Hezbollah's History Ideology Goals and Operational Capabilities Research Paper

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Hezbollah's History, Ideology, Goals And Operational Capabilities

The recent wave of anti-American demonstrations in Egypt and the murder of an American ambassador and three embassy staff workers in Libya makes it clear that America's global war on terrorism has simply fueled the growth of numerous terrorist organizations, including Lebanon's Hezbollah. Nevertheless, representatives of Hezbollah argue that they are not a terrorist organization but rather a political party with legitimate goals, while critics cite numerous instances of the use of terrorist activities by the group. Therefore, in order to gain some fresh insights in this area, this paper provides n in-depth profile on the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah. An examination of the organization's origins, ideology, goals and objectives is followed by a discussion concerning Hezbollah's leadership, funding, and capabilities. Finally, a description of known and suspected weapons and lethal agents as well as their delivery methods, the types of procedures that have been used in prior attacks, propaganda and surveillance methods, as well as significant events and dates in the organization's history that may be used in attack planning is followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Hezbollah's Origin, Ideology, Goals and Objectives

While everyone can agree that the modern state of Lebanon emerged following its independence from France in 1943 and that the organization, Hezbollah, was formed in 1982, there are widely divergent opinions concerning Hezbollah's true ideology and goals. Indeed, some observers and representatives of the organization alike argue that Hezbollah is not a ruthless terrorist organization but has legitimate goals and objectives that have assumed new importance and relevance following the Arab Spring uprisings. For instance, in 2003, Lebanese Ambassador Farid Abboud presented a speech on the current state of Hezbollah and the misconceptions that persist concerning the nature of the organization, especially in the climate that existed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when the U.S. demand that Lebanon freeze Hezbollah's assets. According to Ziad (2003), "The ambassador began by stressing that Hezbollah was not a terrorist group, nor 'a fringe element that commits outrages now and then.' Rather, he said, it is a broad-based political party that participates in elections, with representatives in parliament and a legitimate political presence in the system" (72). Moreover, proponents argue that Hezbollah's overarching goal is not to create an Islamic state but is rather focused on improving the condition of the constituents they represent as part of the overall political process. In this regard, the ambassador stressed that, "[Hezbollah] doesn't give a hoot about the way of life in this country. Its agenda is very localized, and its practices are indicative of this" (Ziad, 2003, 72).

Finally, the ambassador emphasized that Hezbollah an immediate goal of the organization is to forge a viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the organizations' constituents deserved the right to express their views through this framework. For example, the ambassador emphasized that, "We will not disqualify it from the Lebanese polity just because its agenda is anti-Israel" (Ziad, 2003, 72). Just as insurgents and terrorists are called freedom fights or heroes depending on who is doing the naming, Ziad suggests that Hezbollah's ideology and representation in the legitimate law-making process demands that its goals be considered as valid. In this regard, Ziad reports that the ambassador also pointed out that, "If the United States wants to use certain moral and legal parameters to judge one side, then judge the other side as well. Otherwise, go back to politics. Hezbollah is just one part of the conflict that exists between the Arabs and Israelis, the crux of which is the Israeli occupation of Palestine" (emphasis added) (Ziad, 2003, 72).

The recent election of a Muslim Brotherhood member to the presidency of Egypt is reflective of this larger overall trend that has emerged post-Arab Spring, and lends additional credibility to the view that Hezbollah is a legitimate political organization with valid goals and objectives. By very sharp contrast, a Senior Fellow at RAND Corporation's Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, recently characterized Hezbollah as an "Iranian terrorist proxy organization" (Lambeth, 2012, 82). Given these divergent views, an examination of Hezbollah's leadership, funding source and operational capabilities can provide some further insights into the organization's real purpose and these issues are discussed further below.

Hezbollah's Leadership, Funding and Capabilities

In reality, Hezbollah was just one of several political organizations that emerged in Lebanon following its independence, and a relative latecomer as well (Norton, 2009). Following its creation in the early 1980s, the party enjoyed varying levels of support while receiving funding from Iran (Norton, 2009) as well as other sources (as discussed further below). In 1997, Hezbollah's former secretary-general, Shaikh Subhi al-Tufayli, attempted to reinvigorate support for the party by soliciting local support in the Beqaa valley among disenfranchised farmers and tribesmen, but no single organization can be viewed as having majority support in Lebanon today (Norton, 2009). Nevertheless, by the 1990s, Hezbollah was regarded as being "the best-organized political phenomenon [which] enjoyed the largest base of popular support" (Norton, 2009, 83). The environment in which Hezbollah emerged as a viable political party, irrespective of its military capabilities, was highly conducive to this level of response. Prior to Hezbollah's establishment in 1982, there had already been a number of secular parties formed in Lebanon, as well as the reformist Amal movement, which continue to enjoy significant membership; in fact, Hussein Nasrallah, brother to Hasan Nasrallah, a founder of Hezbollah and its secretary-general, remains a life member in the Amal organization (Norton, 2009). Clearly, membership in Hezbollah does not forego membership in other organizations that have similar goals, and further support for Hezbollah was gained form historically marginalized Lebanese Shi'a who personally experienced the Israeli incursions into their country, as well as the widespread view that Amal and the other organizations were incapable of effective resistance (Sorenson, 2012). In this regard, Sorenson cites "the pivotal role of Imad Mughniyah, both in pushing Hezbollah towards armed resistance and in eliciting Iranian support, making him more significant in Hezbollah's evolution than Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, who helped shape Hezbollah's religious identity" (2009, 384). This analyst also emphasizes the role played by Israeli in the conflict that served to legitimize Hezbollah during and following the 1982 invasion, due in part to Israel's use of so-called "iron fist" tactics against Lebanese Shi'a which fueled widespread support and admiration for Hezbollah (Sorenson, 2012). By the mid-1980s, Hezbollah increasingly engaged in a dual tactic of using suicide bombers while promoting increased involvement in Shi'a social and economic programs (Sorenson, 2012).

Indeed, just as North Korea continues to trumpet its ceasefire with the United States as evidence that even monolithic powers can be defeated where there is sufficient resolve, El Rafei emphasizes that, "Israel's month-long war against Lebanon ended with Hezbollah claiming the high ground. Banners touting Hezbollah's 'divine victory' quickly decorated the disaster areas of southern Lebanon, and billboards denounced 'the savage destruction inflicted by the Zionists and the Americans'" (2006, 31). The ceasefire that was negotiated, though, was due to the UN's intervention, but this did not stop Hezbollah's official media outlets from "continuing to air triumphant anthems and interviews with the families of the victims showing their total allegiance to the group and their readiness to sacrifice anything, including their own children, for the resistance" (El Rafei, 2006, 32).

Concomitantly, Israeli stepped up the pressure against Hezbollah and Israeli air units succeeded in killing Sayyid Abbas Mussawi, a key Hezbollah leader, in February 1992 (Sorenson, 2012). According to Sorenson, "Hezbollah retaliated against the Israeli Embassy in Argentina a month later, dramatically demonstrating its global reach. Mussawi's death paved the way for Hassan Nasrallah to take the reins" (2012, 383). In response to these pressures, Nasrallah conceded to the pressure being brought by Iran which was being actively resisted by other Hezbollah leaders to participate in Lebanese elections. In this regard, Sorenson adds that, "The supreme leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) had spoken, and for Hezbollah the matter was settled" (2012, 383).

Besides primary funding from Iran, some analysts believe that much of Hezbollah funding comes from so-called "blood diamonds" originating in West Africa. According to Warah, "The West African Shi'ite Lebanese community was sympathetic to Hezbollah and often served as a link between rebels and Al Qaeda. [However], much of the evidence linking West Africa's Lebanese community to global terror networks has been primarily anecdotal and circumstantial" (Warah, 2004, 21). Nevertheless, a recent report from Rubin cautions that, "Iran is preparing to use Hezbollah to strike at U.S. interests in Latin America, if not in the United States itself. Hezbollah is using a training base established by Iran in northern Nicaragua near the border with Honduras. Tehran is funding and supplying the training base" (Rubin, 2012, 2).

Known and Suspected Materiel and Operational Procedures

Reliable intelligence concerning Hezbollah's military capabilities is limited, but their operational procedures are well established and have been extensively studied by Western analysts, particularly in Israel. According to Lambeth, the organization consists…

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