History & Overview
Hezbollah, also known as 'The Party of God,'
is a radical Shi’a Muslim group fighting against Israel
and “western imperialism” in Lebanon. The group does not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel and it has labeled
as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department since October 1997.
Hezbollah refers to itself with multiple titles including
the “Organization of the Oppressed on Earth”
and the “Revolutionary Justice Organization.”
Its main goal is the establishment of an Islamic government across the Arab world that will “liberate” Jerusalem and the entire area of the present-day State of Israel.
- Founding & First Lebanon War (1982-2000)
- Building its Arsenal (2000-2005)
- Second Lebanon War & Aftermath
- Policies & Politics
- Ideology & Support
- Activities Around the World
- Drug Smuggling to Fund Terrorism
Founding & First Lebanon War (1982-2000)
Hezbollah’s origins and ideology stem from the Iranian Revolution. The revolution called for a religious Muslim government that would represent the oppressed and downtrodden.
According to Hezbollah, the United
States was to blame for many of the country’s problems.
Israel was seen as an extension of the United States
and a foreign power in Lebanon. The organization itself
started in 1982 as part of the Iranian government’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Led by religious
clerics, the organization wanted to adopt an Iranian
doctrine as a solution to Lebanese political malaise.
This doctrine included the use of terror as a means
of attainting political objectives.
Toward the end of 1982, Iran sent fighters to assist
in the establishment of a revolutionary Islamic movement
in Lebanon. Iran’s hope was that the new members would
participate in the Jihad,
or Holy War, against Israel. These forces, which were
located in the area of Ba’albek in the northern Beqa’a
valley, brought Iranian-Islamic influence to the area
and constituted the core of the Hezbollah organization
As the organizational infrastructure developed, Hezbollah,
with Iranian and Syrian assistance, began to establish an extensive military
network in the Ba’albek area. Its militias have since
spread into the Shi’ite neighborhoods in southern and western Beirut as well
as into southern Lebanon.
Thousands of Hezbollah activists and members are located
in the Beqa’a valley, Beirut and southern Lebanon. These
areas also offer a base for the recruitment of additional
activists and fighters among the local Shi’ite populations.
After Israel’s war
in Lebanon, the organization gained strength as
it fought against the presence of French and American peacekeepers who remained in Lebanon
after Israeli forces withdrew from Beirut. In 1985,
the IDF withdrew from Lebanon, with the exception of a security
zone created to protect Israel’s northern border. For
the next five years Israeli troops worked with the South
Lebanese Army to defend the border. Meanwhile, Hezbollah
stockpiled weapons and and recruited many new members,
all with the goal of driving the Israelis out of Lebanon.
To gain support from the local population in South
Lebanon, Hezbollah donated money, equipment, and medical
supplies. In October 1997
, the U.S. State Department added Hezbollah
to its list of terrorist
Following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern
Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah continued to mount terrorist
operations against Israel. It accused Israel of continuing
to hold Shaba’a Farm lands (which Israel and the UN agree are not part of Lebanon) and refusing to release
Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Hezbollah, with the help of a UN peacekeeping
force, kidnapped three IDF soldiers. A prisoner swap
was not agreed upon until 2004, four years after the
Building its Arsenal (2000-2005)
intifada” in Israel created additional opportunities
for Hezbollah to perform acts of violence against the Jewish state. The organization
funded the Palestinian
Authority (PA) and collaborated with other terrorist
organizations, including Hamas,
to systematize attacks on Israel. It stepped up its
recruitment in order to more efficiently infiltrate
Israel’s international borders. It also continued to
smuggle arms and advanced weapons into Lebanon from Syria and Iran and the
In 2002, the IDF intercepted a Palestinian Authority-owned ship, the Karine-A,
carrying 50 tons of weapons, including anti-tank missiles,
Katyusha rockets, and long range mortar bombs. Many
of the weapons were made in Iran. A senior Hezbollah
member was responsible for loading the weapons onto
During this time, Iran and Syria both financially supported Hezbollah, facilitating its military growth to help enable it to fight Israel with more precision and lethality.
Second Lebanon War & Aftermath
On July 12, 2006, the military and financial support that Hezbollah had been receiving from Iran and Syria was put to the test when its guerrilla's perfidiously attacked an IDF patrol on the Israel-Lebanon border and abducted two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Simultaneously, Hezbollah units inside Lebanon began firing katyusha rockets to pound northern Israel and create panic and fear.
After more than a weeklong campaign of artillery and air fire to suppress Hezbollah targets, the IDF invaded southern Lebanon at the end of July with the mission to destroy Hezbollah's military capability and kill as many of its terrrorists and fighters as possible. Though the war is widely considered to have ended in a stale-mate, with neither side producing a decisive victory, Israel maintains that it killed nearly 600 Hezbollah guerrilla's and destroyed tons of their illegal weaponry.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah mentioned in various interviews that he did not expect such a high level response and invasion by the IDF following the initial attack but that he believes his forces acted heroically and not only withstood the Israeli assault but inflicted their own damage, killing more than 120 Israeli soldiers.
In the aftermath of the month-long war in 2006, the United Nations was tasked with maintaining a UNIFIL force both on Israel's border with Lebanon to prevent future skirmishes, but also on Lebanon's border with Syria to prevent further arms smuggling into the Hezbollah stronghold areas. Unfortunately, UNIFIL's mission has been compromised either by a lack of desire on the part of its soldiers to interfere or a lack of ability to stop the smuggling.
Israeli intelligence now believes that Hezbollah has completely rearmed itself from the 2006 war and has even enhanced its weapons stock further, despite UNIFIL's presence. It is believed that Hezbollah's weapons stores hold at least 10,000 katyusha and other short to medium-range rockets. In January 2012, the IDF further updated its operational assessment of Hezbollah to say that it believed the terrorist organization now had long-range surface-to-air missile systems imported from Syria that can match Israel's aerial dominance. The upheaval in Syria during the winter of 2011/2012 enabled Hezbollah to obtain the weapons systems in addition to other various Russian-made air-defense units.
While Hezbollah is known to have a large quantity of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, the IDF now assumes that the Lebanese Islamist group has received the SA-8, a truck-mounted Russian tactical surface- to-air missile system reported to have a range of 30 kilometers. In addition to the possible transfer of air-defense systems, Hezbollah is also believed to have received several dozen more M600 long-range missiles, as well as additional 302 mm. Khaibar-1 rockets, which have a range of about 100 kilometers.
In November 2013, security officials learned that Hezbollah had close to 200 Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), including those that can track movement from high altitude and "kamikazes" that can avoid capture by radar and fire or drop munitions from low altitudes.
Policies & Politics
Hezbollah has consistently tried to paint itself as
a moderate national liberation organization aimed at
“introducing the Islam that is confident in achieving justice, as well as introducing
the Islam that protects all human rights.” It tries
to portray an image as a group who would rather not
commit acts of terror, but must for the benefit of the Arab world.
After expressing written statements against terrorist
attacks, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan
Nasrallah, communicated to a Lebanese audience at a
memorial for a Hezbollah suicide bomber that “we
must continue the path of resistance and the path of
the First and Second Intifada.”
Hezbollah is an active participant in Lebanese politics.
In 1992, it participated in elections for the first
time, winning 12 out of 128 seats in parliament. It
won 10 seats in 1996, and 8 in 2000. In the general
election of 2005, it won 23 seats nationwide. An alliance
between Amal and Hezbollah won all 23 seats in Southern
Hezbollah’s main tactic is the use of suicide
bombers. Hezbollah uses these human weapons to create
mental and physical suffering for the Israelis and to
force the Israelis to retreat out of “Islamic land.”
Shi’a Islam international bases are used to buy and
sell weapons for organized attacks. Asia is a key target
for Hezbollah, and Hezbollah has been pulling Malaysians
and Indonesians into the organzation to expand operations
and terrorist attacks around the world.
Hezbollah extended its operations across the globe
throughout the 1980s, kidnapping individuals in a attempt
to gain political leverage.
Hezbollah operates a satellite television station from
Lebanon, Al-Manar TV (“the Lighthouse”)
as well as a radio station, al-Nour (“the
light”). Qubth Ut Alla (“The Fist of
God”) is the monthly magazine of Hezbollah’s paramilitary
wing. They are widely viewed by West Bank and Gazan
Palestinians as well as some Lebanese.
The spiritual father of the movement in Lebanon is
Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah who acts as chief
Mujtahid (arbiter of Islamic law) of the Shi’ite community
The current Secretary General of Hezbollah is Hassan
Nasrallah. At the start of the 1980s he was responsible
for the Beqa’a area on behalf of the AMAL movement.
He left the organization in 1982 and affiliated with
Hezbollah, taking with him many of his followers. Following
the death of Abbas Musawi, Nasrallah was unanimously
elected to be his successor.
Ideology & Support
The organization views an Islamic republic, modeled
after Iran, to be the ideal form of a state. Lebanon
remains a religiously and ideologically heterogeneous
According to their published political platform in
2003, Hezbollah claims to favor the introduction of
an Islamic government in Lebanon by peaceful democratic
means. According to the United States Department of
State and reports submitted to Defense Technical Information
Center, the organization is seeking to create an fundamentalist
Iranian-style Islamic republic and removal of all non-Islamic
Hezbollah supports the destruction of the state of
Israel and co-operates with other militant Islamic organizations
such as Hamas in order to promote this goal. Hamas actually maintains
its own “embassy” in Tehran. In 1992, Iran,
Hezbollah, and Hamas signed an official agreement of
cooperation. As recently as 2002, it has been known
that Iran was directly involved in numerous attempts
to launch rockets into Israel through members of Hamas
and Islamic Jihad who were trained by Hezbollah in Iranian
A relationship has also developed between Hezbollah
and Al-Qa’ida, according to a former Al-Qa’ida member
who was captured and convicted of bombing U.S. embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania. Ali Muhammad said that “Hezbollah
provided explosives training for Al-Qa’ida,” and
that he personally arranged a meeting between Hezbollah’s
chief and Osama bin Laden in Sudan. In 2002, leaders
of Hezbollah, Al-Qa’ida, and Hamas met formally in Lebanon
to discuss future joint terrorist attacks against America,
Britain, and Israel.
Syria backs Hezbollah morally and has also supplied
it with money and arms. In return, Hezbollah protects
Syria’s political and military interests in Lebanon.
Hezbollah also receives financial aid, training, weapons,
and explosives from Iran. Iran also contributes political,
diplomatic, and organizational aid. According to Iran’s
official budget, Iran gave $500 million in support of
radical Islamic organizations around the world in the
1990s. Of that money, Hezbollah was reported to receive
at least $250 million.
It is also suspected that Hezbollah has received financial
and military aid from Russia in the past. Russia did not denounce Hezbollah as a terrorist organization
until approximately twelve years after its establishment.
Hezbollah has a number of illicit fund-raising rings
operating in the United States. In 2003, the Drug Enforcement
Administration discovered the existence of an organized
drug smuggling operation that was funneling money to
Hezbollah from Chicago and Detroit. In Charlotte, North
Carolina, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
investigated a multi-million dollar cigaretter smuggling
ring that gave over $2 million to Hezbollah over a period
of 8 years. The money received from the Charlotte operation
allowed Hezbollah to purchase advanced military technology
and global positioning systems. In March 2003, the leader
of the cigarette smuggling ring, Mohamed Hammoud, received
a 155-year sentence for racketeering and providing material
support for Hezbollah.
Activities Around the World
Hezbollah is believed to have kidnapped and tortured
to death U.S. Army colonel William R. Higgins and the
CIA Station Chief in Beirut, William Buckley, and to
have kidnapped around 30 other Westerners between 1982
Hezbollah was suspected of involvement
in numerous anti-US and anti-Israeli terrorist attacks.
The organization was responsible for the suicide truck
bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in
Beirut in October 1983, in which 241 American servicemen were killed (220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers) and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut
in September 1984. The bombing at the Marine barracks in Beirut was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.
Three members of Hezbollah, Imad
Mughniyah, Hasan Izz-al-Din, and Ali Atwa, are on the
FBI’s list of 22 Most Wanted Terrorists for the hijacking
in 1985 of TWA Flight 847 during which a U.S. Navy diver
was murdered. Elements of the group were responsible
for the kidnapping and detention of Americans and other
westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s.
In 1992 and 1994, Hezbollah is claimed to have carried
out the Israeli
Embassy Bombing and the AMIA
Bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eight days after
the AMIA Bombing the Israeli Embassy in London was car
bombed by two Palestinians linked to Hezbollah.
In January 2000, Hezbollah assassinated the commander
of the South Lebanon Army Western Brigade, Colonel Aql
Hashem, at his home in the security zone. Hashem had
been responsible for day to day operations of the South
On June 16, 2004, two Palestinian girls aged 14 and 15 were arrested by
the IDF for plotting a suicide bombing. According to
IDF statement, the two minors were guided by Hezbollah.
On June 23, 2004, another allegedly Hezbollah-funded
suicide bombing attack was foiled by the Israeli security
In February 2005, the Palestinian Authority accused
Hezbollah of attempting to derail the truce signed with
Israel. Palestinian officials and former militants described
how Hezbollah promised an increase in funding for any
cell able to carry out a terrorist attack
Since the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah operatives have been seen and, at times, even arrested
in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Asia.
“There are parts of the Caribbean where we’ve
seen some, certainly some travel,” said Henry Crumpton,
the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator
said. “There are parts of Central America where
we’ve seen some operatives, where we’ve
seen transactions – financial transactions – in
the Caribbean. In the southern part of the Caribbean,
next to Venezuela, in Colombia, we’ve seen some
In January 2012, one Hezbollah suspect was arrested and another managed to avoid capture, in Thailand's capital city, Bangkok, where security services believe they were working in a cell planning to attack areas commonly frequented by Israeli tourists. The attacks were thought to have been planned in coordination with the anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh on February 12. Israeli counter-terror experts warned that Hezbollah's long arm was begining to extend even further than many believed it could.
Drug Smuggling to Fund Terrorism
Hezbollah finances its terrorism using a sophisticated drug-trafficking operation and continues to profit from its drug sales despite the world's objections.
Hezbollah primarily earns its profits through drug sales in Latin America, but its activities have been traced across multiple continents. The group combines its drug profits with proceeds from legitimate used-car sales in West Africa. Until it was uncovered by officials, this global money-laundering scheme effectively masked Hezbollah’s earnings.
In 2001, international intelligence sources identified Lebanese residents operating for Hezbollah in South America’s tri-border area (Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil). That area is a major source of funding for Hezbollah’s terror activities. In October 2008, investigators took down a cocaine smuggling operation in Colombia, noting that “profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hezbollah.”
In January 2010, German officials arrested two suspects in Frankfurt’s airport after linking four Lebanese individuals to nearly 10 million euros in drug profits. Officials accused the suspects of trading drugs and sending the proceeds to relatives directly connected to top Hezbollah officials.
In 2011, the U.S. government seized drug profits linked to Ayman Joumaa, a drug trafficker and money launderer, linked to Hezbollah. His network was earning as much as $200 million per month. In April 2013, the United States Treasury Department took action against Hezbollah for working as a drug cartel and also blacklisted two Lebanese financial institutions, accusing them of transferring tens of millions of dollars to the terror group. American officials later confirmed that one of the banks agreed to pay the United States $102 million to settle a lawsuit involving Hezbollah's money laundering scheme. In June 2013, four Lebanese men were sanctioned for effectively acting as “ambassadors” for Hezbollah in West Africa.
International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism; Schweitzer,
Yoram. “Hezbollah: A Transnational Terrrorist Organization"; International
Counterterrorism Organization; Wikipedia; Yehudit Barsky, “Terrorism Briefing:
American Jewish Committee (May 2003); JTA,
(October 28, 2005); Jerusalem Post (January 19, 2012); Haaretz (January 15, 2012); IDF Spokesperson (June 26, 2013); YNET News (November 25, 2013)