Following the 1982 invasion of Southern Lebanon by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the Iranian Revolutionary Guard began covertly establishing a small but coordinated Lebanese militia unit. Iran tasked this militia with repelling further Israeli offensives. Intensely Shiite-Islamic, the group called itself Hezbollah (“Party of God”) and was led by Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah soon established bases throughout Lebanon, but had the most visible presence in the Baka’a Valley and Beirut.
The group’s military tactics and strategies drew heavily on Iranian Revolutionary Guard doctrine. Hezbollah was able to carry out successful suicide-bombing campaigns against Israeli, Christian-Lebanese and U.S. targets. Largely coordinated by the late military commander Imad Mugniyah, Hezbollah dedicated itself to the repelling of Israeli hostilities, preventing Westernization and ultimately retaking Jerusalem. Hezbollah had established itself as a fully operational terrorist group.
More recently, Hezbollah has been quite successful in full-scale military endeavors. The group has launched terrorist attacks on Israeli and Western targets using mortar systems, Katyusha rockets, car bombs and small-arms. Perhaps the most notable of these attacks was the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. After the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah turned its attention to offensive “quality” operations inside Israel. Besides conducting their own attacks, Hezbollah actively supports many Palestinian terrorist groups such as Tanzim, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These support operations include weapons smuggling, cross-border infiltrations and financial support.
Hezbollah has been legitimized by regional government officials who list the group as an independent “resistance army”. Lebanon claims that Hezbollah has a legitimate duty of protecting Lebanon’s Shaba’a Farms region from Israel. Hezbollah was once also protected and supported by Syria. Much of this support dissipated, however, following U.S. and international demands that Syrian forces be withdrawn from Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s political aspirations grew following the early 2004 U.N. disarmament mandate. The U.N. Resolution 1559 called for the immediate disarmament of all Lebanese militias. Hezbollah soon began its push for political validity. Hezbollah was already a provider of civilian aid for hospitals, education and infrastructure. The group’s legitimate charitable operations have helped gain widespread support of Lebanese civilians, perhaps best evidenced by the 2005 election of 14 Hezbollah candidates to Lebanon’s Parliament.
The subsequent take-over of West Beirut in 2008 further empowered Hezbollah within the Lebanese government. The power grab allowed Hezbollah to gain parliamentary veto power. It is unclear, however, if Hezbollah’s brutal tactics have caused a decrease in Lebanese public support.
Iran continues to use Hezbollah as a proxy militia. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard now heavily supports Hezbollah through training and financial aid. Tehran directs a majority of Hezbollah operations although the group may also occasionally operate independently. Iran regularly uses Hezbollah terrorist operations to stir Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Iran often utilizes Hezbollah to weaken Israel’s ability to conduct daily governance.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard may now be applying these tactics on a worldwide scale. Hezbollah now operates training camps within the Andean Tri-Border Area which includes territories of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. These camps facilitate Hezbollah training, support and military operations throughout South America. Hezbollah uses funds gained from the regional narcotics trade to finance further operations in the Middle East and Latin America.
During recent interviews, Hezbollah operatives in South America stated their clear intention of carrying out operations within the U.S. if America commences hostilities against Iran. Utilizing narcotics routes, falsified documents and Iranian-provided weapons, Hezbollah states that it has the ability to attack the U.S. “within hours” if commanded to do so. The lingering threat of terrorist sleeper cells within the U.S. as well as Iran’s suspected WMD stockpiles make Hezbollah a particularly threatening operative group.