ATbar Hezbollah in 2011
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Hezbollah in 2011

26/01/2012 | by Multiple Authors  

By David Fankhauser and Olivia Lichaa, Research Assistants, ICT

Introduction

The year 2011 has been both a busy and critical one for Hezbollah both inside Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East, in light of the historic events that have taken place in the region. The most important news was made inside Lebanon where tensions culminated on 12 January 2011, when the government collapsed after Hezbollah, along with its allies, resigned their cabinet positions. The resignations followed allegations over Hezbollah’s involvement in the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others was expected to indict members of the Shiite militant group, a decision that many feared would refuel sectarian violence in the area, similar to 2008, when sectarian fighting in Lebanon left 81 dead and nearly plummeted the country back into a civil war.

Hezbollah urged the Prime Minister to reject the tribunal’s findings, claiming they were the product of a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy. However Prime Minister Saad Hairi, Rakif Hariri’s son, refused, a decision President Obama commended. This refusal sparked accusations by Hezbollah and its allies that Saad Hariri “bows to the West” – a charge that drove an ever larger wedge between the country’s fragile coalitions.

The Hezbollah ministers timed their resignations to correspond with Prime Minister Hariri’s visit to Washington, forcing him to meet with President Obama as a “caretaker prime minister” and throwing his diplomatic visit into a spiral of desperation and confusion. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Hezbollah’s measures "a transparent effort ... to subvert justice and to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."[i]

As it stood before the collapse, the 14-month old government was already comprised of an unlikely partnership of rivals: the Western-backed coalition led by Hariri’s son, joined with Hezbollah and its allies.[ii] The latter, heavily supported by Syria and Iran, is thought to have an arsenal larger than that of the Lebanese National Army, a fact that is clearly alarming to the U.S. and Israel who have worked together to strengthen Lebanon’s central government following the 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that devastated the country. Despite the earnest effort of bolstering Hariri, the U.S. remained concerned about the Shiite militant groups involvement in the balance of power inside the country, including their extensive arsenal provided by Syria and Iran.

Hariri formed the national unity government in November 2009 after narrowly defeating the Hezbollah-led opposition, however the government has hardly worked together, meeting for a total minutes rather than hours, due of the friction over the U.N. Tribunal dispute.

The resignations were ultimately triggered by the failure of talks between Syria and Saudi Arabia, aimed at finding common ground regarding publication of the U.N. findings. The success of these talks would have been heralded as an Arab breakthrough rather than a success of Western influence in the region. In spite of Hariri’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, his alignment with the U.S. position regarding the U.N. tribunal was ultimately regarded as the catalyst for the resignations of the Hezbollah ministers, who claimed Hariri has turned his back on the Syrian-Saudi efforts at compromise.

Elsewhere in the region, Hezbollah was discovered to be involved in fomenting unrest during the “Arab Spring” by both antagonizing Bahraini leaders and supporting protesters in the island nation. In Syria however the group stood firmly behind patron and ally Bashar Assad during his ongoing efforts to put down the revolt inside his country. In Europe, North America, and South America, the group was either suspected of or indicted for criminal conspiracies that included: assassination, money laundering, drug smuggling, weapons smuggling and counterfeiting.

LEBANON

Rafik Hariri Assassination

On 14 February 2005, Hariri was killed by a car bomb in central Beirut as his vehicle drove along the seafront. Twenty-two others were killed, including his bodyguards. Hundreds more were injured. On the morning of 14 February, Hariri attended parliament, then went to a café where he talked with a UN official and some journalists. At around 12:50pm, he departed the café in a six-vehicle convoy. Three of the vehicles in the procession, black Mercedes, used high-powered signal jamming devices to prevent a remote-control detonated bomb. Hariri was traveling on a route he had only traveled on three times in the previous six months, as his security officials varied his route often for his safety. The steps that his security team took indicate that there must have been inside knowledge of Hariri’s route. This, along with the fact that Hariri was killed by a roadside bomb, indicated that there was a high degree of pre-meditation to the attack, likely from Lebanese security forces.[iii]

Who was responsible? It was widely believed that Hezbollah and Syria planned the assassination in response to Hariri’s opposition to Syrian influence inside Lebanon. In response, Hezbollah and Syria blamed Israel.

United National Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)

On 13 December 2005, Lebanon requested the United Nations form a “court of international character” to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. The Security Council voted on the final resolution, UNSCR 1757, to establish the Tribunal on 10 June 2007, with a mandate to prosecute those responsible for the attack that killed Hariri and 22 others. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction could be expanded if a connection was found between the aforementioned attack and other attacks that occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005; these attacks were other high-profile assassination attempts. Article 1 of the STL Statue specifies the factors that were to be used to determine if there was a connection between the attacks. They were listed as follows: criminal intent or motive, purpose of the attacks, nature of the victims targeted, patterns of the attacks (modus operandi), the perpetrators. The STL handbook noted that its mandate was the narrowest of any international or hybrid tribunal established to date. The court sat in the Netherlands, with an office in Beirut, but was set to apply mostly Lebanese law. There were 11 judges: seven international and four Lebanese.[iv]

 

March 8 and March 14 coalitions: a divided Lebanon

Following the Rafik Hariri assassination, Lebanon’s political parties and most of the general population split into two groups: The March 8 pro-Syrian coalition and the March 14 anti-Syrian coalition. The March 8 coalition openly viewed the STL as a biased system led by co-conspirators Israel and the United States. The March 14 coalition, supported by the U.S., accused Syria and Hezbollah of involvement in the assassination, with the latter planning to take over Lebanon in a military coup.

The name ‘March 8’ dates back to mass demonstration in downtown Beirut on March 8, 2005 in response to the Cedar Revolution (uprisings following Hariri’s assassination that called for withdrawal of Syrian troops and Syrian-influenced government from Lebanon). It has been the ruling coalition in Lebanon since the January government collapse.

 

A New Government Forms

On 13 June 2011, amidst the ever-present fear of sectarian violence, Prime Minister Najib Mitaki, a Lebanese billionaire, announced the formation of his new Cabinet. The majority of the new Cabinet members came from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition. The March 8 coalition took 18 of 30 parliament seats, eight more than it’s previous 10 seats in the old government. Members of the new Cabinet included: Mohammad Safadi as Finance Minister, Marwan Charbel as Interior Minister, and Samir Moqbel as Deputy Prime Minister. Following the announcement, State Minster Tala Arslan, a Druze leader, resigned from the new government, saying he had no faith in Mitaki’s ability to lead the government.[v] (Bloomberg)

Hariri and his pro-Western Future Movement said they would not take part in any administration led by Hezbollah and it’s allies. Mitaki responded by saying:

“I have a friendship with Hezbollah and I also have contacts outside of Lebanon, but it doesn’t mean I follow anyone’s agenda…My own agenda is going to be followed and that agenda is to maintain very good relations with the international community, and Lebanon has to fulfill its commitments.”

 

The leader of Hezbollah’s bloc in parliament said he had not pressured Mitaki to fill any of the positions with Hezbollah members or influence his position on the U.N. Tribunal.[vi]

 

30 June 2011 Indictments

On 30 June 2011, the STL named senior Hezbollah members involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, issuing four arrest warrants. The decision, though not a surprise to anyone, was expected to spark sectarian violence inside Lebanon as Hezbollah members promised retaliation if implicated in the assassination. The Tribunal submitted its indictments and warrants to Lebanon’s prosecutor-general, and Lebanese authorities had 30 days to arrest those named. If Lebanese authorities failed to do so, the Tribunal would then publicize the indictments and summon the suspects before the court. Analysts feared the authorities were powerless to produce the suspects.[vii]

On 17 August 2011, the Tribunal publicized their 47-page indictment after the Lebanese authorities failed to arrest the suspects. One of the suspects was Mustafa Badreddine, a Hezbollah commander and the suspected bomb maker responsible for the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans. The other suspects were Salin Ayash (Abu Salim), Assad Sabra, and Hassan Anise (who changed his name to Hassan Issa). Hezbollah once again denied all involvement in the assassination, saying it would not turn over the suspects, blaming Israel for the assassination and calling the STL a conspiracy by the U.S. and Israel.[viii]

In the indictment’s preamble, prosecutors admitted they had no definitive evidence linking the men to the assassination, but said they worked off of circumstantial evidence that worked “logically by inference and deduction.” Much of the evidence appeared to have relied on a series of cell phone calls with pre-paid calling cards between the suspects, which ceased two minutes before the attack and then were never used again. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who has often doubted the security of Lebanon’s telephone network, claimed Israel bugged the Hezbollah members’ cellular phones, causing them to make false phone calls.[ix]

Alleged Syrian Involvement

In its early stages, after a fact finding mission, the Tribunal suspected top-level Syrian security officials were behind the attack. The mission implicated security forces in Lebanon, who were effectively under Syrian control, for not tracking down the killers effectively. The nature of the attack pointed to that fact that those responsible were likely members of the Lebanese security forces with inside and prior knowledge about Hariri’s route. Given the Syrian control over those forces, and Hariri’s growing discontent with Syria, fingers were immediately pointed towards Syria.[x]

In early September 2010, Prime Minister Saad Hariri apologized for implicating Syria in the assassination, saying the charges were politically motivated. "We assessed the mistakes that we made with Syria, that harmed the Syrian people and relations between the two countries," Hariri told the newspaper.[xi]

Middle East

On 17 December 2010, after municipal workers confiscated his cart and harassed him, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest. The self-immolation sparked protests within Tunisia that expressed the frustration of a populace facing increasingly fewer opportunities in their home country as well as extensive public corruption. Eventually this grassroots movement called for and ultimately forced the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Alli. Successfully removing a ruler who had been in place for over 20 years served as a catalyst for further civil unrest and protests in the Middle East. Major protests have hit Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the Israeli border. Peaceful protests culminated in the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt with an iron fist for over 30 years. The downfall of the Mubarak regime was perhaps the high water mark for the peaceful movements throughout the region and ushered in a more violent incarnation of civil unrest. An armed uprising has taken place in Yemen, a civil war broke out in Libya and Syria started to crack down on domestic opposition with increasingly brazen violence.

Hezbollah has historically framed itself as a resistance movement, in place to protect Lebanon against Israeli aggression in the southern part of the country. This helped the group grow in popularity and allowed it to be the only militia to retain its arms after the Taif accord ended the Lebanese civil war. Over time, the Shiite movement has become increasingly partisan. At its core, Hezbollah wants to further a version of Political Shiite Islam that rose to prominence during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Set up with help of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Core (IRCG), and still reliant on the group as its primary patron, it has become Iran’s most successful proxy. Over the years it has fallen surprisingly in-line with Teheran’s strategic objectives in the region. During the “Arab Spring” Hezbollah’s stance was marked by astonishing hypocrisy for a resistance movement.

Throughout the initial phases of the Arab spring, particularly with the uprisings in Egypt and Bahrain, Hezbollah vociferously backed the attempts of protesters to throw off the shackles of their respective governments. This should not have come as a surprise. As they say in the Middle East: “There is no tax on words.” Backing the initial phases of the revolutions was in Hezbollah and Iran’s interests. Sunni Egypt has long been a foe of political Islam in general and Shiite Iran in particular. It could also have been interpreted as revenge for Egypt’s tacit backing of Israel in its 2006 War with Hezbollah. Nevertheless the world took notice of the groups show of support and solidarity.

This very public support continued in Bahrain when Hezbollah condemned the crackdown by government forces. Bahrain is a small island nation in the Persian Gulf linked by highway to Saudi Arabia. A minority Sunni Royal Family rules the Shiite majority. Iran sought to support the Shiite population, and in fact fomented much of the trouble. Saudi Arabia in turn felt a need to respond on the part of the Sunnis, aiming to keep Iranian influence beyond the Persian Gulf at bay.[xii] In a letter to the UN Secretary General on 17 April 2011, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister accused Hezbollah of attempting to overthrow his government, claiming the group had trained Bahraini citizens in its camps as well as met with facilitators to formulate strategies. He also criticized the incendiary statements made by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.[xiii] Several news outlets throughout the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council have also linked the troubles in Bahrain to Hezbollah and the Iranian IRCG[xiv].

The potential overthrow of the Sunni rulers in Bahrain was perceived as a direct threat by Saudi Arabia, who feared that it would inspire the Shia minority within its own country[xv] to attempt a similar undertaking. In the end, the Saudis intervened militarily in Bahrain, sending it’s military in to shore up support for the beleaguered Ruling Family. Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the Saudis vigorously and summed up his views during a speech:

Why is the movement [in Bahrain] condemned and the injured accused? Just because they are Shias? We've always been with the Palestinian people, but the sect of the Palestinian people was never an issue for us. Nobody asked about the confession and sect of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples; we have an obligation to stand by the downtrodden. Iran stood by the people of Palestine, Tunis, Egypt, and Libya; was this based on secular considerations? I find it very weird to hear some people calling on Egyptians to take to the streets, Libyans to kill Gaddafi, but when Bahrain is involved, their ink dries out, and their voices dampen[xvi]

 

As the unrest in the region spread to Syria, Hezbollah’s stance changed markedly. Responding to the violent crackdown in the country, which had taken place over several months, Hassan Nasrallah gave a major speech via live video link. In it he defended President Bashar Assad, urging Syrians to support the regime. Nasrallah condemned recent sanctions that had been enacted against the Syrian government by the United States and the European Union, and affirmed Hezbollah’s support for Assad, who at that point had already been accused of killing in excess of 1,000 of his countrymen since the March uprising began.[xvii]

It is well known that Syria Iran and Hezbollah are closely aligned in the Middle East. Hezbollah and Iran depend on Syria as a critical buffer between the two nations, allowing Iran to support Hezbollah by shipping weapons through Syria, enabling the Islamic Republic to maintain a semblance of deniability. There has been mounting evidence this year that Hezbollah and Iran are nervous about Syria’s ever increasing instability. Although officially Iran and Hezbollah view Assad’s fall as unlikely[xviii] both countries have done their utmost to bolster the Syrian president, with some reports even claiming that Hezbollah and the IRCG helped Assad physically put down some of the uprising in Syria.[xix]

Other signs of Hezbollah’s heightened worry about the possible collapse of the Assad regime came early this year when it was reported in June that Western Intelligence agencies had detected widespread efforts by the group to repatriate arms including hundreds of missiles from Syria to the Bekka Valley.[xx] While all accounts indicate that Hezbollah is not panicking about the situation in Syria, the group has clearly taken the unprecedented step of hedging its bets in case regime change befalls its critical ally. However, these steps may not suffice should Assad lose power to a Sunni led government, which would surely be less accommodating to Iran.

Growing Sunni-Shia tensions as well as Turkey’s desire to take a more active leadership role in the Sunni world led it to take steps towards stopping Iranian arms smuggling earlier this year. The Turkish government intercepted an overland arms shipment on its way from Iran to Syria on suspicion that it was destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. A similar incident occurred in March when Turkish authorities confiscated automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars on an Iranian cargo plane bound for Syria, after Turkey forced the aircraft to land while overflying its territory.[xxi]

While the situation along the blue line—Lebanon’s southern border with Israel—had been relatively calm since 2006, skirmishes between the Israeli army and Lebanese army in 2011 heightened fears that border violence could escalate into another conflict. Though Hezbollah was largely uninvolved, they condemned “Israeli aggression.” Though the skirmishes marked the only serious conflict between Israel and Lebanon in 2011, Hezbollah rhetoric regarding Israeli oil discoveries in the Mediterranean offered a glimpse into future tensions between the group and Israel. Hassan Nasrallah claimed the oil lies in Lebanese waters and warned Israel not to steal Lebanese resources; Israel claims the deposits fall within Israeli waters, however no official maritime border between the two nations exists.[xxii]

Elsewhere in the region, supreme allied commander of NATO, Admiral James Starvidis, testified in March before the United States Senate, that NATO had detected both al-Qaida and Hezbollah presence among the rebels in Libya.[xxiii] This report went largely un-noticed and was never confirmed, however, after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, reports began to emerge of ‘discreet’ Iranian assistance to the rebels. Though few details were available, Hezbollah has frequently been used by Iran in this capacity in the past.

Inside Lebanon in late 2011, reports emerged that Hezbollah was able to identify 10 CIA officers and a spy ring operating inside the country[xxiv], marketed as a major victory by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Europe

Reports emerged in July that a May 2011 bomb blast in Istanbul, which was originally blamed on the Kurdish PKK—a group Turkey designates as terrorists—, may have actually been the work of Hezbollah. Citing evidence from Washington, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that the explosion was an attempt by Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah to assassinate Israeli Consul General to Istanbul Moshe Kamhi. The paper cited retaliation for the alleged assassination of Iranian nuclear physicist Masoud Ali Muhammedi in 2010 as a possible motive.[xxv] It is well known that Hezbollah has been looking to avenge the assassination of Imad Mugnya since his death in 2008. Several attempts over the last year have been foiled, however it can be concluded the group will likely continue with attempts to lash out against Israel abroad when presented with the opportunity to do so.

North America

Hezbollah made news in North America on several fronts in 2011. Howard L. Berman, a United States Congressman, introduced the Hezbollah Anti-Terrorism Act in response the formation of a new Hezbollah backed government. The new act is intended to block American taxpayer funds from aiding Hezbollah or its allies. The bill was introduced with bipartisan support from Congressional members of Lebanese origin including Darrell Issa, Charles Boustany and Nick Rahall. Congressman Berman was quoted as saying:

The goal of the legislation is to ensure that none of our assistance to Lebanon benefits Hezbollah in any way. We certainly want to assist our friends in Lebanon—and we will—but we also want to make sure we don’t inadvertently help our enemies at the same time. The Legislation leaves ample room for both.[xxvi]

 

On 25 February 2011, Moussa Ali Hamdan, a Lebanese American dual citizen was arraigned in U.S. District court of Philadelphia. He was charged in a conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah, primarily through money, which was garnered through the trafficking of stolen and counterfeit goods. Indicted in 2009, Hamdan had been on the run until his arrests in Asuncion, Paraguay, near the Tri-Border area, and subsequent extradition. [xxvii]

In New York City, three people were charged by U.S. federal prosecutors with conspiring to sell heroin and purchase weapons for Hezbollah. The defendants attempted to procure military-grade weapons from confidential DEA agents, including: Stinger and Igla surface-to-air missiles, M4 and AK-47 assault rifles as well as ammunition. According to prosecutors these weapons were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.[xxviii]

Besides combating physical trafficking, United States authorities also moved on the finance front. In February, the United States Treasury accused the Lebanese Canadian Bank of laundering millions of dollars per month from cocaine traffickers tied to Hezbollah. The bank was blamed by the DEA and Treasury Department—who conducted a joint 5-year investigation—of failure to apply banking standards, as well as management complicity in the fraud, citing at least one person in the trafficking ring who worked directly for LCB.[xxix] In addition to the bank, the investigation included 30 auto dealers within the United States. Together, the U.S. Government alleges that these entities laundered more than 480 million dollars of illicit drug profits from Hezbollah’s distribution networks in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.[xxx] To date, this marks the most aggressive move by the United States to confront Hezbollah’s ever growing presence throughout the world, but particularly in the Americas.

South America

Iran has made a particularly aggressive effort to expand its reach and influence in Latin America in recent years. This trend continued in 2011 with reports of increased activity of both the Iranian government and Hezbollah throughout the continent.

The historic base of operations for Hezbollah in South America has been the Tri Border area (TBA), a frontier region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, situated close to the Iguazu Falls. The TBA has a long history of Arab and Asian migration and currently boasts a sizeable population of Lebanese heritage. The relative lawlessness of the frontier region has generally been exploited by Hezbollah backed criminal rings who use the area as a base of operation for counterfeiting, as well as smuggling operations of drugs and other paraphernalia. More menacingly, the TBA was used as a staging and planning point for the bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina. In 1992 and 1994, explosive devices destroyed the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA cultural center in Buenos Aires respectively. The attacks were attributed and traced to Iranians and Hezbollah members operating out of the TBA.

Venezuela has had increasingly closer ties with Iran and Hezbollah since the election of Hugo Chavez. Recently released information illustrated how Venezuela facilitates Hezbollah and Iranian activities throughout the region. Conviasa, a state owned Venezuelan Airline, has been known to Iran watchers for several years. Weekly flights operate primarily between Caracas, Teheran and Damascus, with a new flight to Beirut planned shortly. These trips use VIP facilities and allow passengers to skip customary visa and immigration procedures, something usually accorded only to diplomats. Conviasa cargo is handled directly by employees of the Iranian embassy in Venezuela. According to a secret budget leaked this year, Conviasa lost approximately $30 million between 2007-2009, demonstrating that these flights serve a purpose other than business. The bulk of the passengers are thought to be Iranian intelligence officials and Hezbollah operatives.[xxxi] Since 9/11 it has become increasingly difficult for hostile groups to cross international borders. This has been largely due to Western governments’ efforts to implement biometric passport requirements and visa restrictions. Examples like Conviasa undermine this effort and serve as a successful template to circumvent Western efforts to counter hostile groups.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, recently retired Peruvian army chief Francisco Contreras highlighted growing concern of Iranian backed activities in the Southern Cone. According to Contreras, Hezbollah is emerging from its operating area in the TBA and conducting its activities more openly in Venezuela,[xxxii] taking advantage of Hugo Chavez’s close ties with Iran.

In a similar vein, former ambassador Robert Noriega highlighted how Iranian operations in Latin America posed a growing threat to United States security:

It is well known that Hezbollah acts as a proxy for Iran — specifically, of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. These determined and deadly enemies of the United States have made substantial progress in the last six years to expand their influence and operations in Latin America. Their expanding activities are the result of a conscious, offensive strategy to carry their fight to our doorstep, which receives indispensable support from the regime of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.[xxxiii]

 

In later testimony Ambassador Noriega stated that Hezbollah currently has more than 80 operatives in 12 Latin American countries including Bolivia and Venezuela who allow the group to operate openly and freely. Hezbollah uses these operatives to both recruit and train members of its organization. According to further testimony, this is part of a deliberate Iranian strategy to expand its influence in the area in order to place pressure on the United States by operating in close proximity to its borders, as well as to erode American influence in the region.[xxxiv]

Conclusion

The finger pointing that followed the assassination of Rafik Hariri caused mounting tensions inside Lebanon, pitting opposing sides even further apart, and creating fear of possible crippling sectarian violence with which the country is all too familiar. The STL’s June indictments of four Hezbollah members, and their subsequent and expected denial of those charges, prompted many to fear retaliation from the group, who vowed it would do so if implicated. The government collapse in January paved the way for Syria and Hezbollah-backed parliament members to nearly double their seats, creating a seemingly irreparable rift between the March 8 coalition and Saad Hariri’s pro-Western Future Movement. The continuing fall-out over the Tribunal’s indictments will be a telling and decisive event in Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s activities outside of Lebanon were in large part characterized by their about-face in Syria, as illustrated by their support of Assad’s regime against the anti-government rebels, whereas in Egypt and Bahrain, the group backed the anti-government protests and condemned the crackdown by government forces. This double standard approach highlighted Iran and Hezbollah’s alliance with and reliance on Syria, as well its strong support of Shiite-backed regimes.

As seen by Hezbollah’s likely connection between to the May 2011 Istanbul bombing, it remains clear that Hezbollah’s aggressions towards Israel have not been side-lined by its various activities this year. The alarming nature of events surrounding the Venezuelan airline Conviasa, as well as its global money laundering network and increasingly close ties to criminal organizations in Latin America prove Hezbollah’s determination to remain prominent outside of the Middle East, creating a rising threat to United States security.

In spite of the Arab spring, a movement that threatened to challenge the long-standing status quo in the region, Hezbollah remains relevant, and in some sense stronger than ever. Its close ties with Iran will remain strong in spite of setbacks in Syria. Hezbollah’s expansion into the international arena will likely continue to mirror the ambitions of its Shiite benefactor. These facts highlight the importance of maintaining a close eye on Hezbollah activities both inside the Middle East and throughout the world at large.


Notes:

[i] "Lebanon Government Falls After Hezbollah Pulls Out." MSNBC, Jan 12 2011. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41039437/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/lebanon-government-falls-after-hezbollah-pulls-out/#.Tx4aLJhL-o9accessed 30/8/2011

[ii] After Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, the Shiite ministers in Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's cabinet resigned, leading to an 18-month political crisis and continual clashes between the Sunni and Shia population. At the height of the crisis in 2008, Hezbollah leaders seized control of Sunni neighborhoods in Beirut. This situation was diffused when the U.S.-backed March 14 coalition, which includes current Prime Minister Saad Hariri, appeased the powerful Hezbollah-led opposition and gave them what they wanted.

[iii] “Beirut Murder Mystery.” The Guardian, Jun 22, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jun/22/worlddispatch.syria accessed 30/8/2011

[iv] Handbook on the STL. International Center for Transitional Justice.

http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Lebanon-STL-Handbook-2008-English.pdf

[v] “Lebanon’s Mikati Forms New Cabinet With Hezbollah Support” Bloomberg, Jun 13, 2011

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-13/lebanon-s-mikati-forms-new-cabinet-with-hezbollah-support.html accessed 1/9/2011

[vi] ibid

[vii] “Q&A: Hariri Tribunal.” BBC, Jun 30, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12182326 accessed 30/8/2011

[viii] “UN Tribunal Publishes Hariri Indictment, naming four Hezbollah men as prime suspects.” Haaretz, Aug 17, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/un-tribunal-publishes-hariri-indictment-naming-4-hezbollah-men-as-prime-suspects-1.379118 accessed 1/9/2011

[ix] ibid

[x] “Beirut Murder Mystery.” The Guardian, Jun 22, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jun/22/worlddispatch.syria accessed 29/8/2011

[xi] “Hariri Says was wrong to accuse Syria over killing.” Reuters, Sept 6, 2010.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/09/06/us-lebanon-hariri-idUSTRE68510420100906 accessed 29/8/2011

[xii] George Friedman, “Bahrain and the Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia” STRATFOR Geopolitical Weekly, March 8, 2011 http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110307-bahrain-and-battle-between-iran-and-saudi-arabia, accessed 9/1/2011

[xiii] Bill Varner, “Bahrain Tells UN About Hezbollah’s Efforts to Topple Monarchy” Bloomberg, Apr 26, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-26/bahrain-tells-un-about-hezbollah-s-efforts-to-topple-monarchy.html, accessed 9/1/2011

[xiv] “Hezbollah linked to violence in Bahrain” yaLibnan, Mar 29, 2011, http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/03/29/hezbollah-linked-to-violence-in-bahrain/, accessed 9/3/2011

[xv] George Friedman, “Bahrain and the Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia”

[xvi] Hamid Dabashi, “Arab Spring Exposes Nasrallah’s Hypocrisy” Aljazeera, 22 Jun 2011 http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/2011618103354910596.html, accessed 9/1/2011

[xvii] “Nasrallah calls on Syrians to support Assad” Aljazeera, 25 May 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/05/2011525174748827942.html, accessed 9/1/2011

[xviii] Randal Slim, “Hezbollah’s most serious challenge” Foreign Policy May3, 2011, http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/05/03/hezbollah_s_most_serious_challenge, accessed 9/1/2011

[xix] “Israel believes Iran and Hezbollah aiding Syria crackdown” Haaretz, Mar 27, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/news/international/israel-believes-iran-and-hezbollah-aiding-syria-crackdown-1.352086, accessed 9/1/2011

[xx] Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, “Report: Hezbollah moving arms from Syria to Lebanon, fearing Assad’s fall” Haaretz, Jun 26, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/report-hezbollah-moving-arms-from-syria-to-lebanon-fearing-assad-s-fall-1.369612, accessed 9/2/2011

[xxi] “Turkey stops arms shipment to Syria” Associated Press, Aug 5, 2011, http://news.yahoo.com/turkey-stops-arms-shipment-syria-143326828.html, accessed 9/6/2011

[xxii] “Israel-Lebanon Oil Dispute Must Be Stopped Short of War-View” Bloomberg, Aug 19, 2011 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-16/israel-lebanon-oil-dispute-must-be-stopped-short-of-war-view.html, accessed 9/3/2011

[xxiii] Missy Ryan and Susan Cornwell, “Intelligence on Libyan rebels shows ‘flicker’ of Qaeda” Reuters, Mar 29, 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/29/us-libya-usa-intelligence-idUSTRE72S43P20110329, accessed 9/2/2011

[xxiv] Scott Shane “Hezbollah Station Identifies 10 Supposed C.I.A. Officers” New York Times, December 13, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/world/middleeast/hezbollah-station-identifies-10-supposed-cia-officers.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=hezbollah&st=cse accessed 1/1/2012

[xxv] “Report: Istanbul attack was attempted Hezbollah strike on Israeli envoy” Haaretz, Jul 18, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-istanbul-attack-was-attempted-hezbollah-strike-on-israeli-envoy-1.373873, accessed 9/3/2011

[xxvi] “New U.S. anti-terrorism legislation targets Hezbollah” The Daily Star, Jun 18, 2011, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2011/Jun-18/New-US-anti-terrorism-legislationtargets-Hezbollah.ashx#axzz1WiGhPGdC, accessed 9/3/2011

[xxvii] “Alleged Supporter of Terrorist Group Extradited from Paraguay” Press Release, FBI Field Office, Philadelphia Division. February 25, 2011.

[xxviii] Chris Dolmetsch “Plotters Sold Weapons, Drugs to Supply Taliban, Hezbollah, U.S. Charges” Bloomberg, Jul 27, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-26/u-s-charges-defendants-in-alleged-drug-terrorism-conspiracy-1-.html, accessed 9/3/2011

[xxix] “US accuses Lebanon-Canada Bank of Hezbollah links” Al Arabiya News, Feb 10, 2011 http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/02/10/137148.html?PHPSESSID=v944frchrq16sm3n92iqn53g, accessed 9/3/2011

[xxx] Jo Becker “U.S. Sues Businesses It Says Helped Hezbollah” The New York Times, Dec 15, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/world/middleeast/us-sues-american-and-lebanese-businesses-it-says-helped-hezbollah-money-laundering.html?ref=hezbollah

[xxxi] Roger Noriega, “Hugo Chavez’s Scary Anti-American Campaign Takes to the Skies and Stops Off in Teheran” Fox News, Jun 23, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/06/23/hugo-chavezs-scary-anti-american-campaign-takes-to-skies-and-stops-off-in/, accessed 9/6/2011

[xxxii] Yaakov Katz “Peruvian army vet warns of growing Iranian presence” The Jerusalem Post, Jul 25, 2011. http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=230825, accessed 9/6/2011

[xxxiii] “Hezbollah in Latin America: Implications for U.S. Homeland Security” Written Testimony of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega Before a Hearing of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Jul 7, 2011, available at: http://www.aei.org/docLib/20110707-Noriega-Testimony.pdf,

[xxxiv] Carlton Purvis “Examining Hezbollah’s Activities in the Americas” Security Management, Jul 8, 2011, http://www.securitymanagement.com/news/examining-hezbollah’s-activities-americas-008732?page=0%2C1, accessed 9/6/2011