine base in Beirut led to the killing of 250 US Servicemen and civilians. This attack demonstrated the group’s willingness and capacity to use violence to further their interests. In addition to this, the terrorist organization has been known to engage in the kidnapping and detention of Israeli and other Westerners. These detainees have in most cases been used as bargaining chips to secure the release of captured and imprisoned Hezbollah leaders and militants mostly by Israel.

In the Middle East, Hezbollah has always been supportive of the Palestinian cause. The organization has been known to provide material support and military aid to Palestinian fighters. Cordesman (2006) observes that in addition to the military aid provided to Hamas and other Palestinian extremist groups, Hezbollah also provides guidance and financial and operational support to the groups. These Actions by Hezbollah have greatly bolstered the capabilities of the terrorist operations in Israel and the occupied territories.

Possible social, political, and Economic Factors

Hezbollah is at best a complex political and military outfit and its activities range from guerilla warfare to humanitarian aid to the Lebanese population. Most of the group’s activities are aimed at increasing its influence as well as popularity with its supporters in Lebanon. Nonetheless, Hezbollah without doubt has a significant following and is popular with Lebanese citizens especially the Shiites and the poorer society members. Its political affiliation marks it out as a unique organization since it is capable of making social and political changes in the Lebanese government. The various social and humanitarian activities that the social wing of the organization takes part in greatly bolster its strength in the region.

Economically, Hezbollah depends primarily on its Arabic financial backers. Iran, Hezbollah’s chief financier is believed to fund Hezbollah at least $100 million per annum (Alagha, 2006). These funds are used for political, social and military purposes. Iran has also been accused by the UN of arming Hezbollah and providing military training for the same. In addition to this, the group also raises money from drugs and conflict diamonds in Africa to support its operations. In the American continent, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups have been reported to traffic narcotics in for funds.

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Alliances and Affiliations

The most evident affiliate of Hezbollah is Iran which is suspected of financing terrorist training camps established in Syria to train Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. This relationship has a historical root from the 1980s when Iran sent its fighters to aid the inexperienced and ill-equipped Hezbollah fighters against Israeli attacks. It is also alleged that equipment is transported through Syria onto Lebanon to arm Hezbollah despite opposition of these actions by the UN and most of the Western nations (Alagha, 2006). Hezbollah also relies on Iran for political tutorage as can be seen from the organizational structure of Hezbollah which borrows heavily from the Iranian structure.

There have been speculations of Hezbollah’s links with Bin-Laden’s terror organization, Al-Qaida. However, in the face of accusations by the Israeli Defense Ministry that Hezbollah is affiliated with Al-Qaida, the organization has continually maintained that it has no links to the group. However, it is evident that Hezbollah has links with the Palestinian terrorist outfit Hamas. This is illustrated by the military aid that Hezbollah has through the years offered to Hamas in its fight against Israeli occupation.

Predictions of Hezbollah’s Future Moves

Arguably the biggest threat posed by Hezbollah is as a result of its affiliation to Iran. Iran is a country that publicly denounces most Western nations and Israel and is documented to fund various terrorist organizations, chief among them being Hezbollah. This is a troubling factor in light of Iran’s recent ambitions to build a nuclear weapon. Intelligence agencies fear that organizations such as Hezbollah which is closely linked to the Iranian administration would be in a position to acquire nuclear warheads which would then be used to perpetrate terror attacks of immense proportions.

Another equally significant threat posed by the Hezbollah is in its global reach which gives the organization the capacity to conduct terrorist acts against the U.S, Israeli, and other Western interests. While Hezbollah is by large regarded as a local organization, there have been reports that Hezbollah has active cells in Canada and the United States. These cells are primarily used for raising funds through sympathizers as well as engaging in illegal trade such as money laundering and drugs smuggling. Hajjar (2002) While these activities are benign to the nation’s security, they point out the fact that Hezbollah has an expansive network spanning various countries including the United States.

In addition to this, there is fear that the organization could work in lieu of other terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida to perpetuate their activities against western nations. Hajjar (2002) points out that the reaction evoked by the serious accusations by Israeli Defense Minister in which Hezbollah was linked to Al-Qaeda clearly shows that such a union would be detrimental to the peace of most Western nations. Despite these allegations, most studies indicate that Hezbollah’s focus is primarily centered on Lebanese occupied Lands and secondarily on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (Hajjar, 2003). It is therefore highly unlikely that this organization would in present times be engaged in terrorist activities against the United States.

As far as the group’s survivability is concerned, it can be authoritatively argued that the organization’s future is secure mostly due to the huge membership and local support that the group gunners in Lebanon and its environs. The group’s self-styled image of “defender of the people against foreign invaders” has earned the organization many an admirer in the Muslim world. In addition to these, the organization’s stance against Israel and its constant support for Palestinians demonstrates its unwavering nature from its fundamental ideologies.

Conclusion

While Hezbollah was initially a Liberation movement that sprouted as a result of the circumstances prevalent in Lebanon in the 1970s, the organization’s anti-Western stances and affinity for violence have made it a potent terrorist organization in its own right. From the arguments presented in this paper, it is clear that Hezbollah as an organization is not likely to disappear any time soon as it continues to be a powerful voice for the Shiite community n the region. This paper set out to provide a deeper understanding of this terror group by reviewing its history and discussing its ideologies and terror tactics. While this paper demonstrates that Hezbollah does not presently pose a threat to the US, it is clear that it has the capability to do so in the future due to its affiliations and capacity. It would therefore be in the best interest of our country to further its intelligence efforts in Lebanon and take precautionary measures to ensure that this terrorist organization never has a chance to strike on American soils or Interests.

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References

Alagha, E. J. (2006). The Shifts in Hizbullah’s Ideology: Religious Ideology, Political Ideology and Political Program. Amsterdam University Press.

Byers, A. (2003). Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Rosen Publishing Group.

Cordesman, A. H. (2006). Lebanese Security and the Hezbollah. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Web.

Hajjar, G. S. (2002). Hizballah: Terrorism, National Liberation, or Menace? USA: The Strategic Studies Institute. Web.

Hamzeh, A. N. (2004). In the Path of Hizbullah. Syracuse University Press.

Hudson, R. (2003). Terrorist and Organized Crime Groups in the Tri-Border Area of South America. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.