Hezbollah: Counter-terrorism and U.S. Policy

Counter-terrorism

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Works Cited

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 >.

 

Strategy, Targets, and Methods of Operations

Strategy

In order to comprehend the strategy behind Hezbollah’s actions, it is important to fully understand the underpinning of Hezbollah’s position on the world stage. Hezbollah has positioned itself as a “force resisting the actions of Israel and the superpowers, which have led to subjugation and oppression throughout the Third World” (Norton, 38). The strategy deployed is not one-dimensional in that Hezbollah is not just a radical militant group. According to Lina Khatib within the article Hezbollah’s Political Strategy, Hezbollah has “followed a sophisticated and adaptive political strategy that blends military, social, economic and religious elements” (Khatib, p. 61).

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The combination of these varying social elements greatly differentiates Hezbollah within the region and provides a dangerous element of legitimacy to the organization. The messages and strategies appear credible because the political party has successfully cultivated an image of credibility through a tactical multi-faceted approach (Khatib, p.69). To this end, Hezbollah should not only be seen as a combatant to Israel or merely a terrorist or militant threat. Ultimately, Hezbollah has ambitious aims of being recognized as a comprehensive political force on a global scale.

Targets

The group of Hezbollah, which self-identifies as the army of God has a very specific target description for their attacks. The group follows the militant Shia doctrines calling for a one Islamic government uniting all Arab nations while liberating Jerusalem from the Jews. Their policy is based on global terrorism, but focus their attacks primarily on Israeli and American targets, with a rational based on both politics and religion. Since the eradication of Israel is their main priority, they usually target advantageous places in Israel. Their manifest calls for opposition to Israel and its western allies. To further its cause, Hezbollah targets key US military spots, have kidnapped and killed US officers, and many other westerners over their existence.

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In the past, Hezbollah targeted embassies, and even conducted military campaigns involving shelling of towns in northern Israel, kidnapping westerners in Lebanon, and suicide bombings among public places in Israeli towns. These targets remain the same today for Hezbollah. The group uses both psychological and guerilla warfare so their targets can range from elaborate attacks on large Israeli populations, western tourists, US military personal, or on simple small scale attacks meant to create personal fear among their enemies by publicizing through their media propaganda. Furthermore, having two methods of attacks on their targets, Hezbollah also targets US and Israeli media with counter propaganda from their radio and TV networks. They target reports they believe do not agree with their goals, and publicize counter information. This truly reveals the political nature of this organization since they understand the larger picture involving support and gaining sympathizers to oppose the existence of Israel.

In summary, Hezbollah targets Israel as the ultimate enemy along with western allies, and even Lebanese dissenters. Their list of targets range from average Israeli civilians, to US military and Lebanese people opposing their objectives. In their media front, they even target children through violent video games simulating attacks Israelis.

Methods of Operation

Hezbollah’s “modus operandi” can be categorized into two periods. The first period, which is the decade of the 1980s, consists of terrorist attacks, which include suicide attacks, hijacking aircrafts, and kidnapping western hostages in Lebanon and abroad. Hezbollah was one of the first groups to use suicide bombings in the Middle East. This is their trademark method of operation, however recently they have branched away from solely using suicide tactics as their main method of attack. This begins the second period of Hezbollah’s methods of operation, which begins during the 1990s. This is when Hezbollah began expanding its operation and logistical structure internationally. They also reduced the scope of their attacks and began going for “quality” targets instead of targets, which were more “quantity”. They began to have a quality over quantity approach. In Israel, Hezbollah now carries out intelligence and terrorist activities. They recently sent out an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to gain intelligence, they also tend to use IED’s and have been working on smuggling explosives and weapons into the country for terrorist activities.

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Out of six terrorist operations targeting Israeli individuals from 2008 to 2012, every attack, or attempted attack, used some sort of IED. Prior to the second Lebanon war, and afterwards, Hezbollah began building its arsenal of rockets and missiles. These are used to threaten Israel’s citizens and were used to attack civilian targets during the second Lebanon war. This rocket arsenal is estimated to have about 60,000 rockets and missiles. This has made Hezbollah look less like a terrorist organization and more like an “external security organization.” For terrorist attacks overseas, Hezbollah has established terrorist sleeper cells, which are connected to the local criminal organizations. These sleeper cells are directed to primarily target Israeli tourists and Jewish people worldwide. By keeping a connection to local criminal organizations, Hezbollah is able collect intelligence on targets, and fundraise for the organization though wealthy donors and income from various criminal activities like smuggling and forging documents.

 

Works Cited

Azani, Eitan, Dr. Col. (Res.). Hezbollah – A Global Terrorist Organization – Situational Report as of September 2006. Rep. Ed. Moshe Horrowitz. Herzliya, Israel: Institute for Counter-Terrorism, 2006. Investigative Project. Web. 11 July 2015. <http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/testimony/260.pdf>.

“Hezbollah — ADL: Terrorist Symbol Database.” Hezbollah — ADL: Terrorist Symbol Database. Anti- Defamation League, n.d. Web. 25 July 2015. <http://archive.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/hezbollah.html>.

“Hezbollah: Portrait of a Terrorist Organization.” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. N.p., 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 25 July 2015. <http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20436/ E_158_12_1231723028.pdf>.

Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009

Khatib, Lina(2011) ‘Hizbullah’s Political Strategy’, Survival, 53: 2, 61 — 76

Wakin, Daniel J. “Video game mounts simulated attacks against Israeli targets.” The New York Times 18 (2003).

Weimann, Gabriel. “Hezbollah Dot Com: Hezbollah’s Online Campaign.” New Media and Innovative Technologies (2008): 17-38.

Organization Support: Sponsorship, Funding, Recruiting

Government Sponsorship

Founded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Hezbollah is financed and supported by Iran. For Iran, the creation and the ascendance of Hezbollah is the desired manifestation of the spread of the Islamic Revolution within the region. Although Hezbollah projects an autonomous political persona, there is minimal separation between their politics and the directives of the Supreme Leader in Iran. In tandem with Iranian political, financial, and military support, Hezbollah calls for the expulsion of Israel and the United States from Lebanese territory, as well as for the destruction of the Israeli state in its entirety (Masters).

Financing/Funding

Although varying greatly depending on the political climate, Augustus Norton claims within his work “Hezbollah: A Short History” that Iran contributes roughly $150 Million per year in support for the militia wing of Hezbollah (Norton). This support, coupled with private donations from Lebanese Shias, provides ample operating capital to carry out their terrorist activities as well as general political/militant group objectives.

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In addition to Iranian direct support, Hezbollah gains finances through organized criminal activities around the world including activities such as cigarette trafficking in the US. These organized crime networks recruit mainly through criminal networking, making some crime rings in places of Europe subsidiary cells and recruiters for the Hezbollah support network. Others in the international member demographic are recognized with potential and are relocated to Lebanon for terrorist training. Dr. Eitan Azani from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism wrote that, Some of these activists took part in terrorist activities while others participated in organizational activity, which included fundraising, recruiting activists into the organization, and training them to carry out attacks – for example, the case of Stephen Smirk who was recruited in Germany and sent to Israel to perpetrate attacks (Azani). Furthermore, this type of international recruitment is not limited to the US, but has been found in Southeast Asia, and the Americas where activists are targeted with propaganda and encouraged to move from sympathizer status to being an active terrorist in training.

Recruiting Methods

Hezbollah uses a many methods to gain organizational support for recruiting new members. The group has developed a strong global network through media, the Internet, and interpersonal networking. Their network consistently spreads the ideologies and objectives while furthering its establishment against opposition through psychological warfare in their propaganda. Hezbollah’s favorite target recruits are those who are Israeli Arabs since they are vital for intelligent gathering and conducting attacks in the area.

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For Hezbollah, primarily Shiite communities are targeted since they are the easiest to gain sympathetic support. In addition to spreading propaganda in order to bring sympathizers, and future members, one of Hezbollah’s most unique recruiting methods is by supporting various soccer outlets. According to the NY Daily News, Hezbollah at times sponsors soccer games and players to gain recruits through a common interest. In the article by NY Daily, Scott Atran an American and French anthropologist who has studied the relationship between soccer and terror groups was quoted as saying “It’s [soccer] on the whole their favorite thing after jihad” (Shahid). While this idea originally came from Osama Bin Laden, who saw soccer as a tool to create comradery, Hezbollah has its influence in multiple levels of global soccer sponsorship.

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While networking and sponsorship through common interests are tools used by Hezbollah, their greatest strength is their global media influence, which does well to spark interest and draw in new members. Their media methods are considered a superpower and distinguish the group from other terrorist organizations. Hezbollah leadership recognized the power of media and its influence on public opinion. Their Al-Mannar Television station, which is Hezbollah’s main outlet, is sent and viewed globally through satellite. In 2004, France outlawed the station and a week later, the US announced that the channel broadcasts terrorism-supporting propaganda. The group uses preaching and indoctrination networks targeted at activists. These are done through Islamic centers, the Internet, Al-Mannar television channel, and interpersonal networking. In addition to television, Hezbollah uses their Al-Nur radio station to broadcast their messages to increase support among the sympathizers in Lebanon. However, the Internet websites used by Hezbollah makes it one of the leading terrorist groups in the world in terms of conducting psychological warfare and da’awa (preaching) through the Internet. Their media outlet reinforces resolve and strength within the organization, while maintaining public opinion. The media section promotes the ideologies and objectives while fighting psychological warfare on their opposition through its propaganda (Azani).

 

 

Works Cited

Azani, Dr. Eitan. “Hezbollah, a Global Terrorist Organization.” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (2006): HTML N.p. Google Scholar. Web 19 July 2015.

Shahid, Aliyah. “Osama Bin Laden and Jihadists Love Soccer and The World Cup, Use as Recruitment Tool.” NY Daily News, Daily News: World. 7 July 2010. Web. 19 July 2015.

Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Masters, Jonathan. Hezbollah. 3 January 2014. 25 June 2015 <http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/hezbollah-k-hizbollah-hizbullah/p9155>.

Hezbollah: Leadership and Organization

Hezbollah, as both of political and combative organization, is far from a one-dimensional terrorist group. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has worked to spread the fires of revolution within the Arab world as a mechanism for removing Western influence from the region. The manifestation of this Iranian influence can be found within Hezbollah and its ascendence within Lebanon over the last 30 years. The leadership structure within Hezbollah is opaque without a clear understanding of the involvement, motivation, and goals of Iranian influence. Although Hezbollah projects an autonomous political persona, there is minimal separation between their politics and the directives of the Supreme Leader in Iran. That being said, Hezbollah plays an important part in Lebanese politics in that they hold roughly ten percent of the available seats in Parliament as of most recent elections.

Hezbollah is organized to have four organizational levels, the top levels being the most visible to the public while the last levels are the mujihidin, or their guerrilla fighters. The Shura Council controls the leadership of Hezbollah. The Shura Council controls Hezbollah’s military and sociopolitical arms. The Shura Council is made up of nine members, seven of whom are from Lebanon and the other two are Iranian.

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Elections for members of the Shura Council have recently been held every two to three years. The Iranian members of the council are on the council in order to protect Iran’s interests in Hezbollah. The Lebanese members of the Shura Council are: Hassan Nasrallah, Sheikh Naim Qassem, Imad Mugniyah, Hashem Safi Al-Din, Sheikh Ibrahim Amin Al-Sid, Hajj Hussein Halil, and Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek. Hassan Hasrallah is the chairman of the Shura Council and the Secretary General of all of Hezbollah. He has led as Secretary General of Hezbollah since 1992. The Secretary General is the top commander of Hezbollah and serves for a term of three years with no limitation on the number of terms that he can serve. Sheikh Naim Qassem is the Deputy-Secretary General and the second in command of Hezbollah. The other five members of the Shura Council each head a sub-council, and each sub-council is in charge of several operational “desks” which are each responsible for specific topics. Imad Muhammad Yazbek is the head of the Jihad Council, also known as the military council in Hezbollah. The Jihad Council is responsible for Hezbollah’s terrorist operations in Lebanon and worldwide. Hashem Safi Al-Din heads the Executive Council, which is responsible for social activity, manpower, and education. It also has territorial responsibility and as a result is also connected to the organizations operational and terrorist activities. Sheikh Ibrahim Amin Al-Sid is the head of Hezbollah’s Political Council. This includes parliament members, and is responsible for activity in the Lebanese political arena and the implementation of the chairman’s policies in the parliament. Hajj Hussein Halil is the Political Advisor for Hezbollah. He is responsible fro promoting the organizations policies and political interests using organizations, parties, and political entities inside and outside of Lebanon. Finally, Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek is the head of the Judiciary Council. The Judiciary Council is responsible for the judicial system in the Hezbollah-controlled areas, especially the Shiite villages.

 

Leadership

Sources:

Laub, Zachary. “Hezbollah.” Council on Foreign Relations. Ed. Jonathan Masters. Council on Foreign Relations, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 July 2015. <http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/hezbollah-k-hizbollah- hizbullah/p9155>.

Cohler, Sarah. “Hezbollah: Analysis of Violence.” American Diplomacy: Commentary and Analysis. American Diplomacy Publishers, Mar. 2011. Web. 11 July 2015. <http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/ 2011/0104/comm/cohler_hezbollah.html>.

Azani, Eitan, Dr. Col. (Res.). Hezbollah – A Global Terrorist Organization – Situational Report as of September 2006. Rep. Ed. Moshe Horrowitz. Herzliya, Israel: Institute for Counter-Terrorism, 2006. Investigative Project. Web. 11 July 2015. <http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/testimony/260.pdf>.