Agents of Destruction: Hizb'allah - A Primer on the Party of God
Agents of Destruction: Hizb'allah - A Primer on the Party of God
August 2, 2012
by Sandra Warmoth
Agents of Destruction
“And prepare for them whatever power you can and of the tying of horses. Strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others, without them you do not know; Allah knows them.”
The Spoils 8:60 (The Generous Qur’an, An accurate, modern English translation of the Qur’an, Islam’s holiest book); Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ch. IX, Sec. 3, Art. 151
Hizb’allah: A Primer on The Party of Allah –
Beginnings and Ideology
Seeds of militancy were germinating in the fertile Beqaa Valley when Shi’a religious scholars, having fled from their holy city Najaf after the 1968 Ba’athist coup in Iraq, made their home among Lebanon’s marginalized Twelver Shi’as, an oppressed Muslim minority in a Sunni-dominated world, who found themselves left behind economically as Lebanon modernized. The religious scholars had been immersed in Najaf’s “Circles of Learning (Hawzat al-Ilmiyya),” where their groups synthesized and became the hub for Shi’a religio-political revival and activism, and a home base for the secret Party of the Islamic Call (Da’wa), which advocated reawakening and revolutionary transformation among Middle Eastern Shi’a communities. These scholars plowed the fallow ground for Lebanon to be Islamized, many forming the theological cadre in Hizb’allah, whose operatives came from Lebanese Shi’ite clans. The Party of the Islamic Call members eventually melded into the larger Hizb’allah movement.
Two events in 1978 catapulted Shi’a revivalism and activism into the realm of Khomeini-style religious militancy: the disappearance of Lebanon’s influential Iranian Shi’ite cleric, Imam Musa as-Sadr, instrumental in the Islamic resurgence under the pro-Western Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi; and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement that brought the 1979 Iran Revolution. Then a power vacuum in the region was created by the 2001 execution of America’s “War on Terror” due to the dislodging of two of Iran’s enemies: the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in Iraq, both of which drew Iran to an active transnational role. Shi’ia revivalism provided Iran’s current leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, a Twelver Shi’ia, and his domestic ideological radicals, with a pretext to rationalize an expansionist foreign policy agenda.
Twelver Shi’a venerate what they believe are 12 divinely ordained Imams comprising Imam Ali, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and Ali’s 11 sons. The last “twelfth Imam,” Muhammad al-Mahdi, was thought to have gone into occultation in 874 BCE. Shi’a identified al-Mahdi as the messiah who will return before Judgment Day to lead Muslims in a supreme, climactic jihad to wipe out all perceived forces of evil – that is, anyone deemed an infidel: “apostate” Muslims, and non-Muslims who abide in Dar-al-Harb, or the House of War.
Hizb’allah’s unwavering ideology is intricately tied into the Twelver’s belief system, and to the Shi’ite clerics from the “Circles of Learning,” which includes Sayd Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hizb’allah, who has become popular in both the Shi’a and Sunni camps since the Second Lebanon War. Hizb’allah’s ideology draws from the political writings of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, a founder of the Party of the Islamic Call; and Khomeini, a Twelver from the “Circles of Learning” who became Supreme Leader in Iran in 1979. Salamey and Othman (2011), quoting from Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq and Afghanistan, leaves no doubt as to this unambiguous relationship via a declaration by former Iranian Interior Minister Mohtashemi: “Hezbollah is part of the Iranian rulership; Hezbollah is a central component of the Iranian military and security establishment; the ties between Iran and Hezbollah are far greater than those between a revolutionary regime with a revolutionary party outside its borders.” Indeed, in its fiery Open Letter, which threatens to obliterate Israel and tear down the U.S. to its foundations, Hizb’allah describes its unbending loyalty to Khomeini, “…our tutor and faqih (jurist) who fulfills all the necessary conditions” as set forth in Articles 5 and 109 of Iran’s Constitution, which describe the qualifications, conditions, and characteristics required of the leader in executing his duties of guardianship over the affairs of the Muslim community until the reappearance of al-Mahdi. Today, Khamenei performs this function.
Salamey and Othman (2011) illuminate that al-Mahdi’s disappearance left the Shi’a with a leadership dilemma because he left no heir; thus, qualification for the post was substituted by an indirect lineal claim to Muhammad by a certain class of Ayatollahs who became de facto successors of the “twelfth Imam.” It was incumbent upon every Shi’a to emulate these Ayatollahs, who exercised considerable autonomous authority. After the revolution, Khomeini declared himself to be the absolute source of emulation due to his lineal associations with the “infallible Imams.” His political dissertation asserted that during the time of the occultation of al-Mahdi, a just faqih acts in the stead of the “twelfth Imam,” thus assuming all governmental duties pertaining to the “infallible Imams.” The concept of supreme leadership was resultantly formalized in Iran’s Constitution, which, since the revolution, establishes Khomeini-style “religious guardianship” henceforward, including Offensive Jihad on the battlefield to spread the cause of Islam.
Offensive Jihad in the battlefield is the pinnacle of Hizb’allah’s aspirations. During the Second Lebanon War, copies of a booklet were seized from a Hizb’allah stronghold in Maroun al-Ras nearby Israel’s northern border. Published in 2004 by the Imam Khomeini Culture Center, this revealing booklet examines the religious meaning of jihad on the basis of Khamenei. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) determined the booklet might be used as an authoritative ideological guidebook. The booklet considers jihad to be a doctrine and program of action, and the ITIC notes that jihad and shahada (martyrdom) are two central components in the religious worldview of Khomeini, and his successor, Khamenei. The ITIC points out that Khamenei’s front-and-center focus on jihad should be viewed within the context of his capacities as leader of the Iranian regime and supreme commander of Iran’s armed forces, and his authority to allocate significant resources to turn his worldview into reality. Khamenei’s worldview, the ITIC notes, is exported to Lebanon to disseminate it among Shi’a Muslims – and to turn Hizb’allah into a spearhead to launch a global Iranian-style jihad.
The booklet’s motto reads: “Jihad is one of the gateway’s to paradise, which Allah has open unto his most loyal believers (only).” Concerning jihad, it espouses that: (1) it is the preferred path to paradise (2) all Muslims must strive to attain this lofty goal (3) martyrdom must be a willful and fully conscious decision (4) the mujahedin are praiseworthy and it is pleasurable to belong to the armed forces (5) it is a Muslim’s religious duty, the fulfillment of a religious commandment – an act loftier than all others (6) martyrdom is the pinnacle of jihad (7) jihad serves the fundamentals of society because it champions religious piety par excellence; and provides independence and protection of the homeland to thwart the greed of the imperialists (8) the jihad warrior is obligated to exert his utmost effort to abolish deprivation at home and worldwide (9) maintaining a military hierarchy is a religious duty (10) devotion to Allah is the backbone of warrior-believer forces, such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (11) improving the warriors’ devotion to Allah may only occur by turning the combat site into a place of Islamic religious worship (12) true Islam is revolutionary Islam (13) it is necessary to adhere to velayat al-faqiye, “religious guardianship,” as established by Khomeini (14) Muslims must be in a state of constant readiness, materially, mentally, and morally for jihad, and must understand the advantage in executing surprise attacks (15) Islamic education is imperative to face challenges of the soul (16) endurance and unwavering steadfastness are imperative (17) remember that Qur’an 8:60 teaches that Muslims must be prepared to strike fear into the enemy (18) understanding political processes is vital to reinforcing the armed forces and to helping with the mission (19) it is better to go out to battle with only a handful of well-equipped Revolutionary Guards who are politically aware and ideologically fit than to engage the enemy with 50-60 non-quality brigades (20) the jihad program must be restrained, subdued, and moral if the military action is to be effective, which enhances positive interaction between the warriors and the Muslim public (21) self-sacrifice, al-tadhiya, must be the basis for military activity, as this creates motivation for martyrdom.
Throughout the entire booklet, ITIC notes, Khamenei preaches jihad in the spirit of traditional, Qur’an-based Islam, combined with Shi’ite traditions. The booklet ends with a dramatic and direct plea to the Muslim believer who engages in jihad to take pride in being “the element of power for restoring truth and eradicating lies” – the plea heightening to fever pitch.
Doctrine and Key Objectives
Dr. Eitan Azani of the IDC Institute for Counter-Terrorism explains in his situational report (pp. 39- 61) to the U.S. Committee on International Relations that Khomeini advocated a transition from the state of sacrifice to the state of “self-sacrifice” through jihad against the enemies of Islam. Key principles that Khomeini passed down include obtaining legitimacy for Shi’ite activism of the “oppressed” against the “oppressors;” delegitimizing and overthrowing corrupt regimes for failure to follow Sharia law; joining the jihad against corrupt Arab rulers and the West as a means to promote the formation of an Islamic nation; defining the enemies of Islam – “Great Satan,” the U.S. and “Little Satan,” Israel; sacrificing by way of suicide attacks against Islam’s enemies; and the idea that religious scholars are only qualified to rule the Islamic state because only they can interpret Allah’s laws. Hizb’allah strictly adheres to these concepts. Dr. Azani said the terrorist organization is driven by three core objectives derived from Khomeini’s teachings and principles, which are the implementation of Islamic law in Lebanon as part of Iran’s global revolution; the expulsion of foreign forces from Lebanon; and the destruction of Israel and the “liberation” of Jerusalem. Hizb’allah is committed ideologically and in practice to engage in relentless conflict with Israel using all possible means on all fronts. It considers Jews a “military population,” which makes it justifiable to target women, children, and the elderly for terrorist attacks because there are no innocent civilians. Hizb’allah also nurses deep hostility toward the U.S., which it claims has a policy to take over the region and strip Arabs of their natural resources, with Israel being a tool used to carry out this plan. Both Hizb’allah and Iran view Israel as significantly weakened after the Second Lebanon War, and the U.S. as a declining world power, which has further emboldened them to prepare for the next war against the Jewish State.
Structure and Command
Over the past two decades, Hizb’allah established its international terrorist network infrastructure in more than 40 countries, Dr. Azani said. The terrorist organization (TO) is centrally controlled through the decision-making Shura Council, and Jihad Council, headed by Hassan Nasrallah, who is the leading formulator of policy. Hizb’allah’s complex framework includes civilian, military, and social functions. The “sociopolitical arm” and “military arm” are interlocked to support each other, and are subject to the Shura Council. By declarations of its leadership, the TO does not separate its military and political arms, so it cannot be seduced to stop its military operations. Under the sociopolitical arm, Hizb’allah has been consolidating its status within the internal Lebanese arena since 1992, after Khamenei sent its representatives to Parliament, and in 2005 when it sent its representatives into the Lebanese government after Syria withdrew its army. After the Second Lebanon War, Iran wanted silence in the Lebanese arena, which enabled Hizb’allah to reconstruct its strategic capabilities.
Dr. Azani observed that Hizb’allah is the most organized terrorist network in the world. Its success, survival, and expansion are attributed to its effective operational and military capabilities, preservation of legitimacy by securing religious justification for strategic changes, enforcement of organizational authority, financial funding, adaptability, appropriation of Lebanese national responsibility, and willingness to operate within the existing Lebanese political system.
“The strategic defense pact signed between Iran and Syria in June of 2006 strengthens Hezbollah’s position and ensures the continued military and financial support even after the Second Lebanon War. Ahmadinejad’s election to the Iranian presidency, which signifies the rise of radical elements in Iran, his self-perception as the promoter of the ‘second Islamic revolution,’ and the mounting crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program turns Hezbollah into one of the components of the Iranian retaliation. Iran might use Hezbollah in order to promote the goals of the Islamic revolution, further Iranian interests in the Middle-East, and serve as a retaliatory force in case the crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program deteriorates.” Dr. Col. (Res.) Eitan Azani: Middle East and Radical Islamic Ideologies, September 28, 2006 expert testimony before the U.S. Committee on International Relations
The 2006 withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces from South Lebanon did not bring peace. In the next war, Israel will contend with a significantly well fortified, Iranian-supplied Hizb’allah strategically positioned with rockets, missiles, bunkers, surveillance sites, and bases concentrated primarily in communities throughout south Lebanon, and especially along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Today, from positions in Southern Lebanon by Israel’s northern border, Hizb’allah can strike Israel’s southernmost town, Eilat, because it acquired long-range missiles. It has approximately 50,000 missiles, including anti-aircraft missiles, and is upgrading missiles in the field. Syria, a supporter and sponsor of Hizb’allah, is suspected of hiding Scud-D anti-aircraft rockets owned by this terrorist organization. Should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fall, these rockets could fall into the hands of other terrorists. Syria possesses more than 1000 heavy missiles and warheads that are biological and chemical. There is concern that if Assad falls, he will pass these heavy missiles, and biological and chemical warheads onto Hizb’allah.
Pointing out that Defense Secretary Robert Gates estimated that Hizb’allah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world, the Team B II assessment of Hizb’allah’s capabilities in 2010 had this to add: Hizb’allah’s rocket and missile arsenal and other armaments were massively resupplied by Iran and Syria after the Second Lebanon War. Its inventory as of the Team B II assessment includes Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 short-range surface-to-surface missiles, Zelzal 2 ballistic missiles, tens of thousands of Katyusha rockets, and Chinese-model cruise missiles. The terrorist organization has unmanned aerial vehicles, Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. It operates a state-of-the-art military-grade fiber optic communications network that is directly integrated with the Iranian IRGC network.
Hizb’allah has acquired rocket-propelled grenades to penetrate tank armor, an amphibious mobile anti-aircraft vehicle with multiple missile launchers equipped with radar homing devices, and gliders to quietly infiltrate enemy territories. The terrorist organization is entrenched in approximately 550 underground bunkers, and numerous natural tunnels throughout Lebanon; it has deployed intelligence equipment to gather precise operational information to facilitate highly complex terrorist attacks; and has planted mines and explosives along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The revolutionary regime that Khomeini established is arming, funding, inspiring, and training Hizb’allah. The terrorist organization operates in coordination with senior levels of Iran’s regime, and as such its global campaign of terror is marked by bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and relentless attacks against Israel. Hizb’allah fields up to 28,000 fighters, with one-third having undergone advanced combat training involving a rigorous three-year course that emphasizes advanced commando skills; small unit tactics; terror training in assassinations, bomb-making, explosives, kidnapping, and suicide operations; and weapons expertise in light infantry arms. Hizb’allah’s official symbol is a globe and upraised arm brandishing an AK-47 rifle, announcing that it is an Islamic jihadist organization dedicated to the worldwide imposition of Sharia, with other symbolism attesting to “divine” sanctification for the group, which draws legitimacy from the Qur’an.
Speaking to Hizb’allah’s formidable capabilities and global reach, Mr. Ilan Berman, Vice President for Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council had this to say during his expert testimony before the U.S. Committee on International Relations: “… the advances that Iran has made in its nuclear program have catalyzed a growing wave of Shi’a empowerment in the region, and a rising tide lifts all boats … Hizb’allah is positioned to be a principal actor in what I clearly see as an emerging conflict with Iran over its nuclear program … the principal conduit for the Iranian regime to interact with Hizb’allah is the Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps). It is also the repository of the Iranian regime’s WMD know-how and the keeper of its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals … President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actually said that ‘once we get these technologies, once we get this know-how, we will share it with any and all Muslim comers’ … (p. 68-69).”
Hizb’allah’s operational activities are based on the principle of “asymmetric attrition,” a strategy of generating pressure via persistent terrorist activity against an enemy with superior capabilities. As an armed non-state actor, Hizb’allah operates outside recognized international norms for warfare; as such, it targets civilians. It even uses its locals as human shields during military operations. The TO also employs psychological warfare by releasing an unremitting barrage of lies and demeaning statements aimed at breaking the resilience of the enemy’s civilian population.
Typical Cells & Infiltration
A local Hizb’allah network typically has a da’wa and recruitment center that draws upon religious clerics, Islamic community centers, Internet Web sites, and broadcasts of al-Manar Television; a finance department with capabilities to raise monies legally and illegally, the latter via narco-terrorist activities; and an operational team outfitted for warfare and intelligence gathering. The typical infiltrator is a young male adult, usually in his twenties. From its central command structure to its local cells, Hizb’allah is a highly self-sufficient organization.
The TO embeds itself typically amid Shi’ite Lebanese communities domestically and worldwide, using the informal clan system to build its operational apparatus. Its cells draw upon a network of operatives and collaborators to perform human intelligence to define the enemy’s weak areas and to monitor targets. Once a target is identified, the cells arrange meeting places to plan attacks; then they send out operatives and agents to conduct dry run operations to test the enemy’s vigilance. Cells also gather supplies and scout out candidates for jihad operations.
Hizb’allah has a well-oiled propaganda arm and is masterful at launching disinformation campaigns. Its virulent messages are distributed via al-Manar, the Nur radio station, and its Internet Web sites. The TO also collaborates with Arab television stations, which assist with disseminating hate-filled messages by providing a media platform for Hassan Nasrallah. These Arab media outlets widely quote al-Manar and other Hizb’allah media. Hizb’allah stages media hoaxes to make it appear that Israel is the aggressor against hapless innocents, a lie repeatedly and successfully refuted in world courts. Toward this end, Hizb’allah even moves corpses from one scene to another to use as props. Such grizzly strategies command the media’s attention and generate headline-grabbing stories to further isolate Israel while strengthening Hizb’allah. It also uses the media to run clips to reinforce the idea that its movement is commanding, and the targeted governments can do nothing about it; neither can they stand up against its revolutionary forces.
Hizb’allah runs hospitals, food banks, cultural centers, clinics, schools, mosques, and other social services and centers to win the hearts and minds – and loyalties – of the local populace. This creates a vast network in which it can maneuver, and from which it could scout out candidates for jihad and related activities. Such networks provide safe haven; comfort; supplies; connections to move weapons and drugs; informal intelligence gathering, messaging, and networking services; unsuspecting places to store weapons; civilian population centers from which to launch missiles; and large groups of people that will protest at a moment’s notice.
While outwardly appearing benevolent and kind, Hizb’allah berates and dehumanizes its enemies before unsuspecting Muslim and international communities. Employing taqiyya, the terrorist organization creates this distorted image to confuse casual observers and enemies alike.
Hizb’allah has a history of shaking down the local populace to make “donations” to its cause. The TO is using this tactic in Africa and in Latin America, and it is typically used on small-business owners.
Hizb’allah was the first TO that introduced innovations: taking traditional weapons and adjusting them so that they could be delivered in more powerful, efficient, and creative ways. Once weapons are altered, they could be used to achieve battlefield advantage through the element of surprise. Another innovation is its multi-pronged terror attacks. Discussion on selected cases of the TO’s innovations and multipronged attacks follows.
Some Major Attacks Against U.S. and Israeli Targets
Hizb’allah bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, which resulted in 63 deaths. The attack was carried out by a car bomb driven by a suicide terrorist. Imad Mughniyah, then member of Hizb’allah’s Decision-Making Sura Council, was involved.
In October 1983, a surprise terrorist attack by Hizb’allah was launched against the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which took the lives of 241 United States military personnel by way of an innovative truck bomb laden with 12,000 plus pounds of Acetylene enhanced TNT, considered to be the most powerful conventional bomb ever built. In close proximity, the French unit of the Multinational Force was also attacked as part of this coordinated strike, which claimed the lives of more than 40 Frenchmen. Mughniyah again was involved.
In March 1992, Hizb’allah bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which resulted in 34 deaths. In May 1999, the Argentinian Supreme Court charged Hizb’allah with the bombing of the embassy and issued an arrest warrant for Mughniyah, who was over Hiz’ballah’s military wing.
In July 1994, Hizb’allah, in coordination with Iran, including Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and former Intelligence Minister, Ali Fallahian, launched a terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 86 people, according to findings of a lengthy report from the Argentinian intelligence services. The report refers to Mughniyah, who oversaw the Islamic Jihad unit that was assigned by Iranian intelligence to carry out the bombing. Phone calls made by officials of the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires with Hizb’allah operatives and other actors were recorded. There were also contacts established by Iran and Hizb’allah involving Shi’ite collaborators in the Tri-border (TBA) area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, who were alleged to have assisted in carrying out the bombing. Iran reportedly bribed then Argentinean President Carlos Menem with $10 million to keep a lid on the regime’s involvement. In 2009, Menem was charged with obstructing a probe into the bombing. There are still no convictions connected with this case, which involved other official cover-ups. As for Mugniyah, he was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria in February 2008.
The July 18, 2012 suicide bombing attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen, and injured 30, is considered by Western intelligence and counter-terrorism sources as being the work of Hizb’allah and Iran. The attack marked, to the day, the 18th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Argentina, and signaled a successful renewal of Hizb’allah’s global campaign of terror after a string of unsuccessful attacks in “soft countries” in 2012 designed to ascertain the international community’s vigilance and the TO’s performance. Ending a 17-year lull in attacks abroad, the attack is seen as a first shot in a fresh campaign of Iranian-exported international terror. The question is: Just how ready is Hizb’allah to expand its terror campaign to other Western targets abroad in an effort to diffuse international pressure against Iran for the latter’s advancement of its arguably militarized nuclear weapons program? The last article in this series will address Hizb’allah’s well-rooted presence and activities, particularly in the TBA, and the danger of Iranian-backed “Super Terrorism” taking root in Latin America.
 The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, under the paragraph entitled, “Islamic Government,” page 2 reads: “Islamic Government is founded on a basis of ‘religious guardianship’ (VELAYAT FAQIYE) as put forward by Imam Khomeini at the height of the intense emotion and strangulation under the despotic regime. This created a specific motivation and new field of advance for the Muslim people; and opened up the true path for the religious fight of Islam, pressing forward the struggle of the committed Muslim combatants, inside and outside the country.”