Terrorist Organization Hezbollah: Tactics and Strategies Research Paper
The events of September 11, 2001, undoubtedly forever changed the perception of terrorism among Americans. In post 9/11 America, the issue of terrorism has taken new relevance and counterterrorism measures have been given great significance. This is because successful counterterrorism measures result in the destruction of terrorist organizations at best or the mitigation of their powers at the least. For counter-terrorism measures to be effective, one has to know the tactics and strategies employed by the terrorist organization. From this, effective strategies to counter the efforts of the group can be employed therefore reducing the risk factor of the group. This paper shall engage in an in-depth analysis of the tactics and strategies employed by the Lebanese based terrorist organization, Hezbollah. Based on this, recommendations on tactics that counter-terrorism entities can employ will be made.
Tactics and Strategies of Hezbollah
Hezbollah employs several strategies and tactics which have resulted in the group surviving for decades. Horowitz (2008) credits Hezbollah with popularizing the use of suicide bombers amongst terrorists as a result of the success of the organization’s suicide attacks against the U.S. Marines barracks in 1983. Hezbollah, therefore, became the hub from which these terrorist tactics were proliferated to other groups in the Middle East and even into the South Americas. This tactic mainly relied on the brainwashing of the members of the group and romanticizing the idea of martyrdom for the greater good. Such radicalization resulted in the creation of fighters who were willing to die for the cause of the group.
One of the tactics that Hezbollah employs which set it apart from other terrorist groups is that it does not major in attacking civilian targets like other terrorist groups such as AL Qaeda and Hamas (Horowitz, 2008). Instead, Hezbollah concentrates its forces on military targets such as barracks or embassies which also harbor intelligence personnel. This tactic by Hezbollah is contrary to most other terrorist organizations which are characterized by making statements through violent acts that are bound to attract the attention of the public. This rationale results in most terror attacks being aimed at civilian rather than military targets since the impact is felt greatest if a large audience is obtained.
Gunaratna (2007) asserts that in the post 9/11 environment, ideology has become the center of gravity for the contemporary wave of extremism and terrorism. These ideologies are crafted by interpreting and misinterpreting religion and politics and are used in the recruitment and retention of members. Hezbollah utilizes ideology to indoctrinate its followers therefore cementing its support base. The group is infamous for its creation of CDs and literature that exhorts the listeners to strike at the US and Israeli interests all over the world. These sentiments demonstrate the determination of Hezbollah to strike on Western targets by its Islam extremist ideologies.
An important strategy employed by Hezbollah is veiling its operation in secrecy, which has resulted in the organization’s plans as well as the location of its top leadership being unknown. This secrecy is especially characteristic of Hezbollah’s security wing, which is composed of members who have military and intelligence knowledge. The military arm’s secretiveness can be attributed to the assassination risks posed by nations such as Israel. These fears are not unfounded, as can be demonstrated by the 2008 assassination of the Hezbollah paramilitary commander, Imad Mughniyeh.
One of the reasons why Hezbollah receives support from the local population as well as other international sympathizers is because of its purported fight against foreign occupiers. These occupiers include the United States and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Clarke and Knake (2008) propose that removing U.S. troops from a terrorist group’s territory will not only result in the reduction in support for the terrorist group but also eliminate anti-U.S. sentiments across the globe.
Part of the success of Hezbollah is as a result of its financial well being. The organization has a budget of over $100 million per year. If the finances of Hezbollah were restricted, it stands to reason that the organization would not be as successful. Hezbollah’s biggest and strongest supporter is Iran, a country which is rich in oil and mineral resources. The financial well being of Iran, therefore, has a direct bearing on Hezbollah. The imposition of sanctions and embargoes on Iran will, therefore, result in a reduction in the financial well-being of Hezbollah. This will reduce the power of the organization, therefore, decreasing its impact.
There have been talks aimed at integrating the Hezbollah forces with the Lebanese army, therefore, bringing about stability to Lebanon and negating the risk that Hezbollah poses as a result of its terrorist activities. However, these efforts have been hampered by the Iranian influence in the group. As a result of this Iranian affiliation, Hezbollah has taken on an extremist stance, which is in line with the standing of their major financiers, Iran. It, therefore, stands to reason that if the group was not as reliant on Iran for financial aid, its extremist nature could also be extinguished. The U.S. through its Department of Defense is known to offer financial aid to bolster anti-terrorist operations in South America as well as Asian continents (Clarke & Knake, 2008). By offering the same aid to Hezbollah, the organization would not be forced to rely on the funding of the Iranian government hence reducing the risk factor that the group posses to western targets.
As has been pointed out, Hezbollah has political and social affiliations, which mark it out as a unique organization that can champion the causes of the people. This organization has marked itself out as a force to reckon with in Lebanon by its various social-oriented projects aimed at assisting the underprivileged. The administrative wing of Hezbollah has received nationwide acclaim for its administrative duties as well as social tasks most significant of which has been its social services for widows. The group has also engaged in giving aid to the disabled and the building of hospitals and offering medical care at very low costs to the general population. These actions have greatly bolstered the strength of Hezbollah in the region. To counter such influence, the US must play the role that Hezbollah plays in the region. This means that the US should engage in humanitarian efforts in the Hezbollah strongholds to diminish the strengths of the terrorist organization. By use of setups such as the USAID which is an agency responsible for distributing and overseeing development assistance in overseas countries, the US can use “soft power to alleviate poverty and unemployment, both of which are powerful drivers for militant extremism” (Clarke & Knake, 2008, p.6).
Discussion and Conclusion
Speaking of the Al- Qaeda terror network, Clarke and Knake (2008) reveal that while eliminating this organization is an end objective, it should not be done in such a manner that it alienates the entire Muslim world. The same can be said for Hezbollah which is an organization deeply grounded in religious thoughts. When fighting the group, a full-blown attack will only result in counterproductive reactions among the people affected by the collateral damage that arises in the course of the attack.
As long as Hezbollah is perceived as a positive force by the Lebanese population, its influence and power are only likely to grow. For counter-terrorism agents to have an impact on Hezbollah, the social conditions which make it thrive such as poverty and perceived injustices have to be dealt with. In addition to this, the influence of Iran has to be countered for Hezbollah to be contained and eventually be eliminated.
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