November 3, 2023 | Insight
10 Things to Know About Hezbollah
November 3, 2023 | Insight
10 Things to Know About Hezbollah
1. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Islamist terrorist organization
Hezbollah (also spelled “Hizballah”) is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and a political party based in Lebanon. The group seeks the destruction of Israel and conducts terrorist and criminal activity around the globe. Hezbollah provides its Lebanese supporters with public services, including social welfare, schools, and housing, and indoctrinates them with its Shiite revolutionary ideology.
Hezbollah’s senior leaders are Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and founding member and Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem. Nasrallah, who has headed Hezbollah since the early 1990s, is responsible for Hezbollah’s role as a dominant political force in Lebanon and is heavily involved in the group’s military operations.
2. Hezbollah has pledged loyalty to the regime’s supreme leader
Hezbollah is part of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s network of Shiite militias intended to promote their power and revolutionary ideology. Hezbollah leadership openly professes a doctrinal loyalty to Tehran. For example, in a May 2008 speech, Nasrallah said, “I declare today, and it is nothing new, that I am proud to be a member of the Party of Wilayat al-Faqih; the just, scholarly, wise, courageous, honest and loyal faqih.” Wilayat al-Faqih – or the guardianship of the Islamic jurist – refers to the Islamic Republic’s system of governance that endows its supreme leader with absolute power and requires obedience to his commands.
3. Hezbollah has a long and deadly record of terror attacks, including against Americans
Hezbollah’s long record of terrorism includes an April 1983 suicide bomb attack at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 49 embassy staff and injured 34 others; an October 1983 truck bombing at the U.S. military barracks at Beirut International Airport, which killed 241 U.S. peacekeepers, most of them U.S. Marines; and a separate bombing on the same day that killed 58 French paratroopers.
In July 1994, Hezbollah bombed the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), a Jewish community center in Argentina, killing 85 people and injuring over 300. In 2012, Hezbollah bombed a bus in Bulgaria with Israeli tourists onboard, killing six and injuring 45. Bulgarian courts convicted and sentenced two Hezbollah operatives in absentia in connection with the bombing. According to the U.S. government, the attacks in Argentina and Bulgaria were carried out with Iranian support.
4. Hezbollah is the dominant political force in Lebanon
Hezbollah exercises extensive influence over Lebanon’s civilian authorities and maintains effective veto power over the choice of prime minister and the actions of the Lebanese cabinet. Hezbollah’s coalition holds a majority in the Lebanese parliament, and its allies have served as president and parliamentary speaker.
Hezbollah also exerts influence over the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Despite billions of dollars of U.S. funding and training, the LAF often cooperates with Hezbollah and refuses to detain wanted Hezbollah members.
5. Hezbollah fought a war with Israel in 2006, and Israel’s border with Lebanon remains tense
In July 2006, after a Hezbollah attack killed three Israeli soldiers, Hezbollah and Israel fought a war lasting 34 days that caused devastation on both sides of the border. A tense situation has persisted along the border ever since. Hezbollah is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war and required the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon. With Iranian help, Hezbollah has rebuilt itself into a more lethal and dangerous force, far surpassing its previous capabilities.
6. Hezbollah’s extensive arsenal of rockets and missiles includes precision-guided munitions
“We are now at the point where Hezbollah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world,” said then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2010. Hezbollah’s capabilities have only grown stronger since with the group now reportedly wielding 150,000 rockets and long-range missiles, an extensive air-defense system, and a commando force. In 2022, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had the ability to retrofit thousands of rockets with guidance systems in order to convert them into precision-guided munitions able to strike specific targets deep inside Israel.
7. Hezbollah receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually from Iran
The U.S. Department of State estimates that Iran provides Hezbollah with significant support, “estimated in recent years to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant estimates that Iran sends Hezbollah $700 million per year.
8. Hezbollah operates global criminal and narcotrafficking networks, earning billions
Hezbollah earns and launders money through a variety of illicit means, including drug trafficking, which brings in an estimated $1 billion annually for the terrorist group. Hezbollah’s criminal enterprise operates throughout the globe, with a major center of operations in South America’s Tri-Border Area along the frontiers of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Among the illegal drugs that Hezbollah sells is captagon, the substance some Hamas fighters used while carrying out the October 7 slaughter, according to Israeli media.
9. Hezbollah uses human shields
According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has established at least three missile factories in Beirut near or underneath civilian residences and close to fuel supplies. Video taken by journalists at one such site confirmed the presence of missile production machinery and a known Hezbollah operative as the site manager. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah locates military headquarters, posts, and weapons inside residential homes.
10. Hezbollah is subject to U.S. and international sanctions
The United States and some 30 other countries have issued national-level designations, bans, or other restrictions on Hezbollah. The Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, enacted in 2018 following its unanimous passage by Congress, requires the president to impose sanctions on persons involved in the use of human shields by Hezbollah.