Sheikh Nabil Qaouk is a U.S.-designated member and former deputy head of Hezbollah’s executive council.“Lebanon will benefit from Daesh defeat: Hezbollah's Sheikh Nabil Qaouk,” Daily Star (Beirut), July 2, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Jul-02/411415-lebanon-will-benefit-from-daesh-defeat-hezbollahs-sheikh-nabil-qaouk.ashx; “Sheikh Qaouk: Equation of the army and the people and the resistance achieved what the National Alliance failed,” Al-Manar, August 14, 2017, http://www.almanar.com.lb/2456045. He is also a former Hezbollah military commander who fought against Israel during its 1982-2000 occupation of Lebanon and Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel.John Kifner and Robert Worth, “Hezbollah out, army in as peace takes hold,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 18, 2006, http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/hezbollah-out-army-in-as-peace-takes-hold/2006/08/17/1155407959686.html.
Qaouk is also a former Hezbollah commander who led the group’s forces in southern Lebanon during Israel’s 18-year occupation.John Kifner, “In 1990’s, Shadows Waged War,” New York Times, July 22, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/world/middleeast/in-1990s-shadows-waged-war.html?mcubz=0. When exactly he transitioned to Hezbollah’s executive council is undetermined. After Israel’s May 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, Qaouk—then Hezbollah’s field commander in southern Lebanon—told the New York Times that Hezbollah had evolved its tactics to fight against Israel. John Kifner, “In Long Fight With Israel, Hezbollah Tactics Evolved,” New York Times, July 19, 2000, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/19/world/in-long-fight-with-israel-hezbollah-tactics-evolved.html.
During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, Israeli jets targeted and destroyed a building in Beirut used by Qaouk as local offices, though he was not inside.Roee Nahmias, “IAF strikes Lebanese army base,” YNet, July 27, 2006, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3281969,00.html. After the conflict, Qaouk made veiled statements about Hezbollah’s intentions to maintain its weapons in southern Lebanon despite the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 1701, passed on August 11, 2006, demanding it disarm. “Hezbollah warns UN peacekeepers,” Al Jazeera, September 16, 2006, http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2006/09/2008410134528643635.html. Hezbollah had operated covertly in the past and it would continue to do so, he said.John Kifner and Robert Worth, “Hezbollah out, army in as peace takes hold,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 18, 2006, http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/hezbollah-out-army-in-as-peace-takes-hold/2006/08/17/1155407959686.html.
Qaouk has broadly supported Hezbollah’s intervention in the neighboring Syrian civil war, while acting as an international mouthpiece to justify Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. He has praised Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces for confronting ISIS and the Nusra Front.“Hezbollah official warns of militant threats on border with Syria,” Daily Star (Beirut), July 9, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Jul-09/412121-hezbollah-official-warns-of-militant-threats-on-border-with-syria.ashx?utm_source=Magnet&utm_medium=Entity%20page&utm_campaign=Magnet%20tools#; “Lebanon will benefit from Daesh defeat: Hezbollah's Sheikh Nabil Qaouk,” Daily Star (Beirut), July 2, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Jul-02/411415-lebanon-will-benefit-from-daesh-defeat-hezbollahs-sheikh-nabil-qaouk.ashx. He claims that Hezbollah’s actions are in the best interests of the Lebanese state by protecting it from the conflict’s spillover. He has also accused Israel of using ISIS and other Syrian rebel groups to weaken Hezbollah, Syria, and Lebanon. Ariel Ben Solomon, “Report: Unprecedented Number of Hezbollah Fighters Killed,” Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2015, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Unprecedented-number-of-Hezbollah-fighters-killed-403341.
Although Qaouk pledged that the terror group would never fight inside Syria, Hezbollah has been involved in major battles there alongside Syrian, Iranian, and Russian forces. “Qaouk: Hezbollah will never fight in Syria, job is to protect Lebanon,” Daily Star (Beirut), May 27, 2012, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2012/May-27/174755-qaouk-hezbollah-will-never-fight-in-syria-job-is-to-protect-lebanon.ashx. Ultimately in September 2014, Qaouk acknowledged Hezbollah’s presence in Syria and the “great need” for Hezbollah to remain there in order to fight ISIS.Adiv Sterman, “Hezbollah vows to destroy Islamic State in Syria,” Times of Israel, September 15, 2014, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-vows-to-destroy-islamic-state-in-syria/. In March 2016, Qaouk acknowledged that Hezbollah had intervened “politically, popularly and militarily” in Syria, and that this intervention put Hezbollah “in its best status.”“Hezbollah stronger after Syria involvement: Qaouk,” Daily Star (Beirut), March 19, 2016, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Mar-19/343046-hezbollah-stronger-after-syria-involvement-qaouk.ashx?utm_source=Magnet&utm_medium=Entity%20page&utm_campaign=Magnet%20tools.
Qaouk credited Hezbollah and the Lebanese army with allowing the election of Lebanese President Michel Aoun in October 2016. “Army, resistance enabled election of Lebanon president: Hezbollah official,” Daily Star (Beirut), October 29, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Oct-29/378740-army-resistance-enabled-election-of-lebanon-president-hezbollah-official.ashx?utm_source=Magnet&utm_medium=Entity%20page&utm_campaign=Magnet%20tools. He also praised cooperation between Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah. “Hezbollah Official Hails Joint Action with Lebanese Army,” Tasnim News Agency, August 21, 2017, https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/08/21/1497653/hezbollah-official-hails-joint-action-with-lebanese-army.
In the summer of 2017, Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar began referring to Qaouk as a member of Hezbollah’s executive council.“Sheikh Qaouk: Equation of the army and the people and the resistance achieved what the National Alliance failed,” Al-Manar, August 14, 2017, http://www.almanar.com.lb/2456045. A September 2017 piece in Al-Manar referred to Ali Damush as the new head of the council.“Sheikh Daoudouche: Increasing the size of the security threats comes in the context of striking the resistance and the army against Takfiri terrorism,” Al-Manar, September 18, 2017, http://www.almanar.com.lb/2622970. The October 2020 U.S. designation of Qaouk referred to him as a member of the executive council who has represented Hezbollah at events commemorating deceased Hezbollah terrorists, as well as IRGC-Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who died in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.“Treasury Targets High-Ranking Hizballah Officials,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 22, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1161.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Nabil Qaouk as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on October 22, 2020.“Treasury Targets High-Ranking Hizballah Officials,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 22, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1161.