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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“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.