HomeWorldLebanon's Hezbollah: An Insight into the Controversial Organization

Lebanon’s Hezbollah: An Insight into the Controversial Organization

Lebanon’s Hezbollah: A Closer Look at the Militant Group

Lebanon’s Hezbollah has recently made headlines with its targeting of Israeli military positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms. This act of aggression was carried out “in solidarity” with the Palestinian people following an unprecedented attack by Hamas gunmen from Gaza into Israel. In response, Israel launched barrages of artillery into southern Lebanon. Fortunately, no casualties have been reported so far.

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Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has come a long way since its establishment as a shadowy faction during Lebanon’s civil war from 1975 to 1990. It has evolved into a heavily armed force that wields significant influence over the Lebanese state. However, governments such as the United States consider it a terrorist organization.

The Origins of Hezbollah

In 1982, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards founded Hezbollah with the aim of exporting its Islamic Revolution and fighting against Israeli forces that had invaded Lebanon. Sharing Tehran’s Shi’ite Islamist ideology, Hezbollah recruited among Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims.

Military Power and Influence

Hezbollah retained its weapons at the end of the civil war to combat Israeli forces that occupied the predominantly Shi’ite south. Through years of guerrilla warfare, Israel eventually withdrew in 2000.

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In 2006, Hezbollah showcased its military prowess during a five-week war with Israel. The conflict erupted after Hezbollah crossed into Israel, kidnapping two soldiers and killing others. The war resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel during this period.

Since 2012, Hezbollah has bolstered its military power by deploying forces to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against predominantly Sunni rebels. They have also acquired precision rockets, claiming the capability to strike any part of Israel. In fact, in 2021, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah boasted a force of 100,000 fighters.

It is worth noting that Iran plays a crucial role in arming Hezbollah by providing weapons and financial support. The United States estimates that Iran has been allocating hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the group in recent years.

Regional Influence and Affiliations

Hezbollah maintains deep connections with other Iran-backed groups in the region, including Palestinian factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. During the recent attack, Hezbollah claimed to be in “direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance.”

Furthermore, Hezbollah has been involved in training Iran-backed groups in Iraq and has participated in conflicts there. Saudi Arabia also accuses Hezbollah of supporting the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen, although Hezbollah denies these allegations.

Role in Lebanon

Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon is rooted in its arsenal and the support it receives from many Shi’ite individuals who believe the group defends the country against Israel. However, Lebanese parties opposed to Hezbollah argue that the group undermines the state and accuses it of unilaterally leading Lebanon into conflicts.

Hezbollah has a significant presence in Lebanese politics, with ministers in government and lawmakers in parliament. In 2008, a power struggle with Lebanese adversaries backed by the West and Saudi Arabia led to a brief conflict. Hezbollah fighters took control of parts of Beirut after the government vowed to take action against the group’s military communications network.

The group’s involvement in politics intensified in 2005 after the withdrawal of ally Syria from Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Notably, a U.N.-backed court later convicted three Hezbollah members in absentia for their role in the assassination. However, Hezbollah vehemently denies any involvement and dismisses the court as a tool of its enemies.

In 2016, the Hezbollah-allied Christian politician Michel Aoun became president, further solidifying the group’s influence. Two years later, Hezbollah and its allies secured a parliamentary majority. Although this majority was lost in 2022, Hezbollah continues to exert significant sway.

It is important to highlight that Hezbollah has faced accusations of carrying out attacks on Western targets. Lebanese security officials and Western intelligence have linked Hezbollah to suicide bombings on Western embassies and targets, as well as the kidnapping of Westerners during the 1980s. One notable figure, Imad Moughniyah, a top Hezbollah commander, was believed to have led a group called Islamic Jihad, which was responsible for these attacks. Moughniyah was killed in a car bomb in Syria in 2008.

Terrorist Designations and International Standings

Western countries, including the United States, designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia also share this classification. While the European Union labels Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, it does not extend this designation to its political wing.

Argentina has assigned blame to Hezbollah and Iran for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which claimed the lives of 85 people. They are also accused of carrying out a 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 individuals. However, both Hezbollah and Iran deny any involvement in these incidents.

By delving deeper into the history, military power, regional influence, and domestic role of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of this complex and controversial militant group.

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