July 24, 2011


Hizballah's Triumph and Agony: The terrorist group that took over Lebanon is now at a crossroads: well armed, but facing international isolation and a UN Tribunal. Bruce Reidel on how its rise to power could backfire. (Bruce Reidel, Jul 23, 2011, Daily Beast)

Few terrorist groups ever succeed in taking over a country. The Lebanese Shia Hizballah group has done so this year, but at its moment of triumph it faces the most severe challenges it has ever faced.

The party of god, Hizballah, was created in 1982 after one of Israel's invasions of Lebanon by Syrian and Iranian intelligence agents. It rapidly gained support among the angry and down-trodden Shia community who had been at the bottom of Lebanon's archaic political and economic system for decades. Hizballah suicide bombers blew up the U.S. Marines and French paratroopers headquarters in October 1983, driving America and Europe out of Lebanon. Then they waged a long and difficult war against Israel until it too left in defeat in 2000. Another bloody war with Israel ended just five years ago in a stalemate. Along the way Hizballah held dozens of foreigners hostage, murdered a CIA station chief, hijacked airliners, and blew up Israeli targets as far away as Argentina.

But it also became a political party in Lebanon and gradually acquired more and more political power. In 2008 it flexed its military power by briefly taking over most of Beirut for a few days, then drew back to let the message sink in that Hizballah can do what it likes. This year the party has succeeded in getting its candidate picked as Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, and it now effectively dominates the government. [...]

Hizballah will still dominate Lebanon and will still have its Iranian benefactor. It will remain the best armed terrorist group in the world. But it will now face international isolation, a UN driven judicial process and a hostile neighbor next door. Hizballah knows well how easy it is to destabilize Lebanon from a base in Syria; soon it may be on the receiving end of the very process that made it triumphant.

Except that as Mr. Reidel himself points out, they're not a terrorist group anymore, but the political party that governs Southern Lebanon. And they could destabilize Lebanon because the Shi'a were an oppressed majority. The Sunni can't destabilize Hezbollahstan, only take actions that will make it an independent nation. Sure Hezbollah would like to be able to depend on the largesse of the Assad's, but the reality is that the fall of the regime in Syria will be the best thing that ever happened to them.

Posted by at July 24, 2011 6:59 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus
« WHAT THIRD RAIL?: | Main | »