The 2006 conflict between the terrorist organization Hezbollah and the IDF has been called the Second Lebanon War – but this is misleading. The IDF was not fighting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the legitimate army of Lebanon, but a terrorist organization within Lebanon. Despite their propaganda attempts to convince the world that they serve Lebanon and its citizens, Hezbollah is not the army of Lebanon: it does not answer to the Lebanese Minister of Defense nor is it afraid of using weapons against civilian populations – Israeli or Lebanese.
Lebanese Army and Hezbollah: what’s the difference?
In 1943, Lebanon declared its independence from France. Two years later, the Lebanese government reached an agreement with the French and took over responsibility for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Its stated goals are: defending the country and its citizens against all aggression, confronting all threats against the country’s vital interests and maintaining internal security and stability. The LAF’s Chief of Staff answers to the Minister of Defense of the Lebanese government.
In contrast, Hezbollah grew out of a rebel movement financed and trained by the Iranian Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in 1982. Its goals are to destroy Israel and impose a Shia theocracy in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, receives direct orders from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Hosseini Khamenei.
Hezbollah targets civilians
Hezbollah does not behave like a regular military. Regular armies fight other regular armies; Hezbollah targets civilians. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired 4000 rockets at the northern cities of Israel and killed 44 civilians. They used the Lebanese civilian population as human shields by turning their homes into weapons storage facilities and by firing missiles from populated areas.
Hezbollah plays dirty on the home front too: during the 2008 conflict in Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed that the Lebanese government’s decision to classify Hezbollah’s telecommunication network illegal was a “declaration of war.” Hezbollah then used its fighters and weapons to take control of most of West Beirut, a highly-populated area. 11 people were killed and 30 wounded in the resulting violence. The Lebanese government came out with a statement, saying that “the armed and bloody coup which is being implemented aims to return Syria to Lebanon and extend Iran’s reach to the Mediterranean.”
LAF and Hezbollah relations
Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s second-in-command, declared in relation to the LAF:
[There is a desire] to deploy the army in the South in order to forbid the Resistance [Hezbollah] and any other faction or force from undertaking operations against Israel, be they in the Shebaa Farms or otherwise. In our view, this would only serve to remove Lebanon from the circle of confrontation with the Israeli enemy… .
He was later crystal clear about Hezbollah’s loyalty and how he thinks Lebanon should act:
Who said that Lebanon is capable of remaining neutral? Lebanon’s geographic and political positions impose two alternatives on the country: either an allegiance to Syria or an allegiance to Israel. It is only natural for us to choose the former…
-Naim Qassem, Hizbullah: The Story from Within, London: Saqi Books, 2005, p. 133-135.
Many voices among the Lebanese people have expressed anger and resentment at the influence of Hezbollah’s military force on Lebanon. Members of Lebanon’s Democratic Renewal Movement argue that “Hezbollah keeps putting Iran’s interest before Lebanon’s.” The former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, declared: “We want to put [Hezbollah’s weapons] under the control and authority of the state because it’s the army which protects us all.”
Saad Hariri also declared in June 2013: “[concerning the presence of Hezbollah in Syria] Hezbollah completely ignored the opinion of the Lebanese people. With their arms, they have established a state within a state with no president and no prime minister. In the state of Hezbollah, there is no national pact, no parliament and no national dialogue.”
Make no mistake: Hezbollah is in no way the official armed forces of Lebanon. They have used the Lebanese population as a human shield in the past, and there’s every indication that they will do so again in the future. These are the very same people that Hezbollah claims to defend in its propaganda. Hezbollah’s goals, in truth, have nothing to do with protecting the Lebanese population. These goals are simple: to destroy Israel and to establish a Shia theocracy in Lebanon.
More about Hezbollah in this declassified report.