Transatlantic Security Task Force Series
Many European capitals, informedby the assurances of trustedinterlocutors in Lebanon, werewilling to consider Hezbollah’sforay into international terrorismin the 1990s as an extension of
its conict with Israel.
carrying out lethal terrorist attacks in Latin America andthe Persian Gul; 2) its declared enmity to the UnitedStates, and, echoing its Iranian sponsors, its persistentcharacterization o the U.S. presence in the Middle East asmalevolent; and, last but not least, 3) its unchecked bellig-erence toward Israel, despite its May 2000 withdrawal romLebanon, through openly indiscriminate direct actions,and through the support o Palestinian actions engagedin similar eorts. Washington has thus been consistentin seeking to contain and counter actual or potentialHezbollah activities in the United States, through a variety o legislative, judicial, and nancial tools: designation asa terrorist organization; extension o the designation toront entities, such as media operations; prosecution o operatives; and restrictions on banking activities. Recog-nizing the wide reach that Hezbollah had gained throughthe cover o the global Shia Lebanese diaspora — notably in Arica and Latin America where Hezbollah’s entangle-ment in drug tracking and illicit diamond trade becameapparent — the United States sought an international law enorcement cooperative approach against what seemedincreasingly to be more o an organized crime network than a militant organization.Many European capitals, inormed by the assurances o trusted interlocutors in Lebanon, were willing to considerHezbollah’s oray into international terrorism in the 1990sas an extension o its conict with Israel, and were assuch more inclined to accept the apparent domesticationo Hezbollah as an indigenous Lebanese orce, notably with the elevation o Hezbollah to the status o dominantpolitical orce in the Shia Lebanese community and itssuccess in orging a lasting alliance with mainline Chris-tian Lebanese partners. wo counter-acts challenged suchassumptions, but both could be, and ofen were, discountedas incidental.Firstly, Hezbollah had in act created a totalitarian order inits areas o control in Lebanon. Exceeding the notion o a“state-within-a-state,” Hezbollah provided comprehensivesocial, educational, and health services to its constitu-ency, evolved into its primary employer, and requiredin exchange to it absolute loyalty and acceptance o itsbellicose rhetoric and actions. Many Shia Lebanese arethus born in Hezbollah hospitals, educated in Hezbollahschools, imbued with Hezbollah narratives, work orHezbollah enterprises, and ght and die in Hezbollahbattles, with the assurance that their amilies will beattended to by Hezbollah social support programs. Tepresumed resilience o Lebanese society and its ability toresist and subvert socio-cultural engineering attempts isindeed being tested by this state o act. Arguments ques-tioning the sincerity o the ideological purity o Hezbollah’sleadership have even been made, and attributing someo its hard-line rhetoric to the need to satisy its Iraniansponsors. As “pragmatic” and “rational” as the Hezbollahleadership is purported to be, the long term eects o the indoctrination o many Shia Lebanese in ideological,sectarian, and messianic discourses as a means o strength-ening mobilization potential indeed seems to be producinga next generation o Hezbollah leaders less utilitarian intheir recourse to Hezbollah narratives. Te success o Hezbollah in dispatching thousands o its ghters to Syriain support o that country’s embattled dictator was builton a oundation o thinly disguised sectarian rhetoric thatrecasts 7
century events in new quasi-messianic tones.Te second “red ag,” equally discounted as politicaldecorum, is Hezbollah’s own sel-characterization asabiding by the “rulership o the jurisprudent,” that is, itsobedience to the diktat o the Iranian Supreme Guide, rstKhomeini and then Khamenei. Hezbollah’s leadership hasrepeatedly asserted that their decision to accept and engagein the Lebanese political process is at the direction o theSupreme Guide, whose words are absolute commands. Tenon-rhetorical character o these assertions was broughtto the ore recently, when Hezbollah hailed a Lebanesemulti-party accord to avoid entanglement in the Syrianconict as being o undamental national importance, only to abruptly reverse course and dispatch orces to Syria,once so instructed by the Khamenei. Te blatant contradic-