The main countries conducting counter-terrorism ops against Hezbollah are Israel and the United States. During the 1980s, the CIA and Israeli intelligence began targeting Hezbollah’s leadership. Israel also waged war with Lebanon in the 1980s with the goal of taking out the terrorist organizations located there, one of which is Hezbollah. Then in 1996, the US implemented the Antiterrorism and Death Penalty Act, which helped the US fight Hezbollah’s global operations. The US also began investigating terrorist cells located within the US. They would keep records of the cells, but would not go after them aggressively. Later, the US began to convict or deport Hezbollah operatives and supporters for smaller offenses, which was fairly successful. Since the end of the war in Lebanon, Israel has maintained a military presence in Lebanon to combat the terrorist organizations. However, in 2000 Israel could not maintain political support to keep their military presence in Lebanon and therefore withdrew their forces. Since then, Israel has actively monitored Hezbollah’s international growth and also actively targeted its senior leadership.
Israel also began to destroy the popular support for Hezbollah by punishing the Lebanese populace. After guerrilla attacks done by Hezbollah, Israel would shoot artillery barrages on nearby Lebanese villages. This would actually have the opposite effect and made the Lebanese support for Hezbollah grow. After 9/11, the US Treasury Department began to target Hezbollah’s finances. The cells in the US were targeted, and some of Hezbollah’s operations abroad, mainly in South America, were stopped. Israel has kept seeking military solutions, and took military action again in 2006 by starting the second Lebanese war. After this war, Israel has continued to actively seek out Hezbollah cells and actively targeting the leadership. Since 2006, the US kept targeting Hezbollah’s finances and has shared its intelligence with Israel.
US Policy and Recommendations
The US policy related to Hezbollah is rightfully centered on its relationship with Israel. Prior to the 1980’s, Michael Benson describes within Harry S. Truman and the founding of Israel, “U.S. assistance to the Jewish state had been an essential component of a maximalist strategy that sought to repulse any expansion of Soviet influence within the Middle East” (Benson,1). While based in these strategic origins, the combination of “democracy, shared values of basic freedom, respect for human rights, adherence to Judeo-Christian traditions, and deference to the rule of law” are cited as primary aspects of the nature and confluence of long-term U.S.-Israeli relations (Benson,2). Given the underpinning of this relationship, the U.S. position on Hezbollah has been centered on three main objectives: arms transfer termination, disarmament, and full Lebanese government control over its territory. At the core of these objectives is the goal of ending Hezbollah’s position as a “state within a state” (Jain). While direct U.S. tactical involvement in the upheaval of Hezbollah would have negative consequence, the one-dimensional approach to-date seems to be lacking in the ability to achieve the before mentioned objective of usurping Hezbollah’s political position within Lebanon.
The US has declared Hezbollah to be a foreign terrorist organization and threat, making it appear on their list along with Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other well-known threats. While it is a terror threat, Hezbollah operates mostly as a threat to their Israeli interests. Regardless, out of all the terrorist threats existing in the world today, Hezbollah is the most organized and advanced organization. It boasts of political infiltration, guerilla force capability, a media empire, global organized crime syndicates and a network of social institutions – from hospitals to schools. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has argued they are a growing threat to the US on the horizon. Nathan Brown from Georgetown Security Studies Review wrote that any US counterterrorism strategies would be impossible to accomplish if they aim to completely erase their existence. The achievable counterterrorism strategy for the US to follow consists of effectively deterring Hezbollah from engaging in terrorist activities (Brown). So far, the US followed in collaborated counterterrorism with Israel on all levels of military, diplomatic, and political spectrums. On an operational level, the US has maintained an “active defense” strategy as coined by President Reagan. The US strategy in addressing the threat from Hezbollah has overall remained passive through monitoring and reactionary actions, since US policy towards Hezbollah is intertwined with a broader perspective involving Middle Eastern policy driven by diplomacy. The relations involving other Middle Eastern countries, along with a focus on immediate threats such as Al Qaeda and ISIS has kept the US from actively countering Hezbollah. The active counterterrorism US strategy in recent years has mainly been on the financial front by targeting their global finance network, while carefully treading through the delicate diplomatic strategies of limiting their influence through diplomatic coercion.
Brown, Nathan. “U.S. Counterterrorism Policy and Hezbollah’s Resiliency.” Georgetown Security Studies Review GSSR 1.3 (2013): N.P. Web. 30 July 2015.
Brown, Nathan. “Georgetown Security Studies Review – U.S. Counterterrorism Policy and Hezbollah’s Resiliency.”Georgetown Security Studies Review. Georgetown University, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 July 2015. <http://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/2013/12/10/u-s-counterterrorism-policy-and-hezbollahs-resiliency/>.
Michael T. Benson, Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel(Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997), 2, http://www.questia.com/read/15103148/harry-s-truman-and-the-founding-of-israel.
Jain, Ash. U.S. Policy on Hezbollah: The Question of Engagement. 10 July 2010. 30 July 2015 <http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/u.s.-policy-on-hizballah-the-question-of-engagement >.