Hizballah in Lebanon: Who is Really in Charge?

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Lebanese Shiite men wave Hizballah flags and hold up portraits of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah during a religious festival in a southern suburb of Beirut on Sept. 11, 2006. Nasrallah called on supporters to celebrate Hizballah’s “victory” over Israel.


The Unauthorized Intelligence Estimate


Blurring the Line: Legitimate Government Entity or Iranian backed Radical Resistance Movement?

The current and future role of Hizballah as a part of the recognized seat of government in the nation state of Lebanon to a large extent blurs the demarcation between their elected governmental representation in Lebanese Parliament and a reputation portrayed in the west as a radical Shiite Islamic brotherhood.

Hizballah has successfully created a political role for itself within Lebanon and is represented in the Lebanese Parliament with 14 seats (with its allies) out of 128. Hizballah also has two ministers in the government, and a third is endorsed by the group. Hizballah is viewed very favorably in the Arab world and particularly among the Shiite Islamic population because it was both successful in forcing then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to withdraw Israeli occupation forces from the established “Lebanon Security Zone” a.k.a. the Blue Line (in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426) and also successfully repelled Israel in the “Second Lebanon War” of July 12 to August 14 2006. Both of these events were interpreted by the Arab world and militant Islamic groups that Israel could, by use of force, be pushed out of illegal occupation zones and back across internationally recognized boundaries.

In our unauthorized intelligence estimate, we will examine the rising power of Hizballah and provide a situational analysis of the groups’ political aspirations, diplomatic ties, military capabilities and geographic footprint.

The Mission of Hizballah

In response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Lebanese Shiite clerics established Hizballah in 1982 borrowing from an ideology inspired by the Iranian revolution. According to its charter, Hizballah is focused on the following three primary outcomes:

  1. The liberation of Jerusalem
  2. The destruction of Israel, and
  3. The establishment of a secure Islamic state in Lebanon

Hizballah is known in the Arab world by a number of handles including:

  1. Hizballah
  2. Hezbollah
  3. Party of God
  4. Islamic Jihad
  5. The Revolutionary Justice Organization
  6. The Islamic Resistance
  7. Organization for the Oppressed on Earth

The group operates in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Bekaa valley, and southern Lebanon. It has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North American, and Asia. Its training bases are mostly in the previously Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley, a broad valley of central Lebanon, extending in a northeast-southwest direction for 75 miles (120 km) along the Litani and Orontes rivers. Its headquarters and offices are in southern Beirut and in Ba’albek.

Terror Attack
Firemen and residents rush to a burning building after twin bomb attacks on an Israeli market. The blasts were part of a rising wave of suicide terrorist attacks.

World Governments apply the Terrorist Organization Label

Governments throughout the international community disagree on Hizballah’s status as a legitimate political entity, a terrorist organization, or both. Throughout most of the Arab and Muslim regions, Hizballah is highly regarded as a legitimate resistance movement. The Lebanese government confirmed the group as a legitimate resistance organization with the power to act against any foreign occupation of Lebanon.

The countries illustrated in the table below have defined Hizballah as follows:

Nation State Element designated as terrorist Australia The Hizballah External Security Organization Canada The entire organization Hizballah Israel The entire organization Hizballah Netherlands The entire organization Hizballah United Kingdom The Hizballah External Security Organization United States The entire organization Hizballah

Diplomatic, Logistical and Financial Ties

Israeli, US, Saudi and Bahraini intelligence reports claim that Hizballah maintains ties with other Shiite groups intent on conducting anti-regime activity throughout the Gulf States region. The United States has also indicated, as part of it’s indictment against bin Laden for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, that “Al Qaeda also forged alliances with Hizballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.”

Intelligence reports also indicate very strong ties between Hizballah and both Syria and Iran. The governments of both countries are widely known to be supplying advanced weapons systems and technologies to Hizballah originating from arms trafficking with Russia and China amongst others. Shiite power in Iran maintains strong diplomatic ties with North Korea and Venezuela, additional potential origin points for arms trafficking including conventional, and potentially nuclear and biological weapons.

Iran supports Hizballah with financial, political, and organizational aid, while Syria provides diplomatic, political, and logistic support. In May 1996, Secretary of State Warren Christopher testified that Iran provides “up to $100 million a year in the case of Hizballah” The group also obtains financial aid from overseas, as evidenced by the U.S. arrest in 2002 of Chawki and Muhamod Hammoud, who are accused of using a cigarette smuggling operation to generate funds for Hizballah.

Intelligence communities such as the United States Central Intelligence Agency , The Defense Intelligence Agency , United States Central Command , British Secret Intelligence Service MI-6 , The Israeli Military Intelligence Service A’man (amongst others) actively monitor and report on Hizballah force strength and mission capabilities.

Hizballah Military Power & Organization

The force strength of the group is six to ten thousand volunteer supporters and one thousand full-time operatives. Forces are arranged in an order of battle consisting of rocket artillery, anti-tank artillery, and infantry forces of between company and battalion strength.

OrderofBattle

Missile, Rocket, Anti-tank & Air Defense Missions

In the 2006 conflict with Israel, the primary weapon used by Hizballah forces was the Katyusha – 122 rocket, which has a range of 29 kilometers (18 miles) and carries a 15 kilo (33 pound) warhead.

Hizballah also fields more than 100 medium and long-range missiles. They include the Iranian-made Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 that provide terminal missile trajectories that can strike the Israeli port of Haifa.The Zelzal-1 missile can provide strike capability to an estimated range of 150-kilometer with the ability to strike Tel Aviv. Additionally, Fajr-3 missiles have a range of 40 kilometers, and a 45 kilo warhead, and Fajr-5 missiles, which extend to 72 kilometers, also hold 45 kilo warheads.

During the Lebanese-Israeli conflict of 2006 Hizballah fired 3,970 rockets into Northern Israel over the span of a month, killing 43 Israeli civilians. Hizballah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has publicly spoken that the group has “more than 20,000 rockets available”. He also spoke in retrospect of the war, announcing “Tel Aviv or elsewhere, we were certain that we could reach any corner or spot in occupied Palestine and now we are certain that we can reach them”. Nasrallah has also implied that the Hizballah rocket force became stronger in the months following the 2006 Lebanon War than it had been during the war itself.

rocketsrange

CLICK TO ENLARGE

mortars

qassam
The Qassam-class (or Kassam) short-range missile was developed by the Hamas terrorist organization with the aid of Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Authority. The Qassam is fueled by a mixture of potassium nitrate and sugar (solid propellant).

Iranian Artillery Rockets Potentially Available to Hizballah

Iranian military forces possess a wide variety of artillery rockets, although the diversity of these holdings is exceeded only by the paucity of detailed information in the open literature. Iran produces a range of artillery rocket systems, including the Shahin, Oghab, Fajr, Naze’at, and Zelzal. Although these rocket systems were developed primarily for a battlefield support role, Iran used the Oghab in a strategic role during the February-April 1988 “War of the Cities,” to bombard Iraqi cities and towns.

Six Shihab-3 missiles, bearing the slogans “Israel must be wiped off the map” and “We will crush America under our feet,” were the stars of the 22 September 2003 military parade in Tehran marking the anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the beginning of what Iran calls “holy defense” week. Other missiles displayed at the parade, according to state television on 22 September, were the Nazeat-6, Nazeat-10, Zezal, Maverick, Hawk, Tondar-69, Fateh-110, Scud B, SAM-6, surface-to-surface naval missiles, Fajr air-to-surface missiles, and long-range shore-to-sea missiles. On 21 September 2004, the IRGC held a parade in Teheran in which the force displayed the Shihab-2, Shihab-3, the Nazeat-6 and Nazeat-10, the Tondar-69 and the Zelzal missiles. On 22 September 2005, Iran conducted a military parade. Missiles displayed included the Shahab-3, Zelzal 1 and Zelzal 2, M-11 Variant/Tondar-68, Nazeat and M-6. Hawk missiles were paraded, marked as Nazeat and Zelzal. Some of the missiles had banners saying, “Israel should be wiped off the map” and “We will trample America under our feet,” “Death to America,” and “Death to Israel.”

Iranian manufactured rockets launchers include the Haseb, an Iranian 12 tube 107 mm MRL that is a variant of a Chinese 107 mm rocket, as well as variants of Chinese and Russian 122 mm rockets such as the Noor and Hadid 40 tube 122 mm MRL systems and the Arash version of the 122mm Katyusha MRL. Although details on most of these systems is spare, it is reported that the Nazeat-10, an extended-range version of the Nazeat-6 FROG-derivative, is fired from the same launcher as the Oghab, but can also be fired from L2 and L3 FROG launchers.

The Noor multiple rocket is designed for the light weight artillery weapons class. It is a fin stabilized High Explosive rocket. The rocket has a red and silver nose, green warhead with an Iranian flag on the side, silver rocket motor, and gold fins. Oghab is a non guidance HE rocket. The rocket is white with red fins and warhead with two sets of green, white, and red stripes. The Oghab, a 230 mm artillery rocket with range of 34 km, is launched from a launcher with three launch tubes.

Shahin I is a HE rocket. The rocket is forest green with two sets of green, white, and red stripes and a red and white tipped nose. Shahin II is a fin stabilized, high explosive rocket. It is part of a heavy artillery unit with a multiple nozzle firing system for use in a ground to ground attack and also in an air to ground rocket attack role. It is designed as a non guidance rocket in order to destroy enemy troop concentrations, installations and fortifications. The rocket is white with red fins and warhead with two sets of green, white, and red stripes.

The 240-millimeter Fajr-3 missile has a range of some 25 miles, and the 333-millimeter Fajr-5 missile has a range of about 45 miles. Production of the Fajr-3 missile was estimated to have started in 1991. Iran had for some time been manufacturing the Naze, similar to the Shahin series. Fajr-3 has the same caliber, range and warhead weight as three known North Korean systems

The Fagr-5 missile, which is launched from a mobile platform, reportedly has a range of between 60-70 kilometers. The missile was constructed by the Iranians, reportedly with help from North Korea and China. Like the Katyusha rocket and the Scud missile, however, at the limit of its range it is accurate only within a radius of around one kilometer. There are unconfirmed though plausible reports that Iran has tested a chemical warhead for the Fajr-5. In May 2006 it was reported that the improved Fadjr-5 rocket launcher system had four 333 millimeter calibers launch tubes. Before launching four hydraulic jacks are lowered to the ground to provide a stable fire platform. This kind of new chassis also enhances cross country mobility. The totally enclosed cab can hold the driver and two crew members. The platform also has another totally enclosed crew compartment behind the cab that may embark other crew members. The Fadjr-5 rocket launcher system has a primary mission of attacking ground targets. With the installation of a radar system, it also may have the ability to identify, track and attack sea borne targets.

The “Thirty- Bomb Rocket Truck” is designed and manufactured for quick and exact firing operations in any geographical condition and for destroying an adversaries motorized armored devices with the advantage of higher mobility. The weapon is mounted on Benz LA911. It is of high value because of its ability to move rapidly in both on and off-road conditions.

Iran is focusing on constructing medium range ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 1000km. This warrants the need for help from foreign nations, mainly North Korea and China, but it should be noted that Iran has the ability to produce missiles indigenously. North Korea and China are known to support the Iranian SCUD B and C programs with technology and maintenance.

Anti-Tank Weapons

Hizballah forces also field surprisingly advanced anti-tank guided missile weapons. These include tandem warhead systems capable of penetrating the reactive armor present on MBT’s, IFV’s and APC’s such as the Russian-made Metis-M, Kornet AT-14, and European-made MILAN anti-tank missiles. These weapons were used effectively against the Merkava MBT of the Israel Defense Forces inflicting greater than 20% of the 119 IDF battle related fatalities during the 2006 conflict.

tank-large
An Israeli Merkava main battle tank takes position in the southern Lebanese village of Marwahin near the Israeli border. Hizballah anti-tank missiles hit more than 50 Israeli tanks during fighting in July and August 2006.

israeli_tank

793kornet
The Russian-made Kornet AT-14 is a Syrian supplied missile capable of targeting armored vehicles & low-flying helicopters. The most portable versions of these weapons are carried in a fiberglass case with a launching rail attached to the lid.

Air & Naval Strike Weapons

Hizballah air defense systems are primitive compared to those deployed by adversaries. The group possesses some anti-aircraft weapons such as the ZU-23 artillery and man-portable shoulder-fired SA-7 and SA-18 surface-to-air missile (SAM).

One of the most effective weapons deployed by Hizballah has been the C-802 anti-ship missile, a variant of the Chinese Silkworm missile system. The IDF Navy had established a sea blockade of key Lebanese port facilities during the 2006 conflict. Hizballah launched a successful C-802 attack on the INS Hanit that led to the death of four sailors aboard the Sa’ar 5 corvette. Despite initial suspicions that a radar malfunction contributed to the success of the July 14 attack, Israeli experts said a glitch in the Elta Pulse Doppler surveillance system affected the detection range, not accuracy of the missile. And because the INS Hanit was sailing less than 10 miles from the Lebanese shore, the range-degraded radar would have detected the incoming threat had it been operated properly at the time of the attack. Also contributing to the success of the attack was the fact that other ship defenses, such as the U.S.-produced Phalanx and the Elbit Deceiver decoy control and launching system, were fully functional but languishing in standby mode the night of the attack.

Hizballah Intelligence Operations

According to Israeli and American sources, Hizballah operates three intelligence operations services. One unit is responsible for intelligence activities against Israel, primarily by recruiting and running agents in order to gather information about Israeli military bases and other potential targets and is also known to conduct signal interdiction and interception intelligence operations (SIGINT) against IDF communications assets.

According to Michael Eisenstadt, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Hizballah also has a unit called Unit 1800 which aids Palestinians engaged in their operations, by providing funding, direction, weapons, and bomb-building instructions.

In addition, Hizballah television station Al-Manarr airs programming designed to inspire suicide attacks in Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq.

Anti-American Activities.

According to the CIA, “Hizballah’s most active period of anti-American targeting occurred during the 1980’s and resulted in a very large number of U.S. casualties. Under the alias Islamic Jihad, Hizballah has been implicated in or is known to have carried out the truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (April 1983), the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut (October 1983, killing 220 Marine, 18 Navy, and 3 Army personnel), and the U.S. Embassy Annex in Beirut (September 1984). Hizballah also claimed responsibility for an April 1984 bombing that killed 18 U.S. service members in Torrejon, Spain. Of their strictly terrorist acts between 1994 and 2002, however, none has been directly targeted at U.S. citizens or assets.

However, some experts believe there may be resurgence in anti-American activity. For example, Singapore’s Internal Security Department claims to have foiled a Hizballah plot to attack U.S. shipping interests in the 1990’s. Moreover, Hizballah has pledged retaliation for the death of Ali Hussein Saleh, a Hizballah security official, for which the group blames both the United States and Israel.”

Hizballah in Iraq

Some experts have recently warned of Hizballah’s potential for “wreaking havoc” in post-war Iraq. Recently, U.S. military officers and strategic planners have begun comparing Iraq’s Shiite militias – especially the Mahdi Army – with Hizballah, the dominant Shiite militia and political party in Lebanon. Given the present course of relations, some say it would not be unreasonable to soon see the formation of a combined Shiite militia force in Iraq designated Hizballah backed by military, logistical, financial and diplomatic support from Iran.


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