Hassan Nasrallah is the secretary-general of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, and an important figure in Lebanese politics.Guy Raz, “Hassan Nasrallah: Mideast Man of the Minute,” National Public Radio, July 18, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5566717. Although Nasrallah does not hold official office in Lebanon, terrorism expert Walid Phares asserted, “[Nasrallah is] seen as a messianic figure, much higher than any official in Lebanon.”Eben Kaplan, “Profile: Hassan Nasrallah,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 11, 2010, http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/profile-hassan-nasrallah/p11132. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Nasrallah has shaped Hezbollah into the dominant political power in Lebanon and is the “driving force” behind the group’s military operations.Eben Kaplan, “Profile: Hassan Nasrallah,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 11, 2010, http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/profile-hassan-nasrallah/p11132.
Nasrallah assumed leadership of Hezbollah in 1992 after Israel assassinated his predecessor, co-founder of the group Abbas Musawi.Guy Raz, “Hassan Nasrallah: Mideast Man of the Minute,” National Public Radio, July 18, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5566717. Under Nasrallah’s leadership, Hezbollah has assumed many state functions in Lebanon’s Shiite-majority south by providing a social welfare network, schools, housing, and other services. These activities have boosted Hezbollah’s and Nasrallah’s popularity.Guy Raz, “Hassan Nasrallah: Mideast Man of the Minute,” National Public Radio, July 18, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5566717.
Many in the Middle East view Nasrallah as a heroic figure for appearing to successfully stand up to Israel.Ronen Bergman, “The Fall of Hezbollah’s Leader,” Bloomberg Business, June 24, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-06-24/the-fall-of-hezbollah-s-leader. Hezbollah claimed credit for forcing Israel to end its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.Marjorie Miller, John Daniszewski, and Tracy Wilkinson, “Israel leaves South Lebanon after 22 years,” Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2000, http://articles.latimes.com/2000/may/24/news/mn-33497. According to National Public Radio’s Guy Raz, “Nasrallah is seen as a hero [throughout the Arab world] — a leader capable of inflicting pain on Israel.”Guy Raz, “Hassan Nasrallah: Mideast Man of the Minute,” National Public Radio, July 18, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5566717. However, Nasrallah’s popularity in Lebanon has suffered since 2012 as a result of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.“Hezbollah Promises Syria ‘Victory,’” BBC News, May 25, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22669230.
Iran and Hezbollah have maintained strong ties under Nasrallah’s leadership, with Iran providing Hezbollah with financial and military support.Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “The Foreign Policy of Iran,” in The Foreign Policies of Middle East States (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), 298; Jonathan Masters and Zachary Laub, “Hezbollah (a.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu’llah),” Council on Foreign Relations, January 3, 2014, http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/hezbollah-k-hizbollah-hizbullah/p9155. In September 2012, Nasrallah pledged to attack Israel if it or the U.S. attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities.Rana Muhammad Taha, “Nasrallah Threatens US on Behalf of Iran,” Daily News Egypt, September 4, 2012, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2012/09/04/hezbollah-if-attacked-iran-could-attack-us-bases/. After the January 3, 2020, death of Qasem Soleimani, commander of Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps., Nasrallah called for attacks on U.S. military installations around the Middle East.Liz Sly and Sarah Dadouch, “Hezbollah says retribution for Soleimani’s death must target U.S. military, not civilians,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/hezbollah-says-retribution-for-soleimanis-death-must-target-us-military-not-civilians/2020/01/05/50869828-2e62-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html.
In May 2018, the U.S. Treasury and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center—which includes the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates—sanctioned Nasrallah along with other top Hezbollah officials. According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the sanctions demonstrate a collective rejection of “the false distinction between the so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting.”“U.S. sanctions Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, deputy Qassem,” Reuters, May 16, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-hezbollah-sanctions/u-s-targets-hezbollah-leader-nasrallah-deputy-qassem-with-sanctions-idUSKCN1IH2QA. Previously, the United States designated Nasrallah in January 1995 as a Specially Designated Terrorist under Executive Order 12947 and again in September 2012 under Executive Order 13582 for providing support to the Syrian government.“Treasury Targets Hizballah for Supporting the Assad Regime,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 10, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1676.aspx; “Treasury Designates Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 13, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1709.aspx; “Treasury and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center Partner Together to Sanction Hizballah’s Senior Leadership” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 16, 2018, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0387.
On November 27, 2020, unknown assailants killed senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Iran. U.S. intelligence described Fakhrizadeh as the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear program. Some U.S. officials claimed Israel was behind the assassination.Kylie Atwood, “US official says Israel was behind assassination of Iranian scientist,” CNN, December 2, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/02/politics/iran-scientist-israel-assassination-us/index.html. In response to the killing, Nasrallah reportedly canceled all travel plans and intended to remain in one undisclosed location out of concern Israel might target him.“Hezbollah chief said to hunker down amid fears he could be targeted by Israel,” Times of Israel, November 29, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-chief-said-to-hunker-down-amid-fears-he-could-be-targeted-by-israel/. In early December, Kuwaiti media reported that Nasrallah planned to indefinitely relocate—or had already relocated—to Iran. According to the reports, Lebanese and regional intelligence had recorded increased communications between the IRGC and Hezbollah to plan the move.Tzvi Joffre, “Hezbollah’s Nasrallah to move to Iran amid regional tensions – report,” Jerusalem Post, December 3, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/hezbollahs-nasrallah-to-move-to-iran-amid-regional-tensions-report-650992.
The Department of the Treasury designated Hasan Nasrallah a Specially Designated Terrorist under Executive Order 12947 in January 1995. The designation blocked all property and financial transactions in the U.S.“Treasury Targets Hizballah for Supporting the Assad Regime,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 10, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1676.aspx.
The Department of the Treasury designated Hasan Nasrallah on September 13, 2012, under Executive Order 13582 for providing support to the Syrian government. The designation called for the seizure of all assets of anybody in the U.S. doing business with the Syrian government.“Treasury Designates Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 13, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1709.aspx.