Hezbollah: Political Party or Terrorist Organization?

Hezbollah was born during the First Lebanon War in 1982. It arose out of an anti-Israel Shia Muslim rebel movement, and was funded by Iran and trained by Iran’s Quds Force. Hezbollah has been based in Southern Lebanon since its creation and is now led by Hassan Nasrallah. Under Nasrallah’s leadership, Hezbollah quickly began conducting guerrilla attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. In 1992, Hezbollah entered the Lebanese political arena in an effort to both take control of Lebanon and to make the world believe that it was a legitimate political movement and not a terrorist organization.

Our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated. (Hezbollah open letter, february 1985)

Today, Hezbollah’s primary aim is to destroy Israel. Hezbollah has been openly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic since its inception. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly proved this in various statements:

I’m against any reconciliation with Israel. I don’t recognize the presence of a state that is called Israel. (February 2000)
 If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide. (October 2002)

Al Manar TV, Hezbollah's channel

Al Manar TV, Hezbollah’s channel

Al-Manar TV, the official television channel of Hezbollah, has broadcast numerous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs, claiming, for example, that Israel spread H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and other diseases, throughout the Arab world. A second television report called for war against Jews and the destruction of Israel. This channel was banned by the highest administrative court in France for inciting racial hatred. The channel is also banned in the US, Spain and Germany.

Hezbollah strictly follows a radical version of Islamic Shia ideology, developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran. In Hezbollah’s ‘open letter’, which was published on February 16, 1985, and which marked the official launch of the movement, they write: “We obey the orders of one leader, wise and just … Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini. God save him!

What is the Khomeini Shia ideology?

In Khomeini’s book, Islamic government must be imposed upon Muslim countries in order to preserve the ‘Islamic order’ and to keep all individuals on the ‘just path of Islam’. Such an Islamic government must therefore impose Sharia Law on the entire population. Khomeini explains: “There is not a single topic in human life for which Islam has not provided instruction.” In Khomeini’s view, all Islamic governments will follow the “victorious and triumphant” armies of Muslims who will set “out from the mosque to go into battle and fear only God.”

ruhollah-khomeini-1

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

This is the ideology Hezbollah has embraced and propagated since its founding. Their stated objectives, as explained in their founding charter, are the destruction of Israel, the elimination of Western influence in the Middle East and the establishment of a Shia theocracy in Lebanon.

Anomalies

Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese political system, but does not act like any other political party in the world. Undeniably, the movement provides social and educational services to the Shiah community of Lebanon.  But as core members of the Lebanese government, should they not provide this to all Lebanese citizens? Hezbollah’s hospitals are free, but only for its members. Imagine if the Republican Party in the US or the Conservatives in Britain built hospitals that only members of their parties could use.

As explained by Lebanese writer Dr. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, these efforts may strengthen the social contract between Hezbollah and its followers, though “it would be a mistake, however, to think this is the main reason why Hezbollah’s followers are attracted to [the movement].” The organization’s message of resistance against Israel is what resonates the most among Hezbollah’s supporters.

The Lebanese parliament

The Lebanese parliament

How does Hezbollah deal with political opposition? Rafiq Hariri twice served as the Prime Minister of Lebanon, from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004.  He was a member of the March 14 Alliance, in opposition to the March 8 Alliance to which Hezbollah belongs. Rafiq Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005. The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon found Hezbollah guilty of his murder. More recently, on October 19, 2012, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was assassinated. He had been affiliated with the March 14 camp and was close to the Hariri family. Many voices in Lebanon accused Hezbollah of killing him.

Lastly, Hezbollah has stockpiled an arsenal of 60,000 rockets, and maintains a force of thousands of armed militants. But Hezbollah is not Lebanon’s army. Why would it need so many weapons and so many soldiers? Can you imagine if David Cameron’s political party owned an arsenal of weaponry that was not the property of the British Army?

In order to understand Hezbollah, we must first find out who really controls it, who makes the decisions, and whose interests it serves.

Who controls Hezbollah?

Hezbollah would not have been born without the financial help and the training of Iran and the Quds Force. The Iranian Quds Force has trained Hezbollah members numerous times in the past.

Why would Iran want to control Lebanon-based Hezbollah? Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has sought to export its revolution to Arab nations and especially to their Shia minority populations. A desire to impose Islamic law and expel all Western influences has driven the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khomeini, and his heir, Khamenei, for over three decades. They achieve these goals through terrorism. Their main proxies are Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas (although their support to that movement has lessened since its leadership left Damascus). Iran provides money, materiel and training to these terrorist groups through its Quds Force.

On the left Hezbollah's flag, on the right the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution's flag

On the left Hezbollah’s flag, on the right the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution’s flag

Hassan Nasrallah himself studied among Shia leaders who were supported by the Iranian regime. He followed the teachings of the Iranian-backed Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and studied in a seminary in the city of Qom in Iran.

Nasrallah and Hezbollah receive their orders directly from Iran and serve Iran’s interests.

“Southern Lebanon is a base of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”– Commander of the Iranian regime’s Quds Force.

Hezbollah’s fealty to Iran is most clearly expressed by their current intervention in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has sent hundreds of its members to fight the rebellion and assist the Syrian regime, in order to preserve the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. Iran fears losing a strong ally in the Alawite -controlled Syrian regime (the Alawites are a sect of Shia Islam) and the direct supply line to its operational branch, Hezbollah.

These actions have been contested by the Lebanese political opposition: “Hezbollah keeps putting Iran’s interest before Lebanon’s,members of the Democratic Renewal Party have said (April 2013).

Naim Qassem, second-in-command of Hezbollah

Naim Qassem, second-in-command of Hezbollah

Hezbollah has never been anything less than a terrorist organization that answers to the command of the Supreme Leader of Iran and seeks to destroy Israel, the Jewish people and any foreign presence in Lebanon. They will continue to play a dual role by, on the one hand, providing for the Shia minority, and on the other hand, committing guerrilla attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. Hezbollah pretends to be a legitimate political organization, but their political and military wings are really one and the same. “Hezbollah has a single leadership,” Hezbollah’s deputy leader Naim Qassem told an American journalist. “The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel.”

“We are not a regular army,” Nasrallah said (August 2006). “And we will not fight like a regular army.”

More about Hezbollah in this declassified report.