Hezbollah after the July War
Hezbollah is a Shiit Islamic political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon. Historically, Hezbollah was a political and military force that targeted at the spread of the Islamist ideology and insisted on the necessity of the creation of an Islamist state in Lebanon. However, its primary goal was rather independence of Lebanon as well as other Muslims states from the impact of Western countries, while Islamism was just the ideological basis that could unite people in their struggle against foreign aggression. No wonder, the idea of the creation of an Islamist state did not become the dominant in Hezbollah’s program but, instead, the opposition and permanent struggle against Israel and other oppressors gradually replaced the idea of the creation of Islamist state in Lebanon, though, it is worthy of mention, that this idea is still relevant though not the mainstream one.
In fact, Hezbollah is quite original organization which provokes numerous discussions concerning its functioning and operations. It should be pointed out that, on the one hand, enemies of Lebanon and Hezbollah view the organization as a terrorist group which expose the neighboring countries, especially Israel to a great threat since its members can organize terror attacks on the territory of Israel that is particularly dangerous in the situation when the struggle against Israel has been proclaimed the official policy of Hezbollah. Moreover, Hezbollah, at least its paramilitary division, operates as a clandestine organization and its military forces do not really have any official status that could be recognized by international community. However, it is worthy of mention that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization by nature. Instead, it simply uses clandestine methods of struggle since it cannot either technically or financially lead an open struggle against such foreign oppressors as Israel widely supported by the US.
On the other hand, Hezbollah proclaims the struggle against Israel as an organization that is on the guard of Islam ideals. What is more, Hezbollah stands on the ground that its operations are not terrorist but, instead, the organization rather targets at the protection of Lebanese and Muslim population against Israeli aggression. In such a context, it is obvious that Hezbollah is an organization of the national self-defense of Lebanese people.
Such contradictive views on Hezbollah are, to a significant extent, determined by its structure which may be viewed in two dimensions: the first is the official part of the organization that conducts political struggle and another part is clandestine by nature which conducts military operations and intelligent work. Nevertheless, it is important to underline that both parts of the organization function unanimously as a solid mechanism. In fact, it should be pointed out that the tendency to guerrilla methods of operations of Hezbollah are closely linked to the historical development of the organization since it has appeared in the result of the civil war and was one of the military groups that struggled for the independence of Lebanon from outer forces which attempted to establish total control over the country. However, with the end of the war the organization has not disarmed as the threat to the national independence and local population was still quite serious. As a result, nowadays, Hezbollah, headed by Secretary General Subhi Al-Tufayli, Abbas Al-Musawi and Hassan Nasrallah, has a complex structure. First of all, it should be said that Hezbollah has a political unit which has seats in Lebanese legislative organs and coordinates the political goals and methods of the struggle of Hezbollah. On the other hand, there remains a strong military unit which is responsible for military operations of the organization and the defense of the territories where Hezbollah is present that, actually, implies the defense of the entire Lebanon. Among its military unit, it is possible to single out Hezbollah’s rocket force which targets at the protection of its territories from Israeli air attacks and attempts to bomb Israel in response to foreign aggression.
Naturally, the permanent military struggle of Hezbollah resulted in the necessity to develop its own intelligence service which provides the organization with the essential data, including analytical ones about the actions and plans of its enemies, especially Israel that helps lead effective struggle against foreign aggression.
At the same time, Hezbollah also needs to develop a positive image, or at least, it needs to deliver its ideas to ordinary people and international community in order to change the erroneous image of Hezbollah created by Israel and its allies as a terrorist organization. For this purpose, the organization develops its own media including satellite TV and, in recent years, it has started to use Internet widely as a media to promote their own ideas and explain their position to the mass audience.
Furthermore, it is necessary to point out that Hezbollah is not a totally isolated organization. In stark contrast, since it operates internationally, it has to develop its international contacts and for this purpose there exists a unit that deals with foreign relations of Hezbollah that implies relations not only with its supporters, such as Iran or Syria, as well as other Muslim countries which attempt to help Hezbollah financially, but also with Israel, the US and the international community at large that indicates to the fact that Hezbollah looks for peaceful political solution of the existing problems by means of political dialogue with its opponents and leading world powers.
In such a way, at the present moment, Hezbollah has an extremely complicated structure and may be characterized as a politico-militant organization that uses both political and military methods of struggle against foreign aggression, basically from the part of Israel and its allies in the region and that targets at the protection of the local population and real independence of Lebanon.
The relations of Hezbollah with Lebanon
Basically, Hezbollah has long-lasting, historical relations with Lebanon. In actuality, Hezbollah is an organization that is the product of Lebanese civilian war and its major target was the protection of Lebanese independence and the development of the country as a strong and powerful state. It should be pointed out that traditionally, the relations of Hezbollah and Lebanon were quite friendly and supportive. The situation has hardly changed after the July War and Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
At first glance, it would be quite logical to presuppose that after the July War the relations with Hezbollah and Lebanon should deteriorate dramatically because the war was extremely destructive and, what is even more important, Israel started the war on the pretext of the presence of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon because its policy as well as military operations prevented Israel from establishing its total control in the region, though formally it was the war against a terrorist movement which Hezbollah, as it has already been mentioned above, is not. To put it more precisely, the July War was officially launched under the pretext of the protection of Israel from the terror attacks from the part of Hezbollah which was based in Lebanon. Israeli leaders have taken such a decision after the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants. As a result, Israel has launched a military operation which presumably targeted at the defeat of Hezbollah movement.
However, in actuality, the war against Hezbollah gradually transformed into the war against Lebanon and Lebanese people, including civilians. Moreover, it is obvious that it was not Hezbollah itself that was the real target of Israel but it was rather Lebanon that was the major goal of the aggressor. To put it more precisely, Hezbollah actually led and still leads a guerrilla war against foreign oppressors, while Israel simply attempted to establish its control over Lebanon transforming this state into a puppet toy in hands of Israeli leaders without any regard to the interests of the local population, while Hezbollah traditionally protected Lebanese people and struggled for their independence.
In fact, this war was extremely destructive, especially for Lebanese civilians. In such a situation, it is extremely important to underline that even countries supporting Israel, such as the UK, recognized the fact that the July War was absolutely illegal. For instance, the UN’s emergency relief chief, Jan Engeland, described the destructions brought by Israeli air forces as “horrific” and “violation of international humanitarian law with block after block of houses destroyed by Israeli air strikes” (Norton 2007, p.210). It should be said that the results of the conflict was really destructive for Lebanon that could easily undermine the position of Hezbollah in the country since people, being desperate from the aggression of Israel officially targeting at the destruction of Hezbollah, could reject the ideas of this organization and refuse from supporting it. But, in actuality, the public support of Hezbollah only increased and the war convinced people in the righteousness of the position of Hezbollah that was quite natural in the situation when, according to data of the Lebanese government, “more than 15,000 houses, 900 businesses and factories, 630 roads, 77 bridges, 25 fuel stations and 31 utility plants had been destroyed” (Norton 2007, p.243). Moreover, it was even reported that on July 25, an Israeli missile struck on “two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances” (Norton 2007, p. 306).
Regardless such enormous losses and destructions in the result of the July War, the relations with Hezbollah and Lebanon have not deteriorated dramatically. In actuality, Lebanon was rather focused on the opposition to Israel and it was primarily Israel that was severely criticized by Lebanon and not Hezbollah. The latter is quite a logical response to Israeli policy which did not meet, and still does not, any legal norms of international law. In this respect, it is quite natural that Lebanon continues support Hezbollah, which is practically the only real military force that can protect the country than agrees with Israeli policy and military aggression against Lebanon. In fact the policy, strategy and declarations of Israeli leaders in the July War were simply shocking. For instance, according to Haim Ramon, Israeli justice minister, “all those now in south Lebanon are terrorists” (Harik 2006, p.75)
No wonder, after the end of the July War Lebanon still views Hezbollah as the major power that is able to protect the country from the foreign aggression, notably, from the part of Israel. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that the military forces of Lebanon are really weak and in comparison to Israeli forces they are absolutely unable to protect the country effectively from the attack of a serious opponent such as Israel and the July War perfectly proved its weakness of Lebanon. At the same time, despite the fact that Israel launched the war hoping to destroy Hezbollah, this organization has survived and, at the present moment, it is still a serious player in the international relations in the Middle East region. This fact perfectly proves that Israel turned to be unable to fulfill the major goal of the war in Lebanon and, consequently, Hezbollah has won the war in a way due to the fact that it has survived and still preserves its military potential threatening to Israel.
As a result, after the July War, Lebanon naturally makes a choice in favor of Hezbollah as the only real military and political power that is able to protect, or at least, resist to the foreign aggression against the country. The latter is particularly important in the context of the policy of indifference from the part of the major political players in the region, especially the US. Consequently, nowadays, the relations with Hezbollah and Lebanon are probably even stronger that they used to be before the war because Hezbollah is the practically the last but real hope of Lebanon on the effective resistance against any military aggression from the part of a foreign state even though this is such a powerful country as Israel.
The relations of Hezbollah with Syria
Traditionally, Syria was considered to be one of the main allies of Hezbollah and the country that actively supported the organization, especially in its struggle against Israel. It is worthy of mention that Syria amply supported Hezbollah in different ways. In fact, it was financial support, Syria also helped to train Hezbollah guerrillas and, what is more, there were a lot of accusations of Syria in the supply of Hezbollah with weapon and military equipment (Harik 2006, p. 82). These accusations were particularly strong from the part of Israel that insisted on the necessity of the introduction of sanctions against Syria as a state supporting terrorism. In this respect, Israel often appealed to the US as the major fighter against international terrorism. However, this view was totally wrong since Hezbollah cannot be viewed as a terrorist organization. In stark contrast, the help of Syria to Hezbollah should be rather viewed as an international aid of Syria to the movement that struggles for the independence of Lebanon and which may be a reliable ally in the struggle against aggressive policy of Israel and its allies in the region.
At the same time, the July War demonstrated that the declared or presumable support of Hezbollah from the part of Syria is not sufficient or, at least, the scale of Syrian support of Hezbollah is not as large as Israel presumed in its allegations. In fact, Syria did not support Hezbollah as it probably was supposed to do. In fact, it is necessary to underline that the effectiveness of such help was not very significant and did not play the determining role in the July War.
Nevertheless, it does not necessarily mean that after the end of the July War the relations with Hezbollah and Syria have deteriorated dramatically. In stark contrast, Syria, regardless the lack of the open support of Hezbollah in its war against Israel, still remains one of the major allies of Hezbollah in the region. In this respect, it should be said that Syria and Hezbollah are doomed to be allies since both the country and the organization are situated or are operating near Israeli borders and both are in a state of a permanent conflict with Israel since they constantly attempt to restrain its imperialistic policy. Naturally, they need to support each other in order to increase the effectiveness of their struggle against Israeli aggression. It should be pointed out that after the end of the July War the policy of Syria and Hezbollah has hardly changed because it is obvious that neither Syria nor Hezbollah has any real alternatives but the close cooperation and coordination of their actions against their common opponent in the region.
At the same time, Hezbollah’s leaders perfectly understand that Syria could not openly support their organization in the July War since, at the present moment, Syria is constantly facing the threat of the international sanctions or even military aggression from the part of Israel or even the US as a state supporting international terrorism, though in the case of the July War, it is hardly possible to distinguish what party was terrorist, at least judging from the casualties and destruction as well as legitimacy, Hezbollah actions seem to be just a natural attempt to protect itself and Lebanese people living in the area of dislocation of the organization.
In such a situation, Syria should hide its efforts to support Hezbollah and, in actuality, no one can definitively say whether Syria supported Hezbollah in the July War or not and if it did that what the extent of this support was. Nevertheless, it is still possible to estimate that the relations with Hezbollah and Syria still remain stable and quite friendly that may indirectly indicate to the existence of the support of Hezbollah from the part of Syria during the war. This is why it is quite natural that Syria and Hezbollah have preserved good and friendly relations which, actually, could hardly be changed for worse since it would weaken both Syria and Hezbollah in face of their major opponent, Israel.
The relations of Hezbollah with Iran
Among all the allies of Hezbollah, even though few they are, Iran is probably its most reliable and most influential partner in its struggle against Israel. In fact, it is necessary to underline that Iran is considered to be the country that stands behind Hezbollah, i.e. actively supports the organization and contributes to its progress as a militant and political force in Lebanon as well as in the Middle East at large (Harik 2006, p.161). At any rate, it is not a secret that Iran actively assisted Lebanese enthusiasts that created Hezbollah and, what is more, it is basically due to Iran Hezbollah has managed to develop into a powerful movement, which has both political and military wings that coordinate their actions effectively. However, it is necessary to underline that the help of Iran was basically purely technological and financial but the development of Hezbollah was rather a people’s movement and the will of Lebanese people struggling for their independence and better life than a creation of Iran. In other word, Hezbollah is purely national, people ‘product’ and not ‘exported’ from Iran.
At the same time, it is also important to point out the fact that the ideology of Hezbollah is close to the dominant ideology of Iran. In fact, both Hezbollah and Iran have practically the same Islamist ideology. In this respect, it is even possible to estimate that Iran is the closest partner of Hezbollah in the Middle East region since there is no other country that would be so close ideologically to Hezbollah and supported organization so actively. However, Hezbollah is really independent organization and its relations with Iran may be characterized as partnership and friendship of equals. Even though, representatives of Israel often argue that Hezbollah is a ‘creature’ of Iran (Norton 2007) it is obviously a false idea basically resulting from Israel inability to establish its control in the region because of the opposition of Hezbollah. The current situation and the history of the development of Hezbollah perfectly proves the fact that the organization has never been controlled by Iran or any other external power. It should be said that it is just a strategic partnership of Hezbollah and Iran in which both parties are equal.
In such a situation, it seems to be quite strange that Iran similarly to Syria was not as active in its support of Hezbollah as it was supposed to. Nevertheless, numerous critics of the relations with Iran and Hezbollah argue that the aggression of Hezbollah against Israel was the result of the scheming of Iran and not an independent decision of Hezbollah (Norton 2007).
In actuality, it is necessary to point out that Nasrallah repeatedly “dismissed charges by critics that Iran and Syria, both under international pressure, encouraged or even ordered the ambush” (Norton 2007, p.358). Obviously, the arguments of critics are quite unpersuasive and they are not supported by evidences. Nevertheless, the partnership of Hezbollah and Iran was really important and even after the July War the relations with Hezbollah and Iran could hardly change for worse since it is still the major ally of the organization in the international arena. Moreover, at the present moment, Iran is probably the most powerful partner of Hezbollah that is ready to actively support the organization.
As a result, after the July War the relations with Hezbollah and Iran have not changed and, what is more, they simply could not have changed since Hezbollah and Iran are strategic partners and they are equally interested in the preserving friendly relations and close partnership. Such alliance is beneficial for both Iran and Hezbollah since the latter receives significant international support from the part of Iran while the former receives a strong ally in the Middle East which could assist the country to produce some pressure on the major opponent of Iran in the region, Israel that will directly or indirectly influence another, even more powerful opponent of Iran in the international arena, the US.
The relations of Hezbollah with Israel
Speaking about the relations of Hezbollah with Israel, it is necessary to underline that they were always characterized as extremely hostile and both Hezbollah and Israel viewed each other as the most severe enemies. It should be said that Hezbollah always viewed Israel as the greatest threat to Lebanon and the entire Islamist world and its strategic goal was and still is the development of effective ways of the protection against Israeli aggression, to the extent that the organization even targets at the destruction of Israel as a state since the latter threatens to the existence of Lebanese state as well as to many other states of the Arab world.
In such a situation, in order to understand the relations of Hezbollah and Israel after the July War, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the events that actually led to the war since it will help better realize the nature of the current relations between the opponents.
First of all, it should be said that the war was formally provoked by the activity of Hezbollah. To put it more precisely, the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers was the last straw that made Israel determined to launch the July War targeting at the total extermination of Hezbollah which Israel viewed as a terrorist organization. At this point it is worthy of mention the fact that, even according to UN’s specialists, the similar incidents have occurred periodically throughout the last six years but “none of the incidents resulted in the military escalation. Although the border remained tense and violent, it was generally quiet until July 12” (Norton 2007, p.364).
In such a situation, it is possible to presuppose that the July war was not the war forced by circumstances that made Israel reacting in such an aggressive way, but, instead, it was rather the war of choice, i.e. Israeli leaders have consciously chosen the military operation as the way out from the conflict thought there remained possible peaceful alternatives to solve the conflict.
Consequently, the July War targeted at the total destruction of Hezbollah and the latter perfectly realized this fact. Nevertheless, Israel had failed but the relations of Israel and Hezbollah after this war had deteriorated dramatically. It should be pointed out that Israel, despite its formal victory in the war, is, in actuality, the main loser since, nowadays, the Israeli aggression against Lebanon is viewed by many as non-motivated or even illegal, while the main objective of the war has never been met (Harik 2006, p.195). To put it more precisely, Hezbollah still persists and this organization is still quite powerful and to resist to any foreign aggression even from the part of Israel, though it is necessary to agree that the war undermined its potential considerably and weakened Lebanon in face of the threat of Israeli occupation or control.
For the world community the actions of Israel are quite arguable. Moreover, after the July War, Hezbollah has even higher chances to become a powerful opponent of Israel. At any rate, nowadays, representatives of Hezbollah underlines that Israel remains their enemy number one but, what is more important, many Lebanese people support Hezbollah and share its views on Israel as a hostile and extremely dangerous neighbor that should be rather destructed before it would destruct Lebanon.
In this respect, it should be said that the aggression of Israel resulting in numerous casualties and destructions was the major reason for the undermining any hopes of Israel to find a peaceful solution of their problems with neighboring countries at large, and Lebanon in particular. Obviously, Hezbollah is a significant military and political power in Lebanon and the fact that it resisted to Israel occupation has increased its popularity among ordinary people and even for foreign states Hezbollah may be viewed not as a terrorist organization but as an organization attempting to resist to the foreign occupation (Norton 2007).
Consequently, due to the growing popularity of Hezbollah and hate of Lebanese people in relation to Israel, it would be quite logical to presuppose that the relations of Hezbollah and Israel which are extremely bad after the July War will deteriorate even more as Hezbollah will gradually recover from Israeli attack due to the recruiting of new members and desperation of Lebanese people after the war. This is why it is possible to estimate that Israel and Hezbollah started the war as enemies but they finished the July war as even more severe enemies and Israel may be viewed as a hunter that injured the beast, Hezbollah. In such a situation, it would be quite logical to expect the further deterioration of their relations and the attack in response from the part of Hezbollah. However, it is necessary to underline that it is primarily Israel that is responsible for such deterioration of its relations with Hezbollah and neighboring states.
The relations of Hezbollah with the US
In the situation of the permanent confrontation of Hezbollah with Israel, the US are viewed by many specialists as the possible peacekeeper in the region. In fact, the role of the US may be really crucial in the Middle East, at least in relations of Israel and neighboring states, including Lebanon and, therefore, Hezbollah. It is not a secret that the US is the only superpower in the world and it can influence any country, including Israel. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that Lebanon authorities had expected during the July war that the US would interfere in the conflict and stop Israeli aggression.
However, in actuality, the actions of the US were quite passive and too cautious that could not fail to influence the relations of Hezbollah with the US after the war. Moreover, it should be said that, in stark contrast to the expectations of Lebanese people, “there is no question that this war was seen very, very clearly, in the way that no other war has been seen, really, as a joint Israeli-American war against Lebanon” (Wright 2006). This view on the July war is of a paramount importance to the post-war relations of Hezbollah and the US. In fact, during this war the US has perfectly demonstrated that this country is unwilling to interfere in the conflicts that are not directly related to American interests. Moreover, in views of Lebanese and pro-Hezbollah people such a policy of the US clearly showed the attitude of Americans to the enemies of Israel. In fact, Hezbollah became a sort of catalyst that provoked a clear reaction of the US on anti-Israeli actions in the region. The unwillingness of the US to stop the conflict, or, to put it more precisely, prevent Israeli aggression proved the fact that Hezbollah as well as Lebanon at large should not count for American help in the struggle against Israel.
The latter fact is particularly important because it actually undermines the peacekeeping process in the Middle East at large and in Israel and Hezbollah conflict in particular. The reason is quite obvious, after the July War, Hezbollah definitely associates the US with Israel. Nowadays, these two countries are viewed as close allies who do not really care about human rights, justice, or even legitimacy of war against opponents of Israel.
Naturally, in such a situation, the relations of Hezbollah with the US have also deteriorated considerably since the US did not meet the expectations of Hezbollah and nowadays, this organization, being significantly weakened by the war but not destroyed, perfectly realizes that it should take into consideration the experience of the July War and it should not belief in the willingness of the US to really prevent the military conflict in the region as long as the interests of Israel are concerned. Practically, this means that Hezbollah may view the US as another enemy or ally of Israel and, consequently, the relations of Hezbollah and the US would grow more and more hostile.
As for the US, the country clearly stated its position when the State Secretary, Condoleezza Rice said: “I find it disingenuous that Hezbollah starts a war, and the US is blamed for not stopping it soon enough. Well, maybe Hezbollah should never have started the war in the first place” (Wright 2006, p.64). Obviously, this position seems to be quite convincing until the fact that the July War was the war by choice is not revealed, as it has already been done above. At the same time, the US demonstrates its unwillingness to interfere in the military conflicts if guerilla organizations such as Hezbollah are involved only because they use the only methods of struggle against their opponents that are effective enough and available to them. In such a way, the relations of Hezbollah and the US after the July War may be characterized as deteriorating and lacking mutual understanding.
The relations of Hezbollah and the Middle East
Speaking about the July War and the permanent conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, it is necessary to remember about other countries of the Middle East which also produce a profound impact on Hezbollah and can influence the policy of Israel. It should be pointed out that Hezbollah openly declared that Muslim country is one of the major sources of the financing of the organization (Norton 2007). Muslim countries support Hezbollah largely. Naturally, the July War proved to the Middle East vulnerability of Lebanon and other states to the attacks of Israel. At the same time, the Middle East countries have seen the extent to which Hezbollah could be effective.
Thus, it is possible to estimate that after the July War, the Middle East states that supported Hezbollah realized that, being united, they are able to resist to any foreign power, including that of Israel and the US.
As for Hezbollah, its relations with the countries of the Middle East basically improved after the July War since in the situation when the most powerful states ignore the conflict, the assistance and support of Muslim states was significant not only as some material or financial help but it was even more important as ideological help. As a result, at the present moments, the relations of Hezbollah with the Middle Eastern states improved due to the fact that they became closer to each other and, nowadays, they perfectly realize their ideological, cultural and religious unity in face of the common opponents in the international arena.
The latter is particularly important since the relations of Hezbollah, on the one hand, and Israel and the US, on the other hand, have deteriorated dramatically. This is why the Middle East, being tarnished by the war in Iraq, tends to the unification all its forces, political, economic and military, in the competitive struggle with other states, especially Israel and the US that means that their cooperation with such organizations as Hezbollah will keep growing.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the July War produced a profound impact on Hezbollah and the Middle East region at large. To put it more precisely, despite the fact that the war has undermined the political and military potential of Hezbollah considerably, the war also improved the image of the organization in the Muslim world and countries of the Middle East, except Israel. At the same time, the war has deteriorated the relations of Hezbollah with Israel and undermined the belief of the organization and Lebanese people in objectivity and desire to keep peace in the Middle East from the part of the US. This is why, even though Hezbollah deteriorated its relations with its major opponent Israel and its ally, the US, it also received a larger support not only from its traditional allies Syria and Iran but also from other Muslim countries of the Middle East region.
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