Also Known As:
Iran helped create the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s in order to expand its influence in the region. Under the pretense of fighting foreign occupiers in Lebanon, Hezbollah has been responsible for murderous terror attacks against Israeli, American, and Jewish targets around the globe. Despite its rhetoric of freeing Lebanon from foreign occupation, Hezbollah has made no secret that it is heavily supported by foreign powers, namely the Islamist Iranian regime.
Iran has transferred mass quantities of weapons, fighters, and other supplies to Hezbollah through its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, using Syria as a transfer point. It has been responsible for transferring thousands of rockets, which Hezbollah has used against Israeli civilians, notably in the 2006 Second Lebanon War which was sparked by a Hezbollah cross-border raid that resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers and capture of two others. In addition to its violently anti-Israel position, Hezbollah’s loyalty to Iran and Syria has translated into Hezbollah involvement on behalf of the embattled Syrian regime in that country’s civil war.
Like Iran, Hezbollah considers the United States and Israel to be its chief enemies, which has led to a global terrorist campaign against the two nations. Until September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist organization. Among other deadly attacks, Hezbollah has been linked to the 1983 attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon; the 1992 suicide bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the 1994 suicide bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires; and the 2012 bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria. Hezbollah is also suspected of involvement in the February 2005 Beirut suicide bombing that killed 23 people, including former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Further complicating Hezbollah’s status, the terror group has woven itself into Lebanon’s social fabric, setting up charities and providing services in the southern part of the country where government authority is weaker. These social services have boosted Hezbollah’s popularity enough to allow it to become part of the Lebanese political structure. Since 1992, Hezbollah has had a presence and outsized influence in the elected government.
Hezbollah is a key political actor within Lebanon. Hariri’s 2005 death sparked an internal revolution—dubbed the Cedar Revolution—in Lebanon that led to the withdrawal of occupying Syrian forces and the creation of pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian political factions in Lebanon’s parliament. Hezbollah’s political party leads the pro-Syrian March 8 faction, which also include the Shiite Amal party and the Christian-aligned Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Though it is itself a smaller party in the parliament, Hezbollah’s political party has stalled the creation of governing coalitions and caused their downfall through the withdrawal of Hezbollah support. In October 2016, the Lebanese government elected Hezbollah political ally Michel Aoun as president. In May 2018, Hezbollah and its political allies won 70 of Lebanon’s 128 parliamentary seats in the country’s first parliamentary elections since 2009. Hezbollah ministers held only two cabinet positions in Lebanon’s government announced in January 2020, but the new government is widely viewed as allied with the terror group due to its inclusion of Hezbollah-allied parties.
In 2013, the European Union branded Hezbollah’s armed wing a terrorist organization but distinguished it from Hezbollah’s political wing. Ahead of the designation, Europe’s leaders were divided over the label out of fear of complicating their relationships with Lebanon. Though the EU distinguished between Hezbollah’s political and armed wings, the terror group considers itself a singular organization, and its leadership has continued to pursue a terrorist agenda with Iranian aid. In early 2020, Germany joined the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in designating Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist group.
The Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah (“the Party of God”) emerged in Lebanon in 1982 following Israel’s invasion to halt cross-border guerilla attacks by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Hezbollah’s stated goal was to fight “for the liberation of the occupied territories and the ejection of the aggressive Israeli forces.”“Q & A: Leaving Lebanon,” BBC News, May 23, 2000, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/636594.stm. Its ideology was modeled on Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution. As counterterrorism expert Matt Levitt notes, within the setting of the Lebanese civil war, “the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon created the space in which Iranian diplomats and agents could help fashion the unified entity Hezbollah from a motley crew of Shi’a militias and groups.”Matthew Levitt, “The origins of Hezbollah,” Atlantic, October 23, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/the-origins-of-hezbollah/280809/. Iran thus viewed the rise of Hezbollah as an opportunity to extend its influence, cultivating Hezbollah as a proxy force, providing funding, training, and weaponry through Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Hezbollah pledged its loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and modeled its ideology on Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution.“An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 1, 1988, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/open-letter-hizballah-program/p30967. According to counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt, within the setting of the Lebanese civil war, “the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon created the space in which Iranian diplomats and agents could help fashion the unified entity Hezbollah from a motley crew of Shi’a militias and groups.”Matthew Levitt, “The origins of Hezbollah,” Atlantic, October 23, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/the-origins-of-hezbollah/280809/.
Iran thus viewed the rise of Hezbollah as an opportunity to extend its influence, cultivating Hezbollah as a proxy force, providing funding, training, and weaponry through Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).Mohamed Kawas, “Former Hezbollah chief: ‘Tehran is only investing in Lebanon’s Shia to serve its own interests,’” Arab Weekly (London), May 8, 2016, http://www.thearabweekly.com/Opinion/5001/Former-Hezbollah-chief:-%E2%80%98Tehran-is-only-investing-in-Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Shia-to-serve-its-own-interests%E2%80%99.
Allegiance to Iran
Hezbollah is first and foremost an instrument of the Iranian regime. The group’s 1985 manifesto explicitly states, “We are the sons of the umma (Muslim community)—the party of God (Hizb Allah) the vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran.” Furthermore, the group is explicit in its submission to the Iranian supreme leader’s decrees, avowing its compliance to the dictates of “one leader, wise and just, that of our tutor and faqih (jurist) who fulfills all the necessary conditions: [Ayatollah] Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini.”“An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 1, 1988, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/open-letter-hizballah-program/p30967.
Hezbollah is devout is in its adherence to Khomeini’s philosophy of vilayat-e faqih (rule of the Islamic jurist), which calls for the absolute rule of a single jurist over religious and state affairs. Khomeini used the concept to seize absolute power as Iran’s supreme leader, and Hezbollah pledged its allegiance to Khomeini and his successor, Ali Khamenei. In a 2012 interview, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem called vilayat-e faqih “the reason for Hezbollah’s establishment.” According to Qassem, in 1982, the so-called Committee of Nine—the predecessor to Hezbollah’s Shura Council—sent a delegation to receive Khomeini’s blessing in Tehran. According to the account of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Khomeini told them to “rely on God” and “spoke of victories that we now see.”Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “Khamenei and Hezbollah: Leading in Spirit,” Al-Akbar English, August 8, 2012, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/10894.
After that 1982 meeting, Iran reportedly sent 1,000 IRGC soldiers to provide military training,“Bullets to Ballotbox: A History of Hezbollah,” PBS Frontline, May 2003, http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/lebanon/history.html. and in February 1985, Hezbollah formally emerged and issued its manifesto. Hezbollah pledged loyalty to Khomeini, demanded the expulsion of foreign forces (i.e., Israel, France, and the U.S.) from Lebanon, called for Israel’s destruction, and called for the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.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.
As an Iranian proxy, Hezbollah’s perceived threat environment is almost identical to Iran’s—Tehran’s enemies are Hezbollah’s enemies. Like Iran, Hezbollah considers the U.S. and Israel to be its chief foes. The group’s manifesto describes the U.S. as the root of abomination and declares that its “determination to fight the U.S. is solid.”“An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 1, 1988, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/open-letter-hizballah-program/p30967. Among Hezbollah’s earliest major attacks on U.S. and Western interests was the 1983 truck bombing at a U.S. Marine compound in Beirut, which killed 241 U.S. service members.“Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, June 13, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/world/meast/beirut-marine-barracks-bombing-fast-facts/. The group also carried out a simultaneous truck bombing on French forces in Beirut, killing 58 soldiers.“Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, June 13, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/world/meast/beirut-marine-barracks-bombing-fast-facts/.
Since Khomeini’s 1989 death, Hezbollah has maintained its allegiance to the Iranian supreme leader’s successor, Khamenei.Matthew Levitt, “Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran’s Shadow War with the West,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 2013, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus123.pdf. For example, Hezbollah and the IRGC’s external wing, the Quds Force, reportedly agreed in January 2010 to cooperate in attacking Israeli, U.S., and Western targets.Matthew Levitt, Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran’s Shadow War with the West (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2013), 1, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus123.pdf. In 2012, Hezbollah pledged to defend Iran against any attack by the United States or Israel.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/. The group has also joined the IRGC in its ongoing fight to support the Assad regime in Syria.“Hezbollah leader Nasrallah vows victory in Syria,” BBC News, May 25, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22669230. During an October 2016 Hezbollah rally in Beirut, many of the thousands of Hezbollah supporters in attendance reportedly wore pictures of Khamenei in their headbands.Angus McDowell, “Hezbollah vows at massive Beirut rally to keep up ‘jihad’ in Syria,” Reuters, October 12, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-lebanon-ashura-idUSKCN12C1II. In turn, Khamenei has pledged Iran’s continued support for Hezbollah, which he had called a “source of honor for the Muslim world” earlier in the year.Ariel Ben Solomon, “Khamenei vows full support for Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Khamenei-vows-full-support-for-Hezbollah-451904.
According to Subhi al-Tufayli, Hezbollah’s first secretary-general from 1989 to 1991, Iran has supported Hezbollah in order to expand its own influence in the region. “There is no voice within Lebanon’s Shia community that is not tied to Iran,” he told the London-based Arab Weekly in May 2016. Mohamed Kawas, “Former Hezbollah chief: ‘Tehran is only investing in Lebanon’s Shia to serve its own interests,’” Arab Weekly (London), May 8, 2016, http://www.thearabweekly.com/Opinion/5001/Former-Hezbollah-chief:-%E2%80%98Tehran-is-only-investing-in-Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Shia-to-serve-its-own-interests%E2%80%99.
Hezbollah claims that it is in confrontation with Israel, “the Zionist entity,” which it maintains is built on land aggressively “wrested from” its rightful owners while Israel trampled “the rights of the Muslim people.”“An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 1, 1988, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/open-letter-hizballah-program/p30967. Hezbollah refuses to accept any ceasefires, treaties, or peace agreements, and sees only one end to its “struggle” against Israel, namely “when this entity is obliterated.”“An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 1, 1988, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/open-letter-hizballah-program/p30967. In a May 2020 interview with Iranian media, Hashem Safieddine, head of Hezbollah’s executive assembly, declared the primary goal of Iran’s so-called resistance groups is to liberate Jerusalem and all Muslims have a “duty” to prepare for that confrontation.“Liberation of Al-Quds Main Goal of Resistance Front: Hezbollah,” Tasnim News Agency, May 20, 2020, https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/05/20/2270305/liberation-of-al-quds-main-goal-of-resistance-front-hezbollah.
Hezbollah has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets since its inception, including: the 1992 suicide bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 and injured 240;Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s 1992 Attack in Argentina Is a Warning for Modern-Day Europe,” Atlantic, March 19, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/hezbollahs-1992-attack-in-argentina-is-a-warning-for-modern-day-europe/274160/. the 1994 suicide bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, killing over 80;“Iran Charged over Argentina Bomb,” BBC News, October 25, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6085768.stm. and the 2006 cross-border attack in which Hezbollah operatives killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two more, launching a summer war with Israel.Greg Myre and Steven Erlanger, “Israelis Enter Lebanon After Attacks,” New York Times, July 13, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/13/world/middleeast/13mideast.html;
“Security Council Calls for End to Hostilities Between Hizbollah, Israel, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1701,” U.N. Security Council, August 11, 2006, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8808.doc.htm.
In May 2000, Israel withdrew its forces from its security zone in southern Lebanon to internationally recognized borders, the so-called Blue Line.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. Following Israel’s withdrawal, Hezbollah justified its continued reliance on terrorism by arguing that Israel still occupied seven villages in the Golan Heights along the border known as the Shebaa Farms. This area was part of Syria when Israel took the territory during the 1967 war, and the U.N. recognized Shebaa Farms in 1974 as occupied Syrian territory. Syria and Hezbollah contend that while the Shebaa Farms is located in the Golan Heights, it actually sits on land considered to be Lebanese territory. This depiction has provided Hezbollah with a justification to thus “liberate” the territories from Israel.Daniel Mandel, “Syria and the Shebaa Farms Dispute,” Jewish Policy Center, Spring 2009, http://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/831/syria-and-the-shebaa-farms-dispute.
In November 2009, Hezbollah created a new political manifesto that identified the United States as “the centre of polarization and hegemony in the world” and reaffirmed its opposition to Israel, which it identified as “a constant threat and an impending danger to Lebanon.”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf. According to the manifesto, the United States is committed to “dominating the nations politically, economically, culturally and through all aspects,” which leaves only “the choice of resistance.”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf. The manifesto further asserts that Israel “embodies an eternal threat to Lebanon - the State and the entity - and a real hazard to the country in terms of its historical cravings in land and water….”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf. Moreover, “The ‘Israeli’ threat to this country started since the establishment of the Zionist entity in the land of Palestine, an entity that did not falter to divulge its aspirations to occupy some parts of Lebanon and to grasp its wealth, mainly its water… This entity began its aggression on Lebanon since 1948 from the border to the depth of the country….”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf.
Hezbollah’s updated manifesto renewed its commitment to terrorism, couched in the language of “resistance” to Israel. “Resistance” was elevated to the status of a national responsibility, extended to all Lebanese citizens. According to the manifesto, “The Resistance role is a national necessity as long as the ‘Israeli’ threats and aspirations persist.”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf. Hezbollah called for Lebanon to “approve a defensive strategy that depends on a popular resistance” to defend the country against “the ‘Israeli’ threat.”“The New Hezbollah Manifesto,” Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, November 2009, http://www.lebanonrenaissance.org/assets/Uploads/15-The-New-Hezbollah-Manifesto-Nov09.pdf.
Citing Hezbollah’s victory in the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced in December 2017 that his group would refocus its energies against Israel. Nasrallah called on Hezbollah’s allies to create a united strategy “in the field” with which to confront Israel.“Hezbollah's Nasrallah says group to focus on Israel,” Reuters, December 11, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-israel-hezbollah/hezbollahs-nasrallah-says-group-to-focus-on-israel-idUSKBN1E51OV.
Syria, ISIS, and the Broader Middle East
As an Iranian proxy, Hezbollah has taken up arms alongside Syrian and Iranian forces in defense of the Syrian regime in that country’s civil war. In 2012, the U.S. Treasury levied additional sanctions on Hezbollah for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. According to Treasury, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in early 2011, Hezbollah provided “training, advice and extensive logistical support to the Government of Syria’s increasingly ruthless efforts to fight against the opposition.”“Treasury Targets Hizballah for Supporting the Assad Regime,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 10, 2012, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1676.aspx.
Subhi al-Tufayli, Hezbollah’s first secretary-general from 1989 to 1991, has accused Hezbollah of being a “partner in the killing of the Syrian people.” He denounced Hezbollah members who fight alongside Russians, and called on the Hezbollah leadership to heed Lebanese opposition to the group’s involvement in Syria.Mohamed Kawas, “Former Hezbollah chief: ‘Tehran is only investing in Lebanon’s Shia to serve its own interests,’” Arab Weekly (London), May 8, 2016, http://www.thearabweekly.com/Opinion/5001/Former-Hezbollah-chief:-%E2%80%98Tehran-is-only-investing-in-Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Shia-to-serve-its-own-interests%E2%80%99.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria is not limited to fighting anti-government rebels. Under Iranian direction, Hezbollah has also fought against ISIS, which Nasrallah described as a growing threat to the region and an existential threat to Lebanon in an August 2014 interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.Tom Perry, “Hezbollah sees Islamic State as threat to Gulf, Jordan,” Reuters, August 15, 2014, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/08/15/uk-lebanon-hezbollah-islamicstate-idUKKBN0GF0YA20140815. Hezbollah has also fought against the Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham).“Hezbollah targets Jabhat Fatah al-Sham outside Arsal,” Daily Star (Beirut), October 17, 2016, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Oct-17/376738-hezbollah-targets-jabhat-fatah-al-sham-outside-arsal.ashx. On October 19, 2016, Qassem told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that Hezbollah “will not leave Syria as long as there is a need to confront takfiri groups.”“Sheikh Qassem: Hezbollah Will not Leave Syria as Long as There Is Need to Fight Takfiris,” Al-Manar TV, October 19, 2016, http://english.almanar.com.lb/70398. In September 2017, Nasrallah declared victory in Syria. “We have won in the war,” he said, according to Al-Akhbar.Tom Peery and Katya Golubkova, “Hezbollah declares Syria victory, Russia says much of country won back,” Reuters, September 12, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-hezbollah/hezbollah-declares-syria-victory-russia-says-much-of-country-won-back-idUSKCN1BN0YL. Nonetheless, in June 2018, Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, of the Hezbollah-allied Amal movement, told Russian media that Hezbollah and Iran would remain in Syria until it is “fully liberated from terrorists.”“Hezbollah and Iran 'to stay in Syria until it is liberated,’” Al Jazeera, June 6, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/hezbollah-iran-stay-syria-liberated-180606162339625.html. In September 2018, Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah would remain in Syria indefinitely with the Syrian government’s permission.Dahlia Nehme and Laila Bassam, “Hezbollah leader says group will stay in Syria until further notice,” Reuters, September 19, 2018, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-nasrallah/hezbollah-leader-says-group-will-stay-in-syria-until-further-notice-idUKKCN1LZ2KX.
Israel has launched several airstrikes against the group’s suspected supply chain in Syria. In January 2015, Nasrallah called Israeli airstrikes on alleged weapons shipments to Hezbollah in Syria an aggression against Syria’s regional allies. As such, Syria’s allies have the right to retaliate, according to Nasrallah.“Hezbollah Says Assad’s Allies Have Right to Respond to Israeli Attacks in Syria,” Reuters, January 15, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/15/us-lebanon-hezbollah-syria-idUSKBN0KO2DO20150115. Israel has since continued to strike against Syrian and Iranian targets suspected of arming Hezbollah in the country.“Monitor: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in Syria,” Associated Press, May 25, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/43ce8296290f427982b1fcd365ae9c1c; Jack Khoury, Noa Landau, and Reuters, “Israel ‘Strikes Weapons Depot Meant for Iran or Hezbollah Near Damascus Airport,’” Haaretz, September 17, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/israel-strikes-weapons-depot-meant-for-iran-or-hezbollah-near-damascus-airport-1.6471935.
Hezbollah’s participation in Syria has also resulted in an increasingly antagonistic role vis-à-vis the Middle East’s Sunni Arab nations, which oppose Iran’s regional ambitions. The Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group in March 2016 because of its “hostile acts” against GCC member states, recruitment for “terrorist attacks, smuggling weapons and explosives, stirring up sedition and incitement to chaos and violence,” and participation in the Syrian civil war. “Gulf Arab states label Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Reuters, March 2, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-hezbollah-idUSKCN0W40XF. The Arab League also labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group that month, accusing Hezbollah and the IRGC of financing and training terrorist groups and interfering in regional affairs. The GCC had previously sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013 for its role in Syria.“Gulf Arab states label Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Reuters, March 2, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-hezbollah-idUSKCN0W40XF;
“Arab League labels Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Reuters, March 11, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-arabs-idUSKCN0WD239. On November 19, 2017, the Arab League again condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, citing its regional disruption efforts on behalf of Iran. Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa accused Hezbollah of “full control” over Lebanon and called for accountability of “countries where Hezbollah is a partner in government responsible, specifically Lebanon.”Ben Wedeman, “Arab League states condemn Hezbollah as ‘terrorist organization,’” CNN, November 20, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/19/middleeast/saudi-arabia-iran-arab-league/index.html.
As Saudi Arabia has engaged Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah has also stepped up its rhetoric against the Saudi monarchy. In September 2016, Nasrallah declared Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi ideology to be “more evil than Israel.”“Hezbollah chief prefers Israel over Wahhabism,” Ya Libnan, September 27, 2016, http://yalibnan.com/2016/09/27/hezbollah-chief-prefers-israel-over-wahhabism/;
&Nasrallah: Wahhabism ‘more evil’ than Israel,” Times of Israel, September 27, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/nasrallah-wahhabism-more-evil-than-israel/. Thousands of Hezbollah supporters at an October 2016 rally reportedly chanted “Death to the Al Saud,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.“Hezbollah sees more conflict in Syria and rising regional tension,” Reuters, October 11, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-hezbollah-idUSKCN12B2FG?il=0.
While Hezbollah promotes itself as a guardian of Lebanon against foreign invaders, it also provides social services to the Lebanese people in areas where the government lacks a strong presence, such as in the south. For example, in 2004, Hezbollah provided $100,000 a month to the al-Janoub Hospital in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatiyah. After the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, Lebanese citizens quickly forgot that Hezbollah instigated the conflict as the organization provided money for housing and welfare. “We have ideology and support. Our success can be seen in the peaceful existence between the Lebanese army and the military wing of Hezbollah,” said Hezbollah member Mohammed Ghosen.Scott Wilson, “Lebanese Wary of a Rising Hezbollah,” Washington Post, December 20, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12336-2004Dec19.html.
Hezbollah has played a major role in Lebanese politics since 1992. Subhi al-Tufayli, Hezbollah’s first secretary-general from 1989 to 1991, said in May 2016 that Hezbollah has complete control over Lebanon’s army, which “must follow wherever Hezbollah leads.”Mohamed Kawas, “Former Hezbollah chief: ‘Tehran is only investing in Lebanon’s Shia to serve its own interests,’” Arab Weekly (London), May 8, 2016, http://www.thearabweekly.com/Opinion/5001/Former-Hezbollah-chief:-%E2%80%98Tehran-is-only-investing-in-Lebanon%E2%80%99s-Shia-to-serve-its-own-interests%E2%80%99. Though Hezbollah had only two cabinet ministers in Lebanon’s new government announced in January 2020, the government primarily comprised Hezbollah allies. Western-backed political parties that had previously dominated Lebanon’s government were left out of the cabinet composition.Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Facing economic crisis, Lebanon's government weighs options,” Reuters, January 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis/facing-economic-crisis-lebanons-government-meets-for-first-time-idUSKBN1ZL0JW.
Hezbollah entered Lebanon’s political arena in 1992, when it won eight of the country’s 128 parliamentary seats in elections.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 2005, Hezbollah won 23 seats, claiming a massive victory in southern Lebanon.Hussein Dakroub, “Hezbollah Wins Easy Victory In Elections in Southern Lebanon,” Washington Post, June 6, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/05/AR2005060501144.html. In 2008, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora banned Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network, sparking clashes between Hezbollah fighters and Lebanese soldiers. After two weeks of fighting, Qatar negotiated the Doha Agreement, which called for a national-unity government and granted the Hezbollah-led opposition veto power in the Lebanese government.“Lebanon Rivals Agree Crisis Deal,” BBC News, May 21, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7411835.stm. This essentially gave Hezbollah the ability to bring the government to a complete halt should it veer from Hezbollah’s agenda. In the 2009 election, Hezbollah and its allies were defeated by the U.S.-supported “March 14” alliance. Many were surprised by this result.Yara Bayoumy, “Hezbollah accepts election loss, U.S. backs allies,” Reuters, June 8, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/08/us-lebanon-election-idUSTRE55609720090608.
In January 2011, Hezbollah ministers resigned from the government shortly before the U.N.-backed Hariri tribunal was expected to issue indictments of four Hezbollah members over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The resignations led to the collapse of the government led by Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri.Laila Bassam, “Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government,” Reuters, January 12, 2011, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/01/12/us-lebanon-hariri-resignation-idUSTRE70B26A20110112. In late January 2011, the Hezbollah-backed businessman Najib Mikati was appointed as the new prime minister.Liam McLaughlin, “Lebanon: the forgotten Lebanon,” New Statesman, March 3, 2011, http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/03/lebanon-syria-hariri-hezbollah. In the new (what some commentators referred to as) “Hezbollah government,” Hezbollah received two portfolios as part of the 30-member strong government. The majority of the remaining ministers were from Hezbollah-allied factions.“Lebanon: Hezbollah dominates new cabinet of PM Mikati,” BBC News, June, 13, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13750628.
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam formed a new unity government in February 2014, awarding Hezbollah and the Sunni-led bloc of former prime minister Saad Hariri eight portfolios each. Among other ministries, Hezbollah controlled the foreign ministry and ministry of industry.“Lebanese PM Unveils National Unity Cabinet,” Al Jazeera, February 15, 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13750628. On October 31, 2016, Lebanon’s parliament elected MP Michel Aoun as president.“Michel Aoun elected president of Lebanon,” Al Jazeera, October 31, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/michel-aoun-elected-president-lebanon-161031105331767.html. Aoun is a former general and Maronite Christian who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, which allied with Hezbollah in 2006.Ben Lynfield, “Political victory for Hezbollah expected in Lebanon election,” Jerusalem Post, October 31, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Political-victory-for-Hezbollah-expected-in-Lebanon-election-471274.Lebanon had been without a president since May 2014, and some Lebanese MPs blamed Hezbollah for preventing the government’s approval of a new president.“Janjanian blames Hezbollah for presidential vacuum,” Daily Star (Beirut), October 15, 2016, https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2016/Oct-15/376547-janjanian-blames-hezbollah-for-presidential-vacuum.ashx;
Media Line, “Hezbollah’s ploy for more power in Lebanon,” Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Hezbollahs-ploy-for-more-power-in-Lebanon-469638.
In May 2018, Lebanon held parliamentary elections for the first time since 2009. Hezbollah’s parliamentary representation remained steady at 13 seats, but Hezbollah and its allies altogether won a total of 70 of the parliament’s 128 seats. The anti-Hezbollah ruling Future movement saw a decrease from 33 to 21 seats, though its leader, Hariri, maintained his role as prime minister. Hezbollah leaders spoke of a larger influence in an as-yet-to-be-formed government coalition.Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad, “Lebanon Elections Boost Hezbollah’s Clout,” New York Times, May 7, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/07/world/middleeast/lebanon-election-hezbollah.html; Laila Bassam and Tom Perry, “Hezbollah eyes bigger role in next Lebanon government,” Reuters, May 23, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-election-hezbollah/hezbollah-eyes-bigger-role-in-next-lebanon-government-idUSKCN1IO30O. Nasrallah called the results “a political and moral victory” for Hezbollah that would guarantee the protection of “the resistance.”“Hezbollah's Nasrallah says Lebanon results are 'victory' for the resistance,” Reuters, May 7, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-election-hezbollah/hezbollahs-nasrallah-says-lebanon-results-are-victory-for-the-resistance-idUSKBN1I81PU.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in October 2019 after two weeks of nationwide protests against government corruption.Tamara Qiblawi, Ben Wedeman, and Ghazi Balkiz, “Lebanon's Hariri resigns after nearly two weeks of nationwide protests,” CNN, October 29, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/29/middleeast/lebanon-saad-hariri-resigns-intl/index.html. Aoun appointed academic and former education minister Hassan Diab as the new prime minister in December 2019. In January 2020, Diab announced the formation of a government that included two Hezbollah ministers and members of Hezbollah-allied parties. Hezbollah received the portfolios for the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Industry. Hariri’s Future Movement and other pro-Western parties remained outside of the cabinet, drawing international concern that Hezbollah’s agenda would dominate Lebanon’s new cabinet.Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad, “Lebanon, Mired in Crises, Turns to a Professor as Prime Minister,” New York Times, December 19, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/19/world/middleeast/lebanon-prime-minister-hassan-diab.html; Associated Press, “Riots in Lebanon's capital leave more than 150 injured,” NBC News, January 18, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/riots-lebanon-s-capital-leave-more-150-injured-n1118461; Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Facing economic crisis, Lebanon's government weighs options,” Reuters, January 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis/facing-economic-crisis-lebanons-government-meets-for-first-time-idUSKBN1ZL0JW; Sami Moubayed, “Who are the ministers in Lebanon’s new government?,” Gulf News, January 22, 2020, https://gulfnews.com/world/mena/who-are-the-ministers-in-lebanons-new-government-1.69174412.
The Shura Council is Hezbollah’s central leadership body. Initially, the Shura Council appointed a secretary-general to lead the group for a three-year term. However, after the Council elected Hassan Nasrallah in 1993, it allowed him and future secretaries-general to exceed two consecutive terms.Casey L. Addis and Christopher M. Blanchard, “Hezbollah: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, January 3, 2011, 10, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41446.pdf. The Shura Council also oversees Hezbollah’s five separate assemblies: the political assembly, jihad assembly, parliamentary assembly, executive assembly, and judicial assembly.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.
The External Security Organization, a.k.a. the Islamic Jihad Organization, is Hezbollah’s foreign operations organ. This is the Hezbollah unit responsible for Hezbollah’s international acts of terrorism.“State Department Amendments to the Terrorist Designations of Hizballah and al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula,” U.S. Department of State, June 21, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/06/272090.htm#.WUqE1W_VmNs.twitter.
The Foreign Relations Department (FRD) is responsible for Hezbollah’s global outreach efforts. The State Department designated the FRD as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in January 2017. According to the State Department, the FRD “is involved in covert operations around the globe, which include recruiting, fundraising and gathering intelligence on behalf of” Hezbollah.”“State Department Amendments to the Terrorist Designations of Hizballah and al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula,” U.S. Department of State, June 21, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/06/272090.htm#.WUqE1W_VmNs.twitter.
Hezbollah is represented in the Lebanese government by the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc. Hezbollah first entered Lebanon’s parliament in 1992, winning eight of 128 seats in the country’s first elections since 1972.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; Dalal Saoud, “Hezbollah claims election win in Lebanon,” United Press International, August 24, 1992, http://www.upi.com/Archives/1992/08/24/Hezbollah-claims-election-win-in-Lebanon/9335714628800/. Hezbollah’s political party has since played a major role in Lebanon’s governing coalitions since 2008. Following the election of Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun as president in October 2016, two Hezbollah parliamentarians and 15 Hezbollah political allies were appointed to Lebanon’s 30-minister government.“Lebanon forms new government, vows to ‘preserve stability,’” Deutsche-Welle, December 19, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/lebanon-forms-new-government-vows-to-preserve-stability/a-36819862; See Appendix A.
While the United States has designated Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist entity, the European Union has separated Hezbollah’s political party and designated only Hezbollah’s military wing.James Kanter and Jodi Rudoren, “European Union Adds Military Wing of Hezbollah to List of Terrorist Organizations,” New York Times, July 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/world/middleeast/european-union-adds-hezbollah-wing-to-terror-list.html. The Dutch government has designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and has urged the EU to do the same. In early 2018, a group of 60 European parliamentarians, led by MPs from Denmark, Sweden, and Hungary, wrote to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that Hezbollah should be designated in its entirety.Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Dutch FM urges EU to place Hezbollah on terror group list,” Times of Israel, September 7, 2012, https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-fm-urges-eu-to-place-hezbollah-on-terror-group-list/; Benjamin Weinthal, “EU Parliament Politicians Call for a Full Ban of Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2018, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/EU-parliament-politicians-call-for-a-full-ban-of-Hezbollah-543447. The United Kingdom designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization in 2019 and added Hezbollah as a whole to its Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in January 2020.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK, GOV.UK, last updated January 20, 2020, https://ofsistorage.blob.core.windows.net/publishlive/ConList.html; Michael Holden, “Britain to expand ban on Lebanon's Hezbollah, calling it terrorist group,” Reuters, February 25, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-lebanon-hezbollah/britain-to-expand-ban-on-lebanons-hezbollah-calling-it-terrorist-group-idUSKCN1QE1D2. A December 2019 resolution in the German parliament recognized Hezbollah’s global criminal activities and called for both Germany and Europe to freeze all of Hezbollah’s finances by banning the group in its entirety. The German government, however, is not bound by the resolution and has not moved to ban Hezbollah’s political activities.David Rising, “German parliament calls for full ban of Hezbollah activities,” Associated Press, December 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/45c48fdda55ce0d18d2cc03149e08297.
In March 2020, Austria began a trial of a Hezbollah commander who had lived in the country for 13 years while conducting financing operations for the terror group. The trial led all of Austria’s political parties to pass a joint resolution in the federal parliament that month entitled “Effective action against Hezbollah,” calling for “decisive action” against Hezbollah’s “terrorist and criminal activities.”Benjamin Weinthal, “Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/International/Austrian-parliament-urges-chancellor-clamp-down-on-Hezbollah-621044. Nonetheless, the resolution stopped short of calling for a complete ban of the group, despite calls from some within parliament.Benjamin Weinthal, “Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/International/Austrian-parliament-urges-chancellor-clamp-down-on-Hezbollah-621044.
There is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings. Both are subservient to the Shura Council, led by Nasrallah. A 2011 Congressional Research Service report identified Hezbollah’s “unified leadership structure that oversees the organization’s complementary, partially compartmentalized elements.”Casey L. Addis and Christopher M. Blanchard, “Hezbollah: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, January 3, 2011, 10, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41446.pdf. Hezbollah’s leadership has confirmed Hezbollah’s unitary leadership that informs both its militants and its politicians. In a 2000 interview with a Lebanese newspaper, Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem said that “Hezbollah’s secretary-general is the head of the Shura Council and also the head of the Jihad Council, and this means that we have one leadership, with one administration.”Matthew Levitt, “On a Military Wing and a Prayer,” Foreign Affairs, February 12, 2013, http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/02/12/on-a-military-wing-and-a-prayer/.
The Iranian government supplies the vast majority of Hezbollah’s income. According to the U.S. Treasury’s Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker in June 2018, Iran provides Hezbollah with up to $700 billion annually, more than three times previous estimates.Joyce Karam, “Iran pays Hezbollah $700 million a year, says US official,” The National, June 5, 2018, https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/iran-pays-hezbollah-700-million-a-year-says-us-official-1.737347. Iran helped develop the organization to boost its own “ability to deploy armed revolutionaries among the [Shiite] strongholds” in Lebanon, according to analyst Anoushiravan Ehteshami. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran viewed Hezbollah as its opportunity to gain access to the wider Arab world.Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “The Foreign Policy of Iran,” The Foreign Policies of Middle East States (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), 298. The IRGC provided Hezbollah with its initial financial support and training.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.
Iranian financial and military support is largely passed to Hezbollah through the Quds Force, the elite branch of the IRGC.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated in 2010 that Iran provides Hezbollah with $100 million to $200 million annually.Greg Bruno, “State Sponsors: Iran,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 13, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/iran/state-sponsors-iran/p9362. Iran allegedly provided up to $600 million to Hezbollah for its political campaigns, and Israeli intelligence estimated that Iran had directly provided Hezbollah with more than $1 billion from the end of the 2006 war to 2009.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah: Party of Fraud,” Foreign Affairs, July 27, 2011, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67997/matthew-levitt/hezbollah-party-of-fraud. In 2004, Mohammed Raad, then-leader of Hezbollah’s “Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc” in the Lebanese parliament, acknowledged that Hezbollah had received funding from Iran for “health care, education and support of war widows.”Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god.
To help facilitate the transfer of funds to Hezbollah and its other proxies, Iran set up the Martyrs Foundation charitable network. According to the United States, senior members of the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon were directly involved in Hezbollah operations during the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The U.S. government accuses the Martyrs Foundation funneling money to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terror groups in the Levant. The Martyrs Foundation also created the Goodwill Charitable Organization (GCO), a fundraising office in Dearborn, Michigan, that acted as a Hezbollah front organization and reported to the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon. The U.S. government designated both the Martyrs Foundation and GCO in July 2007.“Twin Treasury Actions Take Aim at Hizballah’s Support Network,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 24, 2007, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp503.aspx. In February 2020, the U.S. government imposed financial sanctions on three Lebanese individuals and 12 entities affiliated with or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation.“Treasury Designates Martyrs Foundation Companies and Officials as Global Terrorists,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 26, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm917.
In 2009—due to the devastating effects on the Iranian economy resulting from international sanctions because of its nuclear program—Iran reportedly cut Hezbollah’s budget by as much as 40 percent.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah: Party of Fraud,” Foreign Affairs, July 27, 2011, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67997/matthew-levitt/hezbollah-party-of-fraud. Hezbollah turned to its already thriving criminal enterprises to make up the shortfall.
In June 2016, Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah has any outside business ventures or sources of income other than Iran. “We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in a publicly broadcasted speech.Majid Rafizadeh, “In first, Hezbollah confirms all financial support comes from Iran,” Al Arabiya English, June 25, 2016, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/06/25/In-first-Hezbollah-s-Nasrallah-confirms-all-financial-support-comes-from-Iran.html. In response to U.S. financial sanctions, Nasrallah warned that “[as long] as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it.”Agence France-Presse, “Hezbollah brushes off US sanctions, says money comes via Iran,” Times of Israel, June 25, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-brushes-off-us-sanctions-says-money-comes-via-iran/.
Hezbollah was reportedly forced to cut its budget in 2019 in response to decreased funding from Iran as a result of renewed U.S. sanctions on that country in 2018. According to reports from Hezbollah members, fighters are being reassigned or furloughed at reduced or no salaries. Hezbollah’s al-Manar media group in Lebanon also reportedly laid off staff and canceled programming.Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous, “Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah, and it hurts,” Washington Post, May 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/trumps-sanctions-on-iran-are-hitting-hezbollah-hard/2019/05/18/970bc656-5d48-11e9-98d4-844088d135f2_story.html?utm_term=.ae622466c555.
Transnational Criminal Activities
In October 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions designated Hezbollah as a top transnational criminal threat.“Attorney General Sessions Announces New Measures to Fight Transnational Organized Crime,” U.S. Department of Justice, October 15, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-announces-new-measures-fight-transnational-organized-crime. Contrary to Nasrallah’s declarations that Hezbollah has no sources of income other than Iran,Majid Rafizadeh, “In first, Hezbollah confirms all financial support comes from Iran,” Al Arabiya English, June 25, 2016, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/06/25/In-first-Hezbollah-s-Nasrallah-confirms-all-financial-support-comes-from-Iran.html. the group is active in illicit transnational criminal activities, primarily in South America’s Tri-Border Area (TBA). These activities include drug trafficking, intellectual property theft, and money laundering. Additionally, many Muslims and Lebanese ex-patriates in the region send money to Hezbollah. According to a mosque leader in Cuidad del Este, Paraguay, Shiite mosques had “an obligation to finance” Hezbollah. Counterterrorism expert Edward Luttwak of the Pentagon’s National Security Study Group called the TBA Hezbollah’s most important base outside of Lebanon.Pablo Gato and Robert Windrem, “Hezbollah Builds a Western Base,” NBC News, May 9, 2007, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17874369/ns/world_news-americas/t/hezbollah-builds-western-base/#.VMkczWTF_Bs. Hezbollah receives approximately $20 million a year from its activities in Latin America, according to a 2009 Rand Corporation report.Arthur Brice, “Iran, Hezbollah Mine Latin America for Revenue, Recruits, Analysts Say,” CNN, June 3, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/03/world/americas/iran-latin-america/index.html. “The money is used to maintain a military structure and finance social activities … in Lebanon and the diaspora,” according to analyst Paulo Botta of the Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies in Córdoba, Argentina.Eduardo Szklarz and Ayoub Khaddaj, “Hizbullah Uses Criminal Activity to Finance Operations,” Central Asia Online, September 17, 2013, http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/main/2013/09/17/feature-02?format=mobile&mobile=true.
Hezbollah has established a global network for moving cocaine in the United States and Europe, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Law enforcement refers to this network as “the Lebanese Hizballah External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC).” It was founded by deceased Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. The network maintains business relationships with South American drug cartels and launders proceeds in what is known as the Black Market Peso Exchange. La Oficina de Envigado is one of the South American cartels involved with the BAC. It is responsible for the movement of large amounts of cocaine in the United States and Europe. The DEA has targeted the BAC network since early 2015 in an ongoing operation called Project Cassandra. In February 2016, the DEA revealed it had made several arrests in Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking operation.Rosie Perper, “DEA uncovers major drug trafficking by Hezbollah to fund global terrorism,” Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/DEA-uncovers-major-drug-trafficking-by-Hezbollah-to-fund-global-terrorism-443575;
“DEA and European Authorities Uncover Massive Hizballah Drug and Money Laundering Scheme,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, February 1, 2016, http://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq020116.shtml. In October 2016, the DEA charged three suspected Hezbollah members with using Miami banks to launder $500,000 in cocaine money for a Colombian drug cartel.David Ovalle, “State: Hezbollah-linked group laundered drug money through Miami banks,” Miami Herald, October 11, 2016, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article107366182.html.
South American authorities have also targeted Hezbollah for various illicit activities on the continent. In May 2013, Brazilian police arrested Hezbollah member Hamzi Ahmad Barakat on suspicion of defrauding newly arrived Lebanese immigrants through a network of front companies. In 2002, police arrested Barakat’s brother, Assad Barakat, for using his electronics store to raise funds for Hezbollah.Simon Romero, “Man Linked by U.S. to Hezbollah Is Arrested in Brazil,” New York Times, May 20, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/world/americas/man-linked-by-us-to-hezbollah-is-arrested-in-brazil.html. In 2008, Colombian authorities arrested members of a drug cartel that allegedly smuggled cocaine to the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, while laundering hundreds of millions of dollars and sending a percentage to Hezbollah.Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella, “Drug Probe Finds Hezbollah Link,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2008, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/22/world/fg-cocainering22.
Hezbollah’s criminal activities have also penetrated North America. In 2000, U.S. federal authorities charged 18 people with smuggling cigarettes from North Carolina into Michigan, where cigarettes command higher prices because of higher taxes. According to authorities, the smugglers had been sending their profits to Hezbollah since 1996.“18 Accused of Cigarette Smuggling to Fund Hezbollah,” Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2000,http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jul/22/news/mn-57451. In 2002, authorities convicted the smuggling ring’s leaders, brothers Muhammad and Chawki Hammoud, of cigarette smuggling, credit card fraud, money laundering, and racketeering.“Two Guilty of Smuggling for Hezbollah,” BBC News, June 22, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2059052.stm.
In August 2012, U.S. authorities seized $150 million from the Lebanese Canadian Bank, which they accused of laundering money from an international car smuggling ring that raised money for Hezbollah.“US Seizes $150M from Lebanon Bank in Hezbollah Money Laundering Probe,” Reuters, August 21, 2012, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/21/13388390-us-seizes-150m-from-lebanon-bank-in-hezbollah-money-laundering-probe. In July 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a network of companies in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and China for allegedly procuring engines, communications equipment, and navigation equipment for Hezbollah from U.S., European, Canadian, and Asian companies.Jay Solomon, “U.S. Sanctions Companies for Ties to Hezbollah,” Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sanctions-companies-for-ties-to-hezbollah-network-1405000897.
In western Africa, Hezbollah has reportedly involved itself in the illegal conflict diamond trade while using the region as a transit hub to move drugs from the Middle East to South America.“Hezbollah: International Terrorist and Paramilitary Organization,” United Against Nuclear Iran, accessed May 1, 2018, https://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/hezbollah-iran-proxy. In 2004, U.S. diplomats in Sierra Leone accused Hezbollah of threatening Lebanese diamond merchants in order to siphon off profits from the diamond trade.“Jewels called blood money for Hezbollah,” Washington Times, June 30, 2004, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/jun/30/20040630-100012-9442r/. A Hezbollah courier on board an airliner that crashed near Benin in December 2003 was reportedly carrying $2 million in profits from the illegal trade.Matthew Levitt, “Hizbullah's African Activities Remain Undisrupted,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 1, 2004, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hizbullahs-african-activities-remain-undisrupted.
Hezbollah is also active in Europe. In March 2020, Austria began a trial of a Hezbollah commander who had lived in the country for 13 years while conducting financing operations for the terror group.Benjamin Weinthal, “Hezbollah commander prosecuted in Austria for terror finance,” Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/International/Hezbollah-commander-prosecuted-in-Austria-for-terror-finance-620968. The trial led all of Austria’s political parties to pass a joint resolution in the federal parliament that month entitled “Effective action against Hezbollah,” calling for “decisive action” against Hezbollah’s “terrorist and criminal activities.”Benjamin Weinthal, “Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/International/Austrian-parliament-urges-chancellor-clamp-down-on-Hezbollah-621044. A December 2019 resolution in the German parliament also recognized Hezbollah’s global criminal activities and called for both Germany and Europe to freeze all of Hezbollah’s finances by banning the group in its entirety.David Rising, “German parliament calls for full ban of Hezbollah activities,” Associated Press, December 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/45c48fdda55ce0d18d2cc03149e08297.
The Lebanese ex-patriate community reportedly sends $2.5 billion back to Lebanon annually. Shiite Lebanese ex-patriates have found themselves subjects of suspicion because of Hezbollah’s use of their community. Some 400,000 Lebanese ex-patriates live in the Arab Gulf countries. In February 2016, Saudi Arabia expelled more than 90 Lebanese Shiites accused of ties to Hezbollah.Joseph A. Kechichian, “Saudi Arabia blacklists firms, expels several Lebanese nations,” Gulf News, February 26, 2016, http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/lebanon/saudi-arabia-blacklists-firms-expels-several-lebanese-nationals-1.1679947. The following month, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates expelled some 100 Lebanese Shiite ex-patriates.Sami Aboudi, “Lebanese expats fearful as Gulf expels dozens accused of Hezbollah links,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-hezbollah-lebanon-idUSKCN0X51R2. In July 2019, the intelligence agency of the German city of Hamburg revealed that 30 mosques and cultural centers in Germany have ties to Hezbollah, and these associations largely focus on raising money from Lebanese ex-patriates. German intelligence cited 1,050 Hezbollah supporters across the country.Benjamin Weinthal, “Terrorist Group Hezbollah Linked to 30 Mosques/Centers in Germany,” Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/International/Islamic-Terrorism/Terrorist-group-Hezbollah-linked-to-30-mosquescenters-in-Germany-595545. On July 13, 2019, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell accused Hezbollah of “hunting for money in Europe.”Richard Grenell, Twitter post, July 13, 2019, 6:50 a.m., https://twitter.com/RichardGrenell/status/1149994395774701568.
In 2012, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security reported that the majority of Hezbollah-linked federal defendants “have been Lebanese nationals or naturalized U.S. citizens from Lebanon.”“MAJORITY PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS Iran, Hezbollah and the Threat to the Homeland,” U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, March 21, 2012, https://homeland.house.gov/files/Investigative_Findings_Iran_Hezbollah_Threat.pdf. U.S. officials have accused Hezbollah of using Lebanese Shiite expatriates to negotiate contracts with Mexican crime bosses in order to use Mexican drug routes to smuggle people and contraband into the United States.“EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes into U.S.,” Washington Times, March 27, 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/. In 2008, Mexican authorities sentenced Lebanese-Mexican Salim Boughader Mucharrafille to 60 years in prison for smuggling some 200 Lebanese immigrants—including Hezbollah supporters—into the United States.Associated Press, “Mexico sentences migrant smuggler to 60 years,” Fox News, December 28, 2008, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-lt-mexico-us-smuggler-122808-2008dec28-story.html. Among those Boughader smuggled into the country was Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, a Lebanese carpenter who admitted to raising $40,000 for Hezbollah inside the United States. In 2005, Kourani received a four-and-a-half-year sentence for conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.Associated Press, “The terror-immigration connection,” NBC News, July 3, 2005, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8408009/ns/us_news-security/t/terror-immigration-connection/#.WWz2W4Tyu70.
According to the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council, members of Côte d’Ivoire’s large Lebanese community are also “known to provide financial support to Hezbollah.”“Cote d’Ivoire 2015 Crime and Safety Report,” U.S. Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council, January 29, 2015, https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=17008. A 2014 study by the Institute for Security Studies in Africa found that Lebanese communities in Côte d’Ivoire are a “prime target in Hezbollah’s efforts to collect additional financial resources.”“Is Côte d’Ivoire facing religious radicalism?” Institute for Security Studies, July 2015, https://issafrica.s3.amazonaws.com/site/uploads/WestAfricaReport13ENG.pdf. In the United States, authorities arrested naturalized U.S. citizen Ali Kourani in June 2017 for providing material support to Hezbollah.“Bronx Man And Michigan Man Arrested For Terrorist Activities On Behalf Of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization,” U.S. Department of Justice, June 8, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/bronx-man-and-michigan-man-arrested-terrorist-activities-behalf-hizballah-s-islamic. Kourani believes that Hezbollah recruited him in 2008 because he had U.S. residency, and Hezbollah then encouraged him to attain citizenship.“United States of America v. Ali Kourani,” U.S. Department of Justice May 31, 2017, 12, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/972421/download.
In December 2015, the U.S. government passed the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) of 2015. The legislation makes disrupting Hezbollah’s financial and logistics networks a U.S. policy goal by utilizing “diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hizballah's criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”“H.R.2297 — 114th Congress (2015-2016),” Congress.gov, accessed October 19, 2016, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2297. The legislation threatens sanctions on any financial institution that deals with Hezbollah or its Al-Manar media arm.“H.R.2297 — 114th Congress (2015-2016),” Congress.gov, accessed October 19, 2016, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2297. In the aftermath of the bill’s passage, Lebanese banks reportedly refused to open new accounts for Hezbollah members. However, Al-Monitor cited an anonymous banking expert who said that Hezbollah maintains its own banking system, which would be unaffected by the U.S. legislation.Jean Aziz, “How Lebanese banks are handling US sanctions on Hezbollah,” Al-Monitor, January 12, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/us-sanctions-lebanon-banks-hezbollah.html. Lebanese lawmakers have sought to lobby Congress to loosen sanctions against Hezbollah because of the threat to Lebanon’s economy. Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri has argued that sanctions on financial institutions linked to Hezbollah would increase economic hardships for Lebanese citizens.
The U.S. government passed the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act in October 2018. The amendment sanctions law targets government agencies and foreign persons that knowingly support the terror group. It also targets Hezbollah’s affiliated transnational criminal networks.Maegan Vazquez, “Trump signs new sanctions against Hezbollah,” CNN, October 25, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/25/politics/donald-trump-hezbollah-sanctions/index.html.
In August 2018, the U.S. government renewed financial sanctions on Iran that had previously been lifted under the 2015 international nuclear pact. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah rejected the new sanctions against Hezbollah’s primary backer and promised that Iranian support for the terror group would continue.“Hezbollah downplays U.S. sanctions on Iran,” Associated Press, August 14, 2018, https://apnews.com/e9a0036efc9f4f26a657abda7ea66468. In July 2019, the U.S. government for the first time imposed financial sanctions on two Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s parliament, Amin Sherri and Muhammad Raad. Hezbollah Lebanese officials called the designations an assault on Lebanon’s government but pledged that they would not affect the government’s work.Ellen Francis, “Lebanon PM: US sanctions won't affect government,” Reuters, July 10, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lebanon-hezbollah/lebanon-pm-us-sanctions-wont-affect-government-idUSKCN1U50Z0.
In August 2019, the Treasury Department designated Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank and three of its subsidiaries as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for the bank’s “deep coordination” with Hezbollah, which the Treasury Department said put Lebanon’s entire banking sector at risk.“Treasury Labels Bank Providing Financial Services to Hizballah as Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 29, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm760. The United States continued to sanction Lebanese institutions in February 2020 when the Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on three Lebanese individuals and 12 entities affiliated with or controlled by the Iran-based Martyrs Foundation. The designated companies included Atlas Holding for being owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation. Atlas and its subsidiaries had conducted financial transactions for Hezbollah through the previously designated Jammal Trust Bank, which the United States accused of facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions through the Lebanese financial system and aiding Hezbollah officials in evading scrutiny from Lebanese financial authorities.“Treasury Designates Martyrs Foundation Companies and Officials as Global Terrorists,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 26, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm917.
The U.S. government has also increased financial pressure on Hezbollah networks in South America with sanctions against Hezbollah fundraisers and networkers in the Tri-Border Area of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. In July 2018, Argentina levied financial sanctions on members of the Barakat Group, a criminal Hezbollah financial support network in South America’s Tri-Border Area led by U.S.-designated Lebanese citizen Assad Ahmad Barakat. The move was the first time Argentina had levied sanctions against Hezbollah.Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Argentina freezes assets of suspected Hezbollah fundraising network,” Times of Israel, July 16, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/argentina-freezes-assets-of-suspected-hezbollah-fundraising-network/. Brazilian police arrested Barakat that September.“‘Hezbollah treasurer’ Barakat arrested in Brazil border city,” BBC News, September 22, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45610738. Argentina designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and froze the group’s assets on July 18, 2019.Daniel Politi, “Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group on 25th Anniversary of Bombing,” New York Times, July 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/world/americas/argentina-hezbollah-terrorist-group.html. Paraguay designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization the following month.Presidencia Paraguay, Twitter post, August 19, 2019, 10:09 a.m., https://twitter.com/PresidenciaPy/status/1163452948615237633.
In response to increased financial sanctions against Hezbollah and Iran, Hezbollah has deployed donation boxes across Lebanon and called on supporters to offset the sanctions. In March 2019, Nasrallah called financial sanctions against Hezbollah a “form of war” and implored supporters to increase their financial contributions through a “jihad of money.”“Hezbollah calls on supporters to donate as sanctions pressure bites,” Reuters, March 8, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/lebanon-hezbollah/hezbollah-calls-on-supporters-to-donate-as-sanctions-pressure-bites-idUSL5N20V4XQ; Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous, “Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah, and it hurts,” Washington Post, May 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/trumps-sanctions-on-iran-are-hitting-hezbollah-hard/2019/05/18/970bc656-5d48-11e9-98d4-844088d135f2_story.html?utm_term=.ae622466c555.
Recruitment and Training:
Hezbollah primarily relies on religious devotion, opposition to Israel, and devotion to Shiite values as recruitment tools, according to various government and journalistic assessments.Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, “Responses to Information Request,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 4, 2013, https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2015/09/29/lbn104638.e.pdf. In Syria, Hezbollah has capitalized on anti-U.S. sentiment and fear of Syrian government reprisals to recruit. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has invested in programs targeting every stage of Lebanese youths’ education, from primary school to university. Hezbollah runs networks of schools, camps, and religious programming throughout Lebanon. By targeting youth, Hezbollah gains new recruits and builds the domestic support responsible for its electoral successes.
Hezbollah’s youth wing, the “Mahdi Scouts,” offers programs similar to those of the American Boy Scouts, except that it indoctrinates support for Shiite and Hezbollah ideology. Scouts display pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and pledge their allegiance to Hezbollah. Graduates go on to become Hezbollah recruits or contribute to local support. Hezbollah also runs summer camps, field trips, and religious holiday programing. It maintains student outreach groups in unaffiliated schools. A network of religious teachers across the country is charged with promoting Shiite values and Hezbollah’s mission.Robert F. Worth, “Hezbollah Seeks to Marshall the Piety of the Young,” New York Times, November 20, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/world/middleeast/21lebanon.html.
Hezbollah reportedly employs recruiters to vet candidates for proper values, such as piety and modesty.Nicole Dow, “The inner workings of Hezbollah,” CNN Security Clearance, January 25, 2011, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/03/inside-the-hezbollah/. According to journalist Nicholas Blanford, “those that drink, smoke, chase girls and drive fast cars stand little chance.”Nicole Dow, “The inner workings of Hezbollah,” CNN Security Clearance, January 25, 2011,http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/03/inside-the-hezbollah/. This process can sometimes take several years. “Only if they are good men do we let them join our ranks,” said an unidentified Hezbollah member.Ruth Sherlock, “Syria: Hezbollah recruitment surge as sectarian conflict spreads,” Telegraph [U.K.], March 2, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10671167/Syria-Hizbollah-recruitment-surge-as-sectarian-conflict-spreads.html. Recruits who pass this stage are then vetted for security before starting a regiment of religious education and basic military training. Recruits are free to leave if they decide during the training process Hezbollah is not right for them.Nicole Dow, “The inner workings of Hezbollah,” CNN Security Clearance, January 25, 2011,http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/03/inside-the-hezbollah/.
Shiite Hezbollah has expanded its recruitment to include Sunnis and non-Muslims. In 2009, it formed the Resistance Brigades in order to recruit Sunni allies. By 2013, its ranks had swelled to approximately 500. In response to clashes between the Brigades and locals in Lebanon, Hezbollah cut the number of fighters to between 200 and 250.“Hezbollah Recruiting Non-Shiites for ISIS Fight: Report,” Daily Star, November 12, 2014, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Nov-12/277324-hezbollah-recruiting-bekaa-youth-against-isis-report.ashx#sthash.C3J7Ty2i.dpuf.
Since 2012, Hezbollah has been fighting on behalf of Syria’s President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war, requiring it to increase membership of its ranks.Jack Khoury, “Hezbollah seeking 15,000 new recruits to fight against rebels in Syria,” Haaretz, October 20, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/.premium-1.553458. Hezbollah has expanded its recruitment to young Christian, Druze, and Sunni Muslim men in east Lebanon. According to local media reports, Hezbollah is providing the recruits with weapons and training “to counter the threat of ISIS and its affiliates.”“Hezbollah Recruiting Non-Shiites for ISIS Fight: Report,” Daily Star (Beirut), November 12, 2014, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Nov-12/277324-hezbollah-recruiting-bekaa-youth-against-isis-report.ashx#sthash.C3J7Ty2i.dpuf. Sectarian violence in Syria’s civil war, which has spilled over into Lebanon, is attracting new volunteers to Hezbollah’s cause. This is a major shift from when Hezbollah first involved itself in Syria in 2012. Many Lebanese felt then that Syria was not their fight and Hezbollah should keep its focus on Israel. As suicide bombings and other violence gripped Lebanon, attitudes changed. “The war is here now. It is across the borders and in our areas. We have to protect ourselves,” said an unidentified Lebanese teacher.Ruth Sherlock, “Syria: Hezbollah recruitment surge as sectarian conflict spreads,” Telegraph (London), March 2, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10671167/Syria-Hizbollah-recruitment-surge-as-sectarian-conflict-spreads.html.
As of November 2018, Hezbollah had reportedly recruited up to 2,000 formerly U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria for a new pro-regime force in the country’s south along the Israeli and Jordanian borders. A rebel commander told the Wall Street Journal that fighters felt betrayed and abandoned by the U.S. and Arab forces. As an incentive to former rebels, Hezbollah allegedly pays a monthly salary of $250 and guarantees protection against arrest by the Syrian army. U.S. Syria envoy Joel Rayburn called Hezbollah’s recruitment of former rebels “a highly destabilizing prospect” that could increase the possibility of a new regional conflict.Sune Engel Rasmussen and Suha Ma’ayeh, “Iran Ally Hezbollah Pays Syrian Rebels to Switch Sides,” Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-ally-hezbollah-pays-syrian-rebels-to-switch-sides-1541073600.
In its early years, Hezbollah obtained critical training from Iran’s IRGC.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. Hezbollah has since developed a network of training camps in Lebanon. It has also built a cultural machine that produces materials that foster an appreciation for Hezbollah’s patronage, its ability to empower Lebanese youth and support the society, and cultivate a deep distrust of Israel. The process of becoming a soldier continues at Mustafa schools, where students undergo religious studies, pray for Islamic Resistance fighters, and are inculcated with a sense of military brotherhood and discipline. As of 2011, Hezbollah did not allow fighters under the age of 18, but youth have a basic understanding of military training and weapons.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/joining-hezbollah/. Hezbollah reportedly lowered its fighting age to 16 in August 2014.Nicholas Blandford, “Hezbollah lowers fighting age as it takes on Islamic State,” Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2014, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2014/0818/Hezbollah-lowers-fighting-age-as-it-takes-on-Islamic-State-video.
Hezbollah sends recruiters to villages where the group has influence. Potential recruits are pious, well-behaved, and intelligent. Recruiters develop a relationship with a potential recruit for months and sometimes years, eventually asking them to join. These activated recruits join out of a sense of religious obligation, desire to resist occupation, and even peer pressure.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
Fighters have to pass through a phase of tahdirat, or preparation, where they are taught about Iran’s Islamic revolution, scholarly Islamic texts, and a motif of martyrdom. During the second stage, intizam, or commitment, members undergo basic military training. Both of these phases last approximately a year.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
The initial military training program lasts for 33 days, during which recruits learn basic guerrilla warfare and physical fitness. The training takes place in the heavily wooded Bekaa Valley.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92. Recruits are dropped off with bare essentials and required to find their way back to their bases. They are forced to march across unsteady limestone with rock-filled backpacks. The trainees are given only one canteen of water per day, and are pressured to perform uphill sprints and pushups. During the night, each recruit performs at least one hour of guard duty.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
In addition to these tests meant to build fitness and endurance, recruits are trained in the use of standard Hezbollah weaponry—AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles, the PKC 7.62 light machine gun, the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, and the RPG-7—until they can strip, reassemble, and load each weapon blindfolded. Trainees are taught to shoot both day and night and learn the importance of conserving ammunition. Each fighter is taught how to install roadside bombs and landmines. They study the Israeli army’s armored vehicles and are instructed to fire RPGs at vulnerable spots. Recruits become adept at camouflage and stealth—learning various crawls and how to lie in observation for hours—and become expert navigators, using maps, compasses, and GPS instruments. Hezbollah also provides training to protect fighters against nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
This level of training is required for all recruits, even those who may eventually play ancillary roles for Hezbollah. Each fighter is trained in first aid and basic medical support. They are also required to take written and practical exams in the field.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92. After fighters have attained a certain level of religious scholarship and military training, some travel to Iran and sometimes Syria for specialized training. Hezbollah has been accused of working with the Quds Force of Iran’s IRGC, as well as training and advising Syrian government forces.Nicholas Kulish, “Despite Alarm by U.S., Europe Lets Hezbollah Operate Openly,” New York Times, August 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/world/europe/hezbollah-banned-in-us-operates-in-europes-public-eye.html?pagewanted=all. Top combat training is reserved for Hezbollah’s Special Forces unit, where recruits are subject to two 45-day programs with a five-day break in between.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
Hezbollah leaders insist that the group’s resistance is of a higher quality than other jihadist groups due to its ingrained faith in Islam, readiness for martyrdom, and integrity of leadership.Nicholas Blanford, “Joining Hezbollah,” Cairo Review of Global Affairs, October 2011, http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=92.
According to former CIA director George Tenet, “Hezbollah, as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is [al-Qaeda’s] equal, if not a far more capable organization.”Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 2005, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/hezbollah-finances-funding-the-party-of-god. Hezbollah is credited with attacks against Israeli soldiers during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon; the 1983 attack on U.S. military barracks in Lebanon; and the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, as well as other attacks.Justyna Pawlak and Adrian Croft, “EU Adds Hezbollah’s Military Wing to Terrorism List,” Reuters. July 22, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/22/us-eu-hezbollah-idUSBRE96K0DA20130722. In 2012, U.S. State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin said, “Hezbollah and Iran will both continue to maintain a heightened level of terrorist activity and operations in the near future,” and could launch attacks “with little or no warning.”Jamie Crawford, “U.S. Official: Hezbollah, Iran Continue to Pose Terror Threat,” CNN, August 10, 2012, http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/10/u-s-official-hezbollah-iran-continue-to-pose-terror-threat/.
In its more-than-three-decade history, Hezbollah has transformed—thanks largely to Iranian patronage—from a singularly focused terrorist group fighting Israel into a developed army participating in regional conflicts. Hezbollah’s use of drone technology illustrates its advancement in weaponry. Hezbollah began using Iranian-supplied drones in 2002, primarily for reconnaissance missions. In September 2014, Iranian media reported that Hezbollah had used an armed unmanned aerial vehicle to kill 23 members of the Nusra Front in Lebanon—a significant leap forward in weapons technology for the terrorist group.Adiv Sterman, “Hezbollah drones wreak havoc on Syrian rebel bases,” Times of Israel, September 21, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-drones-wreak-havoc-on-syrian-rebel-bases/. In August 2016, Hezbollah released video footage of its use of armed drones to drop cluster bombs on Syrian rebel forces near Aleppo, Syria.Judah Ari Gross, “Video appears to confirm use of attack drones by Hezbollah,” Times of Israel, August 11, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/video-appears-to-confirm-use-of-attack-drones-by-hezbollah-in-syria/.
The following is a list of areas where Hezbollah has staged violent activities:
Violence against Israel
Since Israel’s May 2000 evacuation from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has been responsible for cross-border raids, most notably the July 12, 2006, attack that killed eight Israeli soldiers and resulted in the captivity and deaths of two other soldiers. In the ensuing 34-day war, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets, supplied by Iran, into Israeli territory. During the course of the war, Hezbollah killed 39 Israeli civilians and 120 soldiers, while Israel killed more than 850 Lebanese—most of whom were reportedly civilians. According to a report by the American Jewish Congress, the disproportionately high civilian casualty count on the Lebanese side was due to Hezbollah’s use of civilians as human shields.Amy Teibel, “Hezbollah Accused of Using Human Shields,” Washington Post, December 5, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/05/AR2006120500446_pf.html. The report claims that Hezbollah “operated from civilian areas to deter the Israeli military,” and further states that Hezbollah’s operatives “stashed weapons in hundreds of private homes and mosques, had fighters transporting missiles closely follow ambulances,” and fired rockets near areas where U.N. monitors were working.Amy Teibel, “Hezbollah Accused of Using Human Shields,” Washington Post, December 5, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/05/AR2006120500446_pf.html.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated in a 2006 report that Iran had transferred 10,000 short-range Katyusha-type rockets, with launchers, capable of reaching 7 to 12 miles inside Israel, as well as an unknown number of longer-range rockets capable of hitting targets almost 50 miles inside Israel, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.Anthony Cordesman, “Iran’s Support of the Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 15, 2006, http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/145646_en_060715_hezbollah.pdf. U.N. Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 conflict, demanded that Hezbollah disarm.Security Council Calls For End to Hostilities Between Hizbollah, Israel, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1701 (2006),” United Nations Security Council, August 11, 2006, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8808.doc.htm. U.N. Resolution 1559 in 2004 also called for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.”“Security Council Declares Support for Free, Fair Presidential Election in Lebanon; Calls for Withdrawal of Foreign Forces There,” U.N. Security Council, September 2, 2004, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/sc8181.doc.htm. According to a 2014 State Department report, Hezbollah has stockpiled 60,000 to 70,000 missiles in Lebanon since the end of its 2006 war with Israel.“Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa Overview,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224823.htm.
Though Hezbollah has focused its military capacity in Syria since 2012, it has continued to target Israel. On January 28, 2015, for example, a Hezbollah missile hit an Israeli army position inside Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers.“Three killed as Israel and Hezbollah clash on Lebanese border,” BBC News, January 28, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31015862;
“U.N. peacekeeper killed on Lebanese frontier,” Reuters, January 28, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/28/us-mideast-israel-lebanon-un-idUSKBN0L11KQ20150128. In January 2016, Hezbollah targeted an Israeli patrol on the Israeli side of the border with an improvised explosive device.Associated Press, “Hezbollah attacks Israeli troops on Lebanon border,” Yahoo News, January 4, 2016, https://www.yahoo.com/news/lebanons-hezbollah-tv-reports-attack-israeli-forces-141756037.html?ref=gs. In October 2016, Israeli authorities charged six Lebanese members of a Hezbollah cell who had been arrested in recent months for allegedly attempting to plant bombs near the Israeli city of Haifa.Yaakov Lappin, “Security forces thwart Hezbollah attempt to plant bombs in Haifa area,” Jerusalem Post, October 6, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hezbollah-terror-plot-in-northern-Israel-thwarted-469529.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 6, 2017, announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Hezbollah joined other regional terror groups in calling for a violent reprisal against Israel. In a speech the following day, Nasrallah warned of a “blatant aggression against [Jerusalem] its people, its holy sites and identity.”Sue Surkes, “Hezbollah leader: Trump move ‘a second Balfour Declaration,’” Times of Israel, December 7, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-leader-trump-move-a-second-balfour-declaration/. He declared that the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is “in real danger, and it may be demolished at any time.”“Nasrallah says Al Aqsa mosque ‘in real danger’ after US Jerusalem move,” Times of Israel, December 7, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/nasrallah-says-al-aqsa-mosque-in-real-danger-after-us-jerusalem-move/; “Nasrallah calls for protest against Trump decision,” Daily Star (Beirut), November 7, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Dec-07/429339-nasrallah-calls-for-demonstration-in-lebanon-to-protest-jerusalem-decision-on-monday.ashx#. He called for a massive protest in Beirut and supported calls for a new intifada (uprising) against Israel and increased violence.Seth J. Franztman, “Nasrallah Calls for Support of New Palestinian Intifada,” Jerusalem Post, December 7, 2017, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Nasrallah-calls-for-support-of-new-Palestinian-Intifada-517373.
As of August 2019, there has been a significant increase in hostilities between Israeli forces and Hezbollah. Israel launched an airstrike on August 24, 2019 that killed two Hezbollah members in Syria. The Israeli military justified the preemptive operation as a way to target Iranian and Hezbollah personnel being trained to operate attack drones.David M. Halbfinger, “Israel Says It Struck Iranian ‘Killer Drones’ in Syria,” New York Times, August 24, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/24/world/middleeast/israel-says-it-struck-iranian-killer-drones-in-syria.html?module=inline. A day later, two drones crashed into the southern suburbs of Beirut, an area that is home to many supporters of Hezbollah. Israel claimed responsibility for the strikes to which Lebanon’s president and Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, responded that the attacks were “a declaration of war” justifying a military response.“Lebanon president: Israel drone attack a declaration of war,” Al Jazeera, August 26, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/israel-strikes-palestinian-base-lebanon-reports-190826071121071.html.; Ben Hubbard, “Hezbollah Says Drones That Crashed in Beirut Suburbs Came From Israel,” New York Times, August 25, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/25/world/middleeast/israel-drones-beirut-hezbollah.html?module=inline. On September 1, 2019, Hezbollah fired antitank missiles into Avivim, Israel, prompting Israel to return fire with attack helicopters and about 100 artillery shells in southern Lebanon. Despite no reports of casualties or injuries on either side, this altercation represented the first significant exchange between Israel and Hezbollah since the 2006 Lebanon War.Andrew Carey, “Israel and Hezbollah exchange border fire for first time in years,” CNN, September 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/01/middleeast/israel-hezbollah-army-base-attack/index.html.; Tom O’Connor, “Israel Appears To Attack Four Countries In Two Days, Bombing Iran's Allies Across Middle East,” Newsweek, August 26, 2019, https://www.newsweek.com/israel-attack-four-countries-bombing-iran-allies-1456161.; Richard Hall, “What’s happening between Hezbollah and Israel? The latest confrontation, explained,” Independent, September 6, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-hezbollah-lebanon-missiles-a9093196.html.
Violence in Lebanon
Hezbollah undertook a campaign of violence against U.S., Israeli, and other international targets in Lebanon throughout the 1980s. These attacks include the 1983 attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut, which left 63 people dead,“Global Terrorism Database,” START: A Center of Excellence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accessed June 12, 2014, http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/IncidentSummary.aspx?gtdid=198304180001. and the suicide truck bombing of U.S. Marine barracks later that year, which left 242 U.S. service personnel dead. Simultaneously with the Marine barrack bombing, Hezbollah targeted French military barracks, killing 58 French service members.“Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, June 13, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/world/meast/beirut-marine-barracks-bombing-fast-facts/index.html.
Hezbollah has been responsible for violent clashes with Lebanese security forces, such as in May 2008 when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah openly threatened war with the Lebanese army.“Gun battles break out in Beirut,” CNN, May 9, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/05/08/lebanon.hezbollah/index.html?iref=nextin; Lebanon Rivals Agree Crisis Deal,” BBC News, May 21, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7411835.stm. Hezbollah launched bloody street battles against Lebanese forces after a government decision to dismantle the group’s private telephone network, which Hezbollah called a declaration of war. Hezbollah fighters captured sections of western Beirut and attacked media offices affiliated with the governing Future movement in clashes that killed 62 people dead across the country. The Lebanese government called Hezbollah’s actions “an armed and bloody coup,” while international media reported the conflict as the worst sectarian fighting in Lebanon since the end of Lebanon’s civil war. The fighting ended with a Qatari-negotiated agreement that brought Hezbollah into a national-unity government.Nadim Ladki, “Hezbollah says Beirut government declares war,” Reuters, May 8, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL08466882._CH_.2400;
Robert F. Worth and Nada Bakri, “Hezbollah Seizes Swath of Beirut From U.S.-Backed Lebanese Government,” New York Times, May 10, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/10/world/middleeast/10lebanon.html;
“Hezbollah rocks eastern villages,” BBC News, May 11, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7394853.stm;
Robert F. Worth and Nada Bakri, “Deal for Lebanese Factions Leaves Hezbollah Stronger,” New York Times, May 22, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/22/world/middleeast/22lebanon.html;
Tom Perry, “Lebanon government denounces Hezbollah “coup” in Beirut,” Reuters, May 9, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-conflict-idUSL0742599820080509;
“Lebanon rivals agree crisis deal,” BBC News, May 21, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7411835.stm.
Further, Hezbollah’s actions in the Syrian civil war have spilled into Lebanon, resulting in confrontations with the Nusrah Front and other rebel groups inside Lebanese territory.Associated Press, “Hezbollah fighters and Syria rebels in deadly clash inside Lebanon,” Guardian (London), June 2, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/02/hezbollah-syria-rebels-clash-lebanon;
Mona Alami, “The War Between Hezbollah and ISIS in Lebanon,” Newsweek, December 12, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/war-between-hezbollah-and-isis-lebanon-404244. ISIS has also targeted Hezbollah strongholds inside Lebanon, including a November 2015 twin suicide bombing in Beirut, which left 43 dead.“Islamic State targets Hezbollah bastion in Lebanon,” Reuters, November 12, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/video/2015/11/12/islamic-state-targets-hezbollah-bastion?videoId=366295048.
In 2011, two suspected members of Hezbollah were indicted in the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others.Nada Bakri, “Tribunal Names 4 in ’05 Killing of Lebanese Leader,” New York Times, June 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/world/middleeast/01lebanon.html. Hezbollah denies participation in the attack.
Hezbollah’s campaign in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, with clashes against the Nusra Front, ISIS, and other rebel forces within Lebanon’s borders. For example, in May 2015, Hezbollah and Nusra fighters fought in eastern Lebanon, about 30 miles from the Syrian border, according to Lebanese security.“Hezbollah clashes with Nusra Front on Lebanon-Syria border,” Reuters, May 5, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-lebanon-nusra-idUSKBN0NQ1FK20150505. In June 2013, Syrian rebels fired 18 rockets and mortars into eastern Lebanon. A Hezbollah member and 17 Nusra Front fighters were reportedly killed in ensuing battles inside Lebanon.Associated Press, “Syrian rebels enter Lebanon, clash with Hezbollah,” Times of Israel, June 2, 2013, http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebels-enter-lebanon-clash-with-hezbollah/.
On November 3, 2017, Prime Minister Saad Hariri fled Beirut to Saudi Arabia. The following day, he announced his resignation, alleging that Hezbollah had attempted to assassinate him a few days earlier. Hezbollah rejected the claim and accused Saudi Arabia of directing Hariri to resign in order to weaken Hezbollah.Zeina Karam, “Lebanese premier resigns, plunging nation into uncertainty,” Associated Press, November 4, 2017, https://apnews.com/019113ca565d4170ac7c23b687947d74/Lebanese-premier-resigns,-plunging-nation-into-uncertainty;
Agence France-Presse, “Hezbollah says Saudi Arabia ‘imposed’ Lebanon PM’s resignation,&rdquo Yahoo News, November 5, 2017, https://www.yahoo.com/news/hezbollah-says-saudi-imposed-lebanon-pms-resignation-172701903.html.
Hezbollah is suspected of carrying out a number of transnational attacks. According to the U.S. Department of State, Hezbollah “increased the pace of its terrorist plotting” in 2012.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2014,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2014/239413.htm.
TWA Flight 847
On June 14, 1985, Hezbollah terrorists, armed with grenades and a 9-mm. pistol, hijacked TWA Flight 847 on its way from Athens to Rome. The hijackers demanded passengers with “Jewish-sounding names” identify themselves. The terrorists forced the plan to land in Beirut, where they shot passenger Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver, and threw his body out of the plane, reportedly in retaliation for a failed negotiation. Hezbollah demanded the release of more than 700 prisoners held in Israel, Cyprus, and Kuwait in exchange for the remaining 39 hostages. The terrorists released most of the hostages, but kept five on board until their negotiated release on June 30.Associated Press, “Survivor recounts experience aboard hijacked plane in 1985,” Washington Times, May 11, 2015, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/11/survivor-recounts-experience-aboard-hijacked-plane/;
Dena Kleiman, “Hostages in Lebanon: Who the Captives are; 40 Remaining Hostages: A Diverse Group United by the Random Nature of their Plight,” New York Times, June 21, 1985, http://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/21/us/hostages-lebanon-who-captives-are-40-remaining-hostages-diverse-group-united.html;
Gerald Boyd, “Out of Captivity; Picture of Washington as Captive of the Crisis,” New York Times, July 1, 1985, http://www.nytimes.com/1985/07/01/world/out-of-captivity-picture-of-washington-as-captive-of-the-crisis.html;
“Hijacking of TWA Flight 847,” FBI, accessed October 19, 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/hijacking-of-twa-flight-847;
William E. Smith, “Terror Aboard Flight 847,” Time, June 24, 2001, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,142099,00.html.
On January 13, 1987, German authorities arrested one of the suspected hijackers, Mohammed Ali Hammadi, as he brought explosives into the Frankfurt airport. Soon after his arrest, two German citizens in Lebanon were kidnapped in an attempt to dissuade Germany from extraditing Hammadi to the U.S.Craig Whitlock, “Hijacker Sought By U.S. Released,” Washington Post, December 21, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/20/AR2005122001615.html. A German court tried Hammadi and handed him a life sentence in 1989,Patrick Moser, “Life in prison for Hammadi,” United Press International, May 17, 1989, http://www.upi.com/Archives/1989/05/17/Life-in-prison-for-Hammadi/9349611380800/. but he was released on parole in 2005 after serving only 19 years.Craig Whitlock, “Hijacker Sought By U.S. Released,” Washington Post, December 21, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/20/AR2005122001615.html. Hammadi remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.“Mohammed Ali Hammadi,” FBI, accessed October 31, 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/mohammed-ali-hamadei.
On March 17, 1992, a van carrying 220 pounds of explosives drove onto the sidewalk outside the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and blew up, killing 23 people and wounding 242.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s 1992 Attack in Argentina Is a Warning for Modern-Day Europe,” Atlantic, March 19, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/hezbollahs-1992-attack-in-argentina-is-a-warning-for-modern-day-europe/274160/. Hezbollah claimed responsibility in a statement to a Beirut-based Western news agency, declaring, “with all pride that the operation of the martyr infant Hussein is one of our continuing strikes against the criminal Israeli enemy in an open-ended war, which will not cease until Israel is wiped out of existence.”Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s 1992 Attack in Argentina Is a Warning for Modern-Day Europe,” Atlantic, March 19, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/hezbollahs-1992-attack-in-argentina-is-a-warning-for-modern-day-europe/274160/. The “martyr infant Hussein” refers to the 5-year-old son of Hezbollah leader Abbas Moussawi. Both were killed in an Israeli airstrike on February 16, 1992.
On July 18, 1994, a suicide bomber exploded at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding 300.“Argentina Passes Iran Amia Deal,” BBC News, February 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21612517. In 2006, Argentinian prosecutors called for the arrest of a handful of Iranian officials, including former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in connection to the attack.“Iran Charged over Argentina Bomb,” BBC News, October 25, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6085768.stm. The following year, prosecutors named several suspects, including Iran’s then defense minister, Gen. Ahmed Vahidi, who was commander of a special unit of the IRGC in 1994.“Argentina passes deal with Iran to probe Amia bombing,” BBC News, February 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21612517. According to Argentinian prosecutors, Iran planned and financed the AMIA attack, which Hezbollah then carried out.“Argentina passes deal with Iran to probe Amia bombing,” BBC News, February 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21612517.
In 2013, Argentina and Iran agreed to a joint investigation into the 1994 attack. Detractors, including Argentinian Jewish groups and a number of opposition legislators, condemned the deal, arguing it would hinder the investigation and that Iran could not be trusted. “The bombing is being debated with the Iranian government, which ordered it,” said Ricardo Gil Lavedra of the Argentinian legislature.“Argentina passes deal with Iran to probe Amia bombing,” BBC News, February 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21612517. Guillermo Carmona, president of the Argentine Foreign Relations Committee, called the agreement the only possibility for Argentinian legal officials to question Iranian suspects in Tehran. Despite Iran’s cooperation agreement, Interpol refused to rescind the six arrest warrants for Iranian suspects, including Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, in the bombing.“Interpol Won’t Lift Warrants for 6 Iranians in AMIA Bombing,” Times of Israel, March 15, 2013, http://www.timesofisrael.com/interpol-wont-lift-warrants-for-6-iranians-wanted-in-amia-bombing/. As of October 2016, Argentina continues to issue international extradition requests for Iranian suspects.Agence France-Presse, “Argentina seeks extradition of Iran ex-minister,” Yahoo 7 News, October 21, 2016, https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/32966754/argentina-seeks-extradition-of-iran-ex-minister/#page1.
On January 27, 2013, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government to set up a joint commission to investigate the AMIA bombing.“Amia bombing: Argentina and Iran agree truth commission,” BBC News, January 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-21225832. In January 2015, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused Kirchner and other Argentine officials of covering up Iran’s role in the bombing.Jonathan Gilbert, “Argentine President Accused of Cover-Up in Bombing Inquiry,” New York Times, January 14, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/15/world/americas/argentine-president-accused-of-cover-up-in-bombing-inquiry.html. Nisman was found shot to death in mysterious circumstances in his Bueno Aires apartment three days later.Karen Zraick, “The Mysterious Death of Alberto Nisman,” New York Times, last updated February 20, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/02/07/world/americas/argentina-alberto-nisman-case.html?_r=1. On December 7, 2017, Argentine Judge Claudio Bonadio indicted former president Kirchner on treason charges for covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing in exchange for trade concessions. Kirchner denied the charge, which Bonadio based on Nisman’s work.Max Radwin and Anthony Faiola, “Argentine ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner charged with treason,” Washington Post, December 7, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/argentine-ex-president-cristina-fernandez-charged-with-treason/2017/12/07/e3e326e0-db80-11e7-a241-0848315642d0_story.html?utm_term=.fcfee0d60009.
Argentina designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on July 18, 2019, the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing.Daniel Politi, “Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group on 25th Anniversary of Bombing,” New York Times, July 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/world/americas/argentina-hezbollah-terrorist-group.html.
Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Bahraini intelligence from defected Syrian soldiers revealed that Hezbollah had trained Bahraini cells to carry out terrorist attacks within the country.“Bahrain First Arab Country to Blacklist Hezbollah as Terrorist Organization,” Al Arabiya, April 9, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/04/09/Bahrain-first-Arab-country-to-blacklist-Hezbollah-as-terrorist-organization.html. Bahrain’s 2013 decision to become the first Arab nation to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization was to “protect Bahrain’s security and stability from Hezbollah’s threats,” according to Bahraini MP Adil al-Asoumi.“Bahrain First Arab Country to Blacklist Hezbollah as Terrorist Organization,” Al Arabiya, April 9, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/04/09/Bahrain-first-Arab-country-to-blacklist-Hezbollah-as-terrorist-organization.html.
On July 19, 2012, a suicide bomber exploded aboard a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, and wounding 35 Israeli tourists.Agence France-Presse, “Bulgaria court delays trial of Burgas bus bomber accomplices,” Times of Israel, September 26, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/bulgaria-court-delays-trial-of-burgas-bus-bomber-accomplices/. “There are clear signs that say Hezbollah is behind the Burgas bombing,” according to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev.Angel Krasimirov, “Bulgaria Says Clear Signs Hezbollah behind Burgas Bombing,” Reuters, July 18, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/18/us-bulgaria-hezbollah-idUSBRE96H0XI20130718. Bulgarian authorities accused two suspected Hezbollah members, Australian citizen Meliad Farah, 32, a.k.a. Hussein Hussein, and 25-year-old Canadian citizen Hassan El Hajj Hassan, of providing logistical support for the bombing.“Bulgaria Bus Bomb Accused Face Trial,” BBC News, September 12, 2013,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24069506. Bulgaria turned the information over to EU police but planned to try them in absentia beginning in late 2016.Agence France-Presse, “Bulgaria court error delays trial over Israeli bombing,” Al-Monitor, September 26, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/afp/2016/09/bulgaria-israel-attack-trial.html.
A Cypriot court sentenced Lebanese-Swedish national Hossam Taleb Yaccoub to three years in prison in 2013 for planning attacks on Israeli targets. Hezbollah had paid Yaccoub since 2011 to collect information on Israeli tourists, including Israeli flights arriving in Cyprus and registration plates of buses carrying Israeli tourists.“Cyprus Jails Hezbollah Operative,” BBC News, March 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21970309. Yaccoub admitted to collecting the information but denied any plans for an attack.“Cyprus Jails Hezbollah Operative,” BBC News, March 28, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21970309.
Syria is Iran’s main supply route to Hezbollah in Lebanon.“Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224826.htm. Extending Iran’s influence, Hezbollah has been actively fighting on behalf of the besieged Syrian government in that country’s civil war. Hezbollah actively joined the fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013. In August 2012, the U.S. government sanctioned Hezbollah for its support of the Assad regime in Syria, and said Hezbollah has “directly trained Syrian Government personnel inside Syria and has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qods Force.” “Briefing On the Designation of Hezbollah for Supporting the Syrian Regime,” U.S. Department of State, August 10, 2012, https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/08/196335.htm. The United States also accused Hezbollah of playing “a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria.”“State, Treasury on Hezbollah Designation for Aiding Syrian Regime,” U.S. Department of State, August 10, 2012, http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/08/20120810134572.html#axzz34RC560HQ.
Hezbollah has promised to remain in Syria. In April 2014, Nasrallah said, “The problem in Lebanon is not that Hezbollah went to Syria, but that we were late in doing so. This resistance will remain solid, with its head hung high, protecting its people and its nation.”“Nasrallah: Hezbollah Carried out Border Attack against IDF Troops Last Month,” Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Nasrallah-Assad-will-not-be-toppled-Israel-concerned-347723. In October 2016, Nasrallah reiterated Hezbollah’s determination to remain engaged in Syria.Angus McDowell, “Hezbollah vows at massive Beirut rally to keep up ‘jihad’ in Syria,” Reuters, October 12, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-lebanon-ashura-idUSKCN12C1II. In August 2018, the Assad regime formally requested that Hezbollah remain in Syria after the end of the war.Leith Aboufadel, “Hezbollah asked to remain in Syria after war – report,” Al-Masdar News, August 29, 2018, https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/hezbollah-asked-to-remain-in-syria-after-war-report/.
In June 2017, Hezbollah openly threatened to attack U.S. forces in Syria if the United States “crosses any red lines.”“Hezbollah threatens to strike US in Syria over ‘red lines,’” Associated Press, June 7, 2017, https://apnews.com/f349eddd09dd4cf38edbe6ac3ee34be0/Hezbollah-threatens-to-strike-US-in-Syria-over-'red-lines'.
Hezbollah has been involved in multiple violent activities in Syria:
- May 22, 2011: Hezbollah fighter Mohammad Ali Ahmad Dilani dies while fighting in Syria, indicating the group’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War two years prior to Hezbollah’s official admission of fighting alongside the Assad regime.“They were martyred on the 22nd of May,” Arabi Press, May 22, 2018, https://www.arabipress.org/%D8%A5%D8%B1%D8%AA%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%91%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B4%D9%87/#prettyphoto[post_gallery]/0/.
- October 2012: Near-daily clashes occur between Hezbollah fighters and the Free Syrian Army on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Syrian activists accuse Hezbollah’s forces of being directly involved in Assad’s 19-month effort to crush the rebel uprising, and say the group was transporting weapons and ammunition across the border “day and night” in ambulances and other civilian vehicles.“Hezbollah fighters, rebels clashing daily in Syria, residents,” YaLibnan, October 17, 2012, http://yalibnan.com/2012/10/17/hezbollah-fighters-rebels-clashing-daily-in-syria-residents/.
- February 2013: The Syrian Revolution Government Commission and Syrian National Council accused Hezbollah of attacking three villages near the Lebanese border.“Hezbollah condemned for ‘attack on Syrian villages,’” BBC News, February 18, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-21496735.
- May-June 2013: Hezbollah sends 1,700 fighters to Qusayr, Syria, to support Assad’s forces in retaking the strategic town. Approximately 500 rebel fighters are killed during the battle. Hezbollah fighters tell Lebanese media that the group led the fight against the rebels in Qusayr. According to refugees from Qusayr, Hezbollah slaughtered civilian families who refused to leave the city during the fighting. Approximately 15,000 of the city’s 30,000 residents remained in their homes by the time Hezbollah takes control of Qusayr in June 2013. Qusayr residents accuse Hezbollah of invading their homes and executing those who do not shelter them. Other residents accuse Hezbollah of exaggerating the rebel threat in order to justify an assault on the town on behalf of the Syrian regime. One resident describes to the Wall Street Journal seeing “body parts splattered on the walls.“Syria and Hezbollah bolster forces in Qusayr,” Al Jazeera, May 29, 2013, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/05/2013529105510937115.html; Mariam Karouny, “Syrian rebels lose strategic town in boost for Assad,” Reuters, June 4, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis/syrian-rebels-lose-strategic-town-in-boost-for-assad-idUSBRE9530VE20130605; Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Hezbollah Aids Syrian Military in a Key Battle,” New York Times, May 19, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/world/middleeast/syrian-army-moves-to-rebel-held-qusayr.html; Mona Alami, “Hezbollah fighter details ops in Qusayr,” NOW, April 6, 2013, https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/interviews/hezbollah-fighter-details-ops-in-qusayr; “Syrian town of Qusayr falls to Hezbollah,” Gulf News, June 5, 2013, https://gulfnews.com/news/mena/lebanon/syrian-town-of-qusayr-falls-to-hezbollah-1.1193100; Rima Abushakra, “Fear of 'Zealots' Exacerbates War's Violence on Both Sides,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2013, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324688404578545291938564764; Alison Tahmizian Meuse, “In Qusayr, the Gloves are Off,” Syria Deeply, May 22, 2013, https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2013/05/22/in-qusayr-the-gloves-are-off.
- February 2015: Hezbollah leads an operation with the Syrian army south of Damascus, taking Deir al-Adas, Deir Maker, Tal al-Arous, and Tal al-Sarjeh from the Nusra Front.Reuters, “Hezbollah and Syrian Army Take New Ground Near Israeli Border,” Haaretz, February 11, 2015, https://www.haaretz.com/hezbollah-and-syrian-army-take-new-ground-1.5304994.
- May 4, 2015 – June 21, 2015: Hezbollah leads an offensive in the Qalamoun Mountains alongside the Syrian army, recapturing most of the mountainous Lebanese-Syrian border region and pushing rebel forces to the outskirts of Arsal.“Hezbollah acting alone in Qalamoun: social affairs minister,” Daily Star (Beirut), June 1, 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Jun-01/300055-hezbollah-acting-alone-minister.ashx.
- July 3, 2015 – September 24, 2015: Hezbollah and the Syrian Army launched an operation to take the town of Zabadani, ending in a ceasefire with significant gains for the pro-regime forces. Hezbollah and the Syrian Army claim to capture 85 percent of the city.Faysal Itani, “In Zabadani, Signs of a New and Worrying Iranian Strategy in Syria,” Huffington Post, September 13, 2015, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/faysal-itani/in-zabadani-signs-of-a-ne_b_8097416.html; Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Syrian army and Hezbollah lay siege to rebel-held border city,” Reuters, July 4, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-border/syrian-army-and-hezbollah-lay-siege-to-rebel-held-border-city-idUSKCN0PE08M20150704; “Syria army and Hezbollah storm rebel-held Zabadani,” Al Jazeera, July 5, 2015, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/syria-army-hezbollah-storm-rebel-held-zabadani-150705100934545.html; Leith Aboufadel, “Jaysh Al-Islam Announces an Offensive to Retake Lost Ground in Al-Zabadani,” Al-Masdar News, August 15, 2015, https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/jaysh-al-islam-announces-an-offensive-to-retake-lost-ground-in-al-zabadani/.
- December 2016: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly instructs his fighters to seize Aleppo at any cost, “even if that meant the loss of 10,000 men,” a Hezbollah commander tells the Middle East Eye. According to this commander, Hezbollah makes no distinction between any anti-regime forces, classifying together U.S.-supported rebels with Nusra Front fighters.Muna Alami, “Hezbollah's war in Aleppo: Victory at any cost, even to civilians,” Middle East Eye, February 9, 2017, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hezbollahs-aleppo-victory-any-cost-1412427712.
- December 22, 2016: The Battle of Aleppo, which began on July 19, 2012, ends in a decisive victory for Assad, Hezbollah, and other forces allied with the Syrian regime. The United Nations accuses Hezbollah and other pro-regime forces of killing civilians in their homes and on the streets. As the battle ends, Hezbollah fighters reportedly attack convoys evacuating civilians and aid workers under a multilateral ceasefire agreement. According to eyewitness and media reports, Hezbollah fighters surround a convoy of 20 buses carrying 800 people. Hezbollah then expels monitors from the International Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent and then proceeds to separate out males and seize their weapons and phones. Hezbollah then kills five people who resist. Hezbollah then seizes accompanying ambulances and civil defense vehicles from the convoy and forces the rest of the convoy to return to Aleppo.Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall, and Stephanie Nebehay, “Battle of Aleppo ends after years of bloodshed with rebel withdrawal,” Reuters, December 13, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN1420H5; Ellen Francis, “Syrian army announces victory in Aleppo in boost for Assad,” Reuters, December 22, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN14B1NQ; Jamie Dettmer, “Aleppo Reports Conflict Amid Accounts of Massacre by Iran-backed Militias,” Voice of America, December 16, 2016, https://www.voanews.com/a/aleppo--reports-conflict-accounts-massacre-iran-backed-militias/3639343.html; “Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” BBC News, December 13, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38301629; Sulome Anderson, “Hezbollah is the Real Winner of the Battle of Aleppo,” Newsweek, January 9, 2017, https://www.newsweek.com/2017/01/20/hezbollah-real-winner-battle-aleppo-539558.html.
- November 2017: Hezbollah leads an offensive against ISIS in Albu Kamal in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province. Hezbollah fights alongside Iran-sponsored Iraqi Shiite militias supported by Russian air strikes. According to media reports, at least 50 civilians are killed in the battle.“Hezbollah-led offensive stalls in battle for IS's ‘last city in Syria,’” Middle East Eye, November 13, 2017, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iranian-backed-militias-routed-last-syrian-militant-stronghold-799921135.
- February-April 2018: Hezbollah and Syrian forces launch an assault on Ghouta, Syria. Hezbollah reportedly sends at least 3,000 troops to fight. As of March 2018, 1,100 civilians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The dead include at least 227 children and 154 women. Syrian forces take control of the suburb that April. The United Nations accuses both sides of crimes against humanity. The United Nations specifically accuses forces loyal to the Syrian government of “deliberately starving” 265,000 people and using tactics "largely unlawful in nature, aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”Smadar Perry, “Hezbollah forces participating in Ghouta massacre,” YNet News, March 12, 2018, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5159205,00.html; Agence France-Presse, “UN warns Idlib assault by Syrian regime could be “six times worse” than Ghouta,” Arab News, May 16, 2018, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1304021/middle-east; Ellen Francis and Orhan Coskun, “Sick and injured start leaving Syria's besieged Ghouta,” Reuters, March 13, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-ghouta-un/sick-and-injured-start-leaving-syrias-besieged-ghouta-idUSKCN1GP0JF; “Both sides committed war crimes during Eastern Ghouta siege: UN,” Middle East Eye, June 20, 2018, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-government-deliberately-starved-eastern-ghouta-un-1553093123.
In October 2007, authorities found homemade bombs outside of the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. According to Caracas Police Commissioner Wilfredo Borrass, the bombs were “made to make noise and publicity.”Pablo Gato and Robert Windrem, “Hezbollah Builds a Western Base,” NBC News, May 9, 2007, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17874369/ns/world_news-americas/t/hezbollah-builds-western-base/.
Other International Terrorist Activity:
Hezbollah plots have also been uncovered in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Thailand, as well as throughout South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and various countries in the Middle East.“State, Treasury on Hezbollah Designation for Aiding Syrian Regime,” U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs, August 10, 2012, http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/08/20120810134572.html#axzz34RC560HQ.
Other Criminal Activities:
U.S. and Colombian investigators in 2008 broke up an international cocaine smuggling and money-laundering ring that allegedly used some of its profits to finance Hezbollah. Colombian investigators accused kingpin Chekry “Taliban” Harb of acting as a link between South American cocaine traffickers and Hezbollah. Harb’s ring gave Hezbollah 12 percent of its profits, according to investigators.Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella, “Drug Probe Finds Hezbollah Link,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2008, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/22/world/fg-cocainering22.
U.S. officials have accused Hezbollah of using Lebanese Shiite expatriates to negotiate contracts with Mexican crime bosses, using Mexican drug routes to smuggle people and contraband into the U.S. Admiral James G. Stavridis, then commander of the U.S. Southern Command, testified in 2009 that the link between illicit drug trafficking “including routes, profits, and corruptive influence” and “Islamic radical terrorism” is a growing threat to the United States.“EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes into U.S.,” Washington Times, March 27, 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/.
- In 2008, Mexican authorities sentenced Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent, to 60 years in prison on charges of organized crime and immigrant smuggling. Mucharrafille, who owned a cafe in Tijuana, was arrested in 2002 for smuggling 200 people, reportedly including Hezbollah supporters, into the U.S.“EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes into U.S.,” Washington Times, March 27, 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/.
- In 2001, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani crossed the border from Mexico in a car and traveled to Dearborn, Micigan. He was later convicted on a 2003 indictment that charged him with providing “material support and resources… to Hezbollah.”“EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Uses Mexican Drug Routes into U.S.,” Washington Times, March 27, 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/.
- In 2002, North Carolina convicted Hezbollah operatives of smuggling cigarettes across state lines and sending more than $1.5 million of their profits to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
- During the late 2000s, the FBI broke up a Hezbollah counterfeiting ring, led by Hezbollah member Hassan Karaki, which attempted to sell stolen and counterfeit currency to an undercover FBI informant. The group bought what they thought to be stolen property from the undercover officer and shipped to Michigan, California, Paraguay, Brazil, Belgium, Bahrain, Slovakia, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The counterfeiting ring’s purchase money came from Hezbollah agent Danni Tarraf, who asked the undercover agent if he could provide guided missiles and 10,000 “commando” machine guns.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah as a Criminal Organisation,” Fathom, Autumn 2013, http://fathomjournal.org/hezbollah-as-a-criminal-organisation/.
Hezbollah agent Dib Harb, looking for a buyer for counterfeit currency, told the FBI that Iran produces high-quality counterfeit currency in Lebanon for Hezbollah. The FBI went to Beirut in February 2009 to meet with Karaki, Harb’s boss, who revealed that Hezbollah had smuggled just under $10,000 into Lebanon from Iran through Turkey and Syria.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah as a Criminal Organisation,” Fathom, Autumn 2013, http://fathomjournal.org/hezbollah-as-a-criminal-organisation/. Harb told the FBI that Hezbollah also produces counterfeit money from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the EU.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah as a Criminal Organisation,” Fathom, Autumn 2013, http://fathomjournal.org/hezbollah-as-a-criminal-organisation/.
- On October 9, 2015, U.S. authorities arrested two “Hezbollah associates” on charges of conspiring to launder narcotics proceeds and international arms trafficking. Iman Kobeissi allegedly arranged to obtain firearms and heavy weapons for Hezbollah and other independent criminal groups in Iran, according to the DEA. Kobeissi’s accused co-conspirator, Joseph Asmar, was charged with money laundering conspiracy.“Two Hezbollah Associates Arrested on Charges of Conspiring to Launder Narcotics Proceeds and International Arms Trafficking,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, October 9, 2015, https://www.dea.gov/divisions/nj/2015/nj100915.shtml.
Other Transnational Criminal Activity:
According to Hezbollah agent Dib Harb, Hezbollah cells commit robberies across the world and send the money to Iran, where it is held before being distributed to Hezbollah in Lebanon. He also revealed that Hezbollah produces fake European documents, including passports and visa stamps.Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah as a Criminal Organisation,” Fathom, Autumn 2013, http://fathomjournal.org/hezbollah-as-a-criminal-organisation/.
Designations by the U.S. Government:
January 25, 1995: The Department of the Treasury designates Hezbollah as a Terrorist Organization that threatens to disrupt the Middle East Peace Process (under Executive Order 12947).“Executive Order 12947,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 25, 1995, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/12947.pdf.
October 8, 1997: The Department of State designates Hezbollah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act). “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” U.S. Department of State, accessed January 28, 2015, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.
October 31, 2001: The Department of State designates Hezbollah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224). “Treasury Targets Hizballah Financial Network,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 9, 2010, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg997.aspx.
June 10, 2004: The Department of the Treasury designates Assad Ahmad Barakat for his close ties to Hezbollah leadership and for working closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hezbollah associates in South America’s tri-border area.“Treasury Designates Islamic Extremist, Two Companies Supporting Hizballah in Tri-Border Area,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 10, 2004, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js1720.aspx.
March 23, 2006: The Department of the Treasury designates Al-Manar Television, Al-Nour Radio, and their parent company, Lebanese Media Group, as arms of Hezbollah.“U.S. Designates Al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity Television Station is Arm of Hizballah Terrorist Network,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, March 23, 2006, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js4134.aspx.
August 10, 2012: The Department of the Treasury designates Hezbollah as providing support to Syrian government (under Executive Order 13582). “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.
September 13, 2012: The Department of the Treasury designates Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah; senior leader Mustafa Badr al-Din; senior leader Talal Hamiyah; and senior commander Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi for providing support to the Syrian government (under Executive Order 13582).“Treasury Designates Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 13, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1709.aspx.
June 11, 2013: The Department of the Treasury designates Ali Ibrahim al-Watfa, Hezbollah supporter; Abbas Loutfe Fawaz, Hezbollah supporter; Ali Ahmad Chehade, Hezbollah supporter; and Hicham Nmer Khanafer, Hezbollah supporter as expanding Hezbollah influence in West Africa (under Executive Order 13224). “Treasury Sanctions Hizballah Operatives in West Africa,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, June 11, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl1980.aspx.
January 9, 2017: The Department of State designates Ali Damush, aide to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and leader of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department, and military commander Mustafa Mughniyeh as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.“Terrorist Designations of Ali Damush and Mustafa Mughniyeh,” U.S. Department of State, January 9, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266748.htm.
May 17, 2018: The Department of Treasury’s Office of Assets Control designates Hezbollah representative to Iran Abdallah Safi-Al-Din as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.“Treasury Targets Key Hizballah Financing Network and Iranian Conduit,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 17, 2018, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0388.
October 15, 2018: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions designates Hezbollah as a top transnational criminal threat.“Attorney General Sessions Announces New Measures to Fight Transnational Organized Crime,” U.S. Department of Justice, October 15, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-announces-new-measures-fight-transnational-organized-crime.
October 25, 2018: U.S. President Trump signs into law the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA) of 2018, which imposes additional hard-hitting sanctions on Hezbollah. The legislation will further isolate Hezbollah from the international financial system and reduce its funding.“Statement from the Press Secretary,” The White House, October 25, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-40/?mod=article_inline.
April 24, 2019: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designates Belgium-based Wael Bazzi for acting for or on behalf of his father and Hezbollah financier, Mohammad Bazzi. OFAC also designates Belgium-based Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA, Belgium-based OFFISCOOP NV, and United Kingdom-based BSQRD Limited for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi. Additionally, OFAC designates Lebanon-based Hassan Tabaja for acting for or on behalf of his brother and Hezbollah member and financier, Adham Tabaja. The companies and individuals acted as conduits for sanctions evasion schemes.“Treasury Targets Sanctions Evasion Conduits for Major Hizballah Financiers,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, April 24, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm668.
July 9, 2019: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposes financial sanctions on Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Ra’d, who is also a member of Hezbollah’s shura council. It is the first time that U.S. sanctions target members of Lebanon’s government. OFAC also sanctions Hezbollah security official Wafiq Safa.“Treasury Targets Iranian-Backed Hizballah Officials for Exploiting Lebanon’s Political and Financial System,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 9, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm724.
July 19, 2019: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designates Salman Raouf Salman, a senior member of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization and the suspected coordinator of the 1994 AMIA bombing.“Treasury Targets Senior Hizballah Operative for Perpetrating and Plotting Terrorist Attacks in the Western Hemisphere,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 19, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm737.
August 29, 2019: The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions Jammal Trust Bank SAL (Jammal Trust), a Lebanon-based financial institution that knowingly facilitates banking activities for Hezbollah.“Treasury Labels Bank Providing Financial Services to Hizballah as Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 29, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm760.
Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:
|Israel—listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on April 11, 1996.“Hizbullah,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 11, 1996, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/mfa-archive/1996/pages/hizbullah%20-%2011-apr-96.aspx.||European Union—listed the Hezbollah Military Wing as a terrorist organization on July 22, 2013.James Kanter and Jodi Rudoren, “European Union Adds Military Wing of Hezbollah to List of Terrorist Organizations,” New York Times, July 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/world/middleeast/european-union-adds-hezbollah-wing-to-terror-list.html.|
|United Kingdom—banned Hezbollah’s External Security Organization on February 11, 2001, and designated its military wing as a terrorist organization in 2008. The United Kingdom designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization in March 2019. On January 16, 2020, the United Kingdom added Hezbollah in its entirety to its Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets. Hezbollah’s military wing remains separately sanctioned per the European Union’s separate listing.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK, GOV.UK, last updated January 20, 2020, https://ofsistorage.blob.core.windows.net/publishlive/ConList.html; Michael Holden, “Britain to expand ban on Lebanon's Hezbollah, calling it terrorist group,” Reuters, February 25, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-lebanon-hezbollah/britain-to-expand-ban-on-lebanons-hezbollah-calling-it-terrorist-group-idUSKCN1QE1D2.||Canada—listed listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on December 10, 2002.“Currently listed entities,” Public Safety Canada, last updated December 2, 2015, https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx.|
|The Netherlands—listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 2004.John Baird, “John Baird: The European Union Must Join Canada in Designating Hezbollah a Terrorist Organization,” National Post, April 11, 2013,http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/04/11/john-baird-the-european-union-must-join-canada-in-designating-hezbollah-a-terrorist-organization/; “Timmermans: ‘Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,’” Government of the Netherlands, February 6, 2013, https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2013/02/06/timmermans-hezbollah-is-a-terrorist-organisation.||Australia—listed Hezbollah's External Security Organization as a terrorist organization on June 5, 2003.“Listed terrorist organisations,” Australian National Security, accessed October 31, 2016, https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/default.aspx.|
|Bahrain—listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on April 9, 2013.“Bahrain First Arab Country to Blacklist Hezbollah as Terrorist Organization,” Al Arabiya, April 9, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/04/09/Bahrain-first-Arab-country-to-blacklist-Hezbollah-as-terrorist-organization.html.||Gulf Cooperation Council—designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization on March 2, 2016. The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.“Gulf Arab states label Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Reuters, March 2, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-hezbollah-idUSKCN0W40XF.|
|New Zealand—listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on February 10, 2010.“Lists Associated With Resolution 1373,” New Zealand Police, accessed January 28, 2015, http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/personal-community/counterterrorism/designated-entities/lists-associated-with-resolution-1373.||France—listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on May 22, 2013.Nicholas Kulish, “3 in Europe Now Oppose Hezbollah,” New York Times, May 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/world/middleeast/germany-and-britain-push-to-list-hezbollah-as-a-terror-group.html?pagewanted=all.|
|Germany—banned al-Manar on October 29, 2008.“Islamist Organizations,” Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, accessed June 26, 2017, https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/en/fields-of-work/islamism-and-islamist-terrorism/figures-and-facts-islamism/islamist-organisations-2015. Germany banned Hezbollah’s military wing in 2013.Benjamin Weinthal, “German Parliament approves initiative calling for Hezbollah ban,” Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Hezbollah-membership-increasing-in-Germany-ahead-of-ban-vote-611346. Germany designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization on April 30, 2020.“After U.S., Israeli pressure, Germany bans Hezbollah activity, raids mosques,” Reuters, April 30, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-lebanon-hezbollah/after-us-israeli-pressure-germany-bans-hezbollah-activity-raids-mosques-idUSKBN22C0LC.||The Arab League—designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization on March 11, 2016. “Arab League labels Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Reuters, March 11, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-arabs-idUSKCN0WD239. The following Arab countries have protested or rejected the Arab League designation: Egypt,Maayan Groisman, “Egypt rejects Saudi label of Hezbollah as a terror organization,” Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/In-a-bid-to-stay-neutral-Egypt-rejects-Saudi-label-of-Hezbollah-as-a-terror-organization-449427. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, and Tunisia. “Tunisia Hails Hezbollah as a Resistance Movement not Terrorist Group,” AhlulBayt (a.s.) News Agency, March 31, 2016, http://en.abna24.com/service/africa/archive/2016/03/31/744226/story.html.|
Terrorist Financing Targeting Center—designated multiple Hezbollah leaders and financiers on May 16, 2018, in partnership with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control. Those designated include: Hassan Nasrallah, Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al-Khalil, Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid, Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting. The Terrorist Financing Targeting Center includes the United States, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.“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; “U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Co-Chair New Terrorist Financing Targeting Center,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 21, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0092.aspx.
Argentina—designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on July 18, 2019.Daniel Politi, “Argentina Designates Hezbollah Terrorist Group on 25th Anniversary of Bombing,” New York Times, July 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/18/world/americas/argentina-hezbollah-terrorist-group.html.
Paraguay—designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on August 19, 2019.Presidencia Paraguay, Twitter post, August 19, 2019, 10:09 a.m., https://twitter.com/PresidenciaPy/status/1163452948615237633.
Honduras—designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization on January 7, 2020.“Honduras designates Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” i24News, January 7, 2020, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/1578412921-honduras-designates-hezbollah-as-a-terrorist-organization.
Colombia—designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in January 2020.Lahav Harkov and Rachel Wolf, “Colombia and Honduras designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Honduras-to-officially-designate-Hezbollah-as-a-terror-organization-614679.
Ties to Extremist Entities designated by the U.S. or foreign governments:
|Kata’ib Hizballah (Iraq)
The U.S. designated Kata’ib Hizballah a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2009. According to the U.S. Treasury, Kata’ib Hizballah is responsible for numerous terror attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and is ideologically linked to Lebanese Hezbollah.“U.S. Declares Iraq-Based Group Foreign Terrorist Organization,” Reuters, July 2, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/07/02/us-usa-treasury-iraq-idUSTRE56165320090702.
Hezbollah and Hamas both had strong ties to Syria prior to the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. Hamas’s political leadership, long based in Syria, left the country in 2012, driving a wedge between Hamas and Iran. In spite of their respective Sunni-Shiite divisions, Hamas and Hezbollah began to repair ties during 2014. Nasser Chararah, “Hezbollah, Hamas Repair Political Ties during Breakup,” Al-Monitor, July 24, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/hezbollah-hamas-repair-ties.html. In January 2015, Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif reportedly called for Hezbollah and Hamas to unite in battling Israel.“Hamas calls on Hezbollah to unite fight against Israel,” Reuters, January 22, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/22/us-israel-palestinians-hezbollah-idUSKBN0KV1O920150122. After the Gulf Cooperation Council designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization in March 2016, Hamas signed an Iranian statement of support for Hezbollah.Maayan Groisman, “PA envoy to Iran signs statement of support for Hezbollah,” Jersualem Post, March 10, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Palestinian-Authoritys-envoy-to-Iran-signs-statement-of-support-for-Hezbollah-447476.
|Iranian government and the IRGC
Iran has supported of Hezbollah since its establishment in the 1980s. Hezbollah modeled its ideology after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution, while Iran saw Hezbollah as an opportunity to extend its influence and cultivated Hezbollah as a proxy force. Iran has thus provided extensive funding, training, and weaponry to Hezbollah through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In the early 1980s, Iran reportedly sent 1,000 IRGC soldiers to provide military training and transform local Shiite militants into Hezbollah.“Bullets to Ballotbox: A History of Hezbollah,” PBS Frontline, May 2003, http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/lebanon/history.html. In its 1985 manifesto, Hezbollah pledged loyalty to Khomeini.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.
Iran has provided millions of dollars worth of funding and weaponry to Hezbollah over the years. For example, during Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the IRGC transferred sufficient cash and rockets to Hezbollah to make the terror group a threat to millions of Israeli civilians.Steven Erlanger and Richard A. Oppel Jr, “A Disciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel With Its Training, Tactics and Weapons,” New York Times, August 7, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/07/world/middleeast/07hezbollah.html. The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated in a 2006 report that Iran had transferred 10,000 short-range Katyusha-type rockets, with launchers, capable of reaching 7 to 12 miles inside Israel. In addition, Iran provided an unknown number of longer-range rockets capable of hitting targets almost 50 miles inside Israel, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.Anthony Cordesman, “Iran’s Support of the Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 15, 2006, http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/145646_en_060715_hezbollah.pdf. Iran continues to be a primary sponsor of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and the IRGC’s Quds Force reportedly agreed in January 2010 to cooperate in attacking Israeli, U.S., and Western targets.Matthew Levitt, “Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran’s Shadow War with the West,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 2013, 1, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus123.pdf. In 2012, Hezbollah pledged to defend Iran against any attack by the United States or Israel.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/. In April 2016, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pledged Iran’s continued support for Hezbollah, a “source of honor for the Muslim world.”Ariel Ben Solomon, “Khamenei vows full support for Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Khamenei-vows-full-support-for-Hezbollah-451904.
The relationship between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda dates back to the 1990s, when a small group of al-Qaeda members visited Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon.Eben Kaplan, “The Al-Qaeda-Hezbollah Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 14, 2006, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/al-qaeda-hezbollah-relationship/p11275. Al–Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyeh later agreed during a meeting in Sudan that Hezbollah would provide the fledgling al-Qaida with explosives and training, in exchange for money and manpower.Eben Kaplan, “The Al-Qaeda-Hezbollah Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 14, 2006, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/al-qaeda-hezbollah-relationship/p11275. Hezbollah reportedly helped al-Qaeda traffic diamonds and gold through Africa following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.Eben Kaplan, “The Al-Qaeda-Hezbollah Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 14, 2006, http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/al-qaeda-hezbollah-relationship/p11275.
|Lebanese Media Group: Al-Nour Radio and Al-Manar Television
Hezbollah has set up its own media empire in Lebanon through the Lebanese Media Group, which acts as a propaganda tool for the Shiite group.“U.S. Designates Al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity Television Station Is Arm of Hizballah Terrorist Network,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, March 23, 2006, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js4134.aspx. The U.S. designated the Lebanese Media Group as a global terrorist entity and an arm of Hezbollah in 2006.
In May 2018, the Moroccan government accused Hezbollah of providing resources to the West Africa-based Polisario Front. According to the government, Hezbollah has provided training and financial support to the rebels, through Iran, since 2016. Hezbollah allegedly began sending weapons to the rebels in April 2018. Hezbollah and Iran have denied the accusations.“Iran denies supporting Polisario after Morocco severs ties,” Associated Press, May 2, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/8ac8b53a0c474e01b6edf8a745a3823d/Iran-denies-supporting-Polisario-after-Morocco-severs-ties; Amira El Masati, “Morocco cuts ties with Iran over Sahara weapons dispute,” Associated Press, May 1, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/3aebb7da756940c99434b420a45aa84b/Morocco-cuts-ties-with-Iran-over-Sahara-weapons-dispute. A September 2018 bipartisan draft bill in the U.S. House of Representatives noted ties between Hezbollah and the Polisario rebels.“H. Res. 1101,” Congress.gov, accessed November 6, 2018, https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-resolution/1101/text. The Polisario Front seeks to end Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara. Morocco has banned the group, though the United Nations has recognized the Polisario Front as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people.“United Nations responds to Morocco’s complaint about the Polisario,” Middle East Monitor, April 4, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180404-united-nations-responds-to-moroccos-complaint-about-the-polisario/; Tom Miles and Ahmed ElJechtimi, “U.N. invites Western Sahara parties for new talks in December,” Reuters, October 1, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-morocco-algeria-polisario/u-n-invites-western-sahara-parties-for-new-talks-in-december-idUSKCN1MB3F0.
|Asaib Ahl al-Haq
In 2005, Iran ordered Hezbollah to train Iraqis to fight U.S.-led Coalition Forces in Iraq. Hassan Nasrallah ordered a covert Hezbollah unit to train members of Jaysh al-Mahdi (“the Mahdi Army,” a.k.a. JAM Special Groups) who then formed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).“Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 19, 2012, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1775.aspx. AAH models its military tactics and training, political strategy, and social-service programs on Hezbollah.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Special Report: The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran,” Reuters, November 12, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-mideast-crisis-militias-specialreport-idUSKCN0IW0ZA20141112; Liz Sly, “Iranian-backed militant group in Iraq is recasting itself as a political player,” Washington Post, February 18, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iranian-backed-militant-group-in-iraq-is-recasting-itself-as-a-political-player/2013/02/18/b0154204-77bb-11e2-b102-948929030e64_story.html. AAH’s propaganda emphasizes the group’s ties to both Hezbollah and Iran.Alessandria Masi, “Iraqi Shiite Militias Fighting ISIS Are Using Social Media To Recruit Foreign Fighters,” International Business Times, March 12, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/iraqi-shiite-militias-fighting-isis-are-using-social-media-recruit-foreign-fighters-1844118. In December 2017, AAH leader Qais al-Khazali visited Lebanon’s border with Israel on a trip organized by Hezbollah. He released a video clip in which he vowed that AAH would stand with Hezbollah and support the Palestinian cause.“Iraqi Militias Vow to ‘Defend Jerusalem’ After Trump Annoucement, Al Bawaba, December 9, 2017, https://www.albawaba.com/loop/iran-backed-iraqi-militia-leader-filmed-israeli-border-1058660; “Lebanese PM slams visit by Iran-backed Iraqi militia chief to Israeli border,” Times of Israel, December 9, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/lebanese-pm-slams-iran-backed-iraqi-militia-visit-to-israel-border/.
Ties to other entities:
Syria has long been a conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. In 2011, as the Syrian civil war was beginning, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah praised Syrian President Bashar Assad and pledged support for the regime.Nada Bakri, “Hezbollah Leader Backs Syrian President in Public,” New York Times, December 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/world/middleeast/hassan-nasrallah-hezbollah-leader-showcases-defiance-in-rare-appearance.html. The terror group took the connection to unprecedented levels of cooperation in 2013 when it entered the Syrian civil war on behalf of Assad.“Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah Vows Victory in Syria,” BBC News, May 25, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22669230.
According to news reports, Hezbollah fighters were heavily involved in a battle in the Syrian town of Qusair in May 2013, after the Syrian government launched an offensive to retake the town from rebel forces. The BBC reported the deaths of several Hezbollah fighters, and Hezbollah chief Nasrallah pledged to defend the Syrian regime: “This battle is ours... and I promise you victory.”“Hezbollah Promises Syria ‘Victory,’” BBC News, May 25, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22669230.
Hezbollah has promised to remain in Syria. In April 2014, Hassan Nasrallah said, “The problem in Lebanon is not that Hezbollah went to Syria, but that we were late in doing so. This resistance will remain solid, with its head hung high, protecting its people and its nation.”“Nasrallah: Hezbollah Carried out Border Attack against IDF Troops Last Month,” Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Nasrallah-Assad-will-not-be-toppled-Israel-concerned-347723. In November 2016, Hezbollah held a public parade in the Syrian city of Qusair, during which the terror group showcased U.S. and Russian armored personnel carriers and tanks. The U.S. State Department issued a statement that it was “gravely concerned” and investigating how Hezbollah acquired U.S. equipment.Sirwan Kajjo, “Hezbollah Stirs Controversy with Military Parade in Syria,” Voice of America, November 18, 2016, http://www.voanews.com/a/hezbollah-controversy-military-parade-syria/3603047.html.
|Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba|
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (“Movement of the Party of God’s Virtuous”) is an offshoot of Iran-backed Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php. Hezbollah aided the IRGC’s Quds Force in creating the so-called Special Groups—Iran-backed militias in Iraq—including AAH.Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php. AAH co-founder Akram al-Kaabi founded Nujaba in 2013.Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php.
Nujaba has featured images on its website of Kaabi holding hands with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.Bill Roggio, “Iraqi Shiite militia commander threatens to attack US,” Long War Journal, June 9, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/iraqi-shiite-militia-commander-threatens-to-attack-us.php. In August 2017, Kaabi sent a letter to Nasrallah declaring Nujaba’s “complete solidarity and support with your loud cry against the oppressive Zionist regime.”Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/. In March 2017, Nujaba formed the Golan Brigade to capture the Golan Heights from Israel, which took control of the territory in the 1967 Six Day War.Babak Dehghanpisheh, “The Iraqi militia helping Iran carve a road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba/.
In a 2011 indictment of Lebanese druglord Ayman Joumaa, U.S. authorities revealed close ties between Hezbollah and Mexican drug cartels, including Los Zetas.Rebecca Anna Stoil, “Ties between Hezbollah and Mexican Drug Cartels Revealed,” Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/International/Ties-between-Hezbollah-and-Mexican-drug-cartels-revealed. Authorities accused Joumaa of conspiring to smuggle over 90,000 tons of cocaine into America, laundering over $250 million for the cartels, and helping to smuggle Colombian drugs through Mexico between 2005 and 2007.Rebecca Anna Stoil, “Ties between Hezbollah and Mexican Drug Cartels Revealed,” Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/International/Ties-between-Hezbollah-and-Mexican-drug-cartels-revealed.
Also in 2011, U.S. prosecutors indicted a Lebanese man on charges of trafficking drugs and laundering money for Colombian drug cartels as well as Los Zetas.Jo Becker, “Beirut Bank Seen as a Hub of Hezbollah’s Financing,” New York Times, December 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/world/middleeast/beirut-bank-seen-as-a-hub-of-hezbollahs-financing.html.
After the Shiite rebel Houthi group stormed Yemeni government buildings in September 2014, Yemeni intelligence sources claimed that Hezbollah was aiding the Houthis to “[b]oost their control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a….”Arafat Madabish, “Are Iran, Hezbollah helping Yemen’s Houthi rebels?” Al Bawaba, September 28, 2014, http://www.albawaba.com/news/are-iran-hezbollah-helping-yemens-houthi-rebels-607901. According to Yemeni officials, Houthi rebels began training in Lebanon in as early as 2010. Yemeni authorities arrested two Hezbollah fighters in Yemen in 2012.Ben Hubbard, “Iran Out to Remake Mideast With Arab Enforcer: Hezbollah,” New York Times, August 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/27/world/middleeast/hezbollah-iran-syria-israel-lebanon.html. Hezbollah has allegedly continued to provide the Houthis with logistical and military support. In June 2018, Saudi forces claimed to have killed eight Hezbollah fighters in Yemen.“Eight Hezbollah fighters killed in Yemen,” The National, June 25, 2018, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/eight-hezbollah-fighters-killed-in-yemen-1.743932. In August 2018, Hezbollah distributed a photo of Nasrallah meeting with Houthi leaders in Lebanon.“Houthi-Hezbollah meeting is foreboding for Yemen’s future,” The National, August 20, 2018 https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/editorial/houthi-hezbollah-meeting-is-foreboding-for-yemen-s-future-1.762027; “Hezbollah leader meets with Yemeni rebels,” Associated Press, August 19, 2018, https://apnews.com/3566cf0205754788aeac006d5d9c3611.
Regional authorities accuse Iran of attempting to use Hezbollah and the Houthis to expand its influence in Yemen as it did in Lebanon. In July 2018, the internationally recognized government in Yemen filed a complaint with the United Nations over Hezbollah’s support of the Houthis.Joyce Karam, “Yemen files complaint against Hezbollah to the UN,” The National, July 11, 2018, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/yemen-files-complaint-against-hezbollah-to-un-1.749112. That September, the Yemeni government called on Lebanon to force Hezbollah to end its interference in the civil war, accusing Hezbollah of prolonging the conflict.“Yemen urges Lebanon to end Hezbollah’s support to Houthi rebels,” YaLibnan, September 30, 2018, http://yalibnan.com/2018/09/30/yemen-urges-lebanon-to-end-hezbollahs-support-to-houthi-rebels/.
After the Gulf Cooperation Council designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization in March 2016, Palestinian Charge d’affaires in Iran, Mohammad Jawhar, signed an Iranian statement of support for Hezbollah.“Maayan Groisman, “PA envoy to Iran signs statement of support for Hezbollah,” March 10, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Palestinian-Authoritys-envoy-to-Iran-signs-statement-of-support-for-Hezbollah-447476.
Russia maintains “contacts and relations” with Hezbollah, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Russia does not view Hezbollah as a terrorist group because it has never committed a terrorist act on Russian territory, Bogdanov told a press conference in November 2015. He further called Hezbollah and Hamas “legitimate societal-political forces.” “Russia Says Hezbollah, Hamas Aren't Terrorist Groups,” Moscow Times, November 16, 2015, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-says-hezbollah-hamas-arent-terrorist-groups/549136.html
In Syria, Russian forces have cooperated with Hezbollah fighters. Israeli analysts accuse Hezbollah of learning from Russian forces.Avi Issacharoff, “Thanks in no small to Russia, Hezbollah is now a full-fledged army,” Times of Israel, June 30, 2016, https://www.timesofisrael.com/thanks-in-no-small-part-to-russia-hezbollah-is-now-a-full-fledged-army/. In January 2016, the Daily Beast reported that two Hezbollah commanders had confirmed that Russia is actively aiding the group. According to one of the commanders, Hezbollah and Russia are “strategic allies in the Middle East right now—the Russians are our allies and give us weapons.”Jesse Rosenfeld, “Russia Is Arming Hezbollah, Say Two of the Group’s Field Commanders,” Daily Beast, January 11, 2016, https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-is-arming-hezbollah-say-two-of-the-groups-field-commanders. While accepting of Hezbollah’s aid to the Syrian government, Russia has also sought to restrict Hezbollah from the Syrian-Israeli border to relieve regional tensions. In June 2018, Hezbollah and Iranian forces reportedly withdrew from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights at Russia’s request.Jason Lemon, “Iran, Hezbollah Pull Back From Israeli Border at Russia’s Request, Syrian Watchdog Group Says,” Newsweek, June 21, 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/iran-hezbollah-pull-back-israeli-border-russia-request-syrianwatchdog-group-989909.
|La Oficina de Envigado
La Oficina de Envigado is a South American drug cartel that works with Hezbollah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component to facilitate Hezbollah’s drug and money laundering activities. La Oficina de Envigado is responsible for the movement of large amounts of cocaine in the United States and Europe.“Rosie Perper, “DEA uncovers major drug trafficking by Hezbollah to fund global terrorism,” Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/DEA-uncovers-major-drug-trafficking-by-Hezbollah-to-fund-global-terrorism-443575; “DEA and European Authorities Uncover Massive Hizballah Drug and Money Laundering Scheme,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, February 1, 2016, http://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq020116.shtml.
Associations or networks between group and terrorist actions/organizations:
As shown above, Hezbollah is tied to a number of terrorist attacks, terrorist organizations, criminal activities, and insurgencies.
Political connections to U.S. or global leaders:
In its capacity as part of the Lebanese government, Hezbollah maintains ties with international leaders. As such, countries that have diplomatic relations with Lebanon have a relationship with Hezbollah by extension. This has caused problems for countries that have sought to sanction Hezbollah without jeopardizing Lebanese relations. For example, in considering whether to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 2013, European leaders were wary of how the designation would affect European relations with Lebanon. As a result, the European Union labeled only Hezbollah’s armed wing as a terrorist organization.James Kanter and Jodi Rudoren, “European Union Adds Military Wing of Hezbollah to List of Terrorist Organizations,” New York Times, July 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/world/middleeast/european-union-adds-hezbollah-wing-to-terror-list.html.
In October 2016, Lebanon elected MP Michel Aoun—leader of the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)—as its new president.Ben Lynfield, “Political victory for Hezbollah expected in Lebanon election,” Jerusalem Post, October 31, 2016, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Political-victory-for-Hezbollah-expected-in-Lebanon-election-471274. Aoun signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah in 2006 that formed a political alliance between the FPM and Hezbollah.“Aoun: FPM alliance with Hezbollah kept Lebanon safe,” Daily Star (Beirut), February 6, 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Feb-06/286684-aoun-fpm-alliance-with-hezbollah-kept-lebanon-safe.ashx; “New government announced under PM Saad al-Hariri,” Al Jazeera, December 18, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/lebanon-announces-government-saad-al-hariri-161218201145680.html. On February 12, 2017, Aoun told Egypt’s CBC television station that Hezbollah has a “complementary role to the Lebanese army” and Lebanon needs the terror group for “as long as the Lebanese army is not strong enough to battle Israel.”Maggie Michael, “Lebanese president in Egypt, day after defending Hezbollah,” Associated Press, February 13, 2017, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a3f55bc0b38845c3b3a46e5cffbc7daa/lebanese-president-egypt-defends-hezbollahs-arms.
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has reportedly referred to both Hezbollah and Hamas as “friends,” though he later stated that he regretted the comment.Rajeev Syal, “Jeremy Corbyn says he regrets calling Hamas and Hezbollah ‘friends,’” Guardian (London), July 4, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/04/jeremy-corbyn-says-he-regrets-calling-hamas-and-hezbollah-friends. Former British Member of Parliament George Galloway has also been an outspoken supporter of Hezbollah, accusing Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians while defending Hezbollah and the Syrian regime against accusations of terrorism. In 2010, for example, Galloway defended Hezbollah from accusations that it was involved in the 2007 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, saying, “I believe, and I don't know anybody who is objective in this matter who does not believe, that Hezbollah are absolutely innocent of this crime, and it is time that the tribunal looked to the people who benefited from this crime… in Israel.”David J. Climenhaga, “Galloway unedited: ‘Special Tribunal for Lebanon’ Should Have Asked ‘Who Benefited?’” Rabble, January 16, 2011, http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/djclimenhaga/2011/01/galloway-unedited-special-tribunal-lebanon-should-have-asked-who. In 2011, while appearing on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, Galloway again defended Hezbollah and accused Israel of involvement in Hariri’s murder.“Former British MP George Galloway Accuses Israel of Al-Hariri’s Assassination, Says: ‘NATO Is Worse Than Al-Qadhafi,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, July 26, 2011, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/3057.htm.
Former U.S. Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota appeared on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV in 2007 and praised the station. He also called Hezbollah and Hamas resistance fighters. The U.S. designation of the groups as terrorist groups was at the behest of Israel, he said. He went on to accuse “the Arabs involved in 9/11” of working with “the Zionists.” “Former U.S. Senator James Abourezk to Hizbullah TV: The Arabs Who Were Involved in 9/11 Cooperated with the Zionists. Alan Dershowitz Is a Real Snake. I Watch Al-Manar TV in the U.S.,” MEMRI, August 30, 2007, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1551.htm. Abourezk served in the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1973, when he was elected to the Senate, where he served until 1979.“Former U.S. Senator James Abourezk to Hizbullah TV: The Arabs Who Were Involved in 9/11 Cooperated with the Zionists. Alan Dershowitz Is a Real Snake. I Watch Al-Manar TV in the U.S.,” MEMRI, August 30, 2007, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1551.htm.