28.12.07

...Donc, Michel Sleiman n'a aucune chance...

Dissecting the 'Party of God'

By Fred Burton and Reva Bhalla

While the world obsesses this week over whether the ill-fated Annapolis conference will result in the ultimate Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the real political drama is taking place in Lebanon.

In Beirut, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, a renowned Syrian stooge, has stepped down, creating a political vacuum large enough to send the country back to its dark days of civil war. Hezbollah ("the Party of God") stands in the middle of this political battle, aiming to expand its power, ensure its long-term survival as a militant movement and serve Damascus' interests in selecting Lebanon's new president. Hezbollah intends to meet these objectives through force, and it already has plans to launch a government takeover should the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora act unilaterally and appoint a president.

The standoff in Beirut plays into the larger interests of Hezbollah's Syrian and Iranian patrons. Hezbollah was created by the Iranians and has been nurtured by the Syrians since the early 1980s. Though Tehran and Damascus have a deeply rooted strategic alliance, their interests often collide when it comes to deciding how Hezbollah is utilized as a militant proxy. So, while Iran wants Hezbollah to focus on the larger objective of bolstering itself as a model Islamist movement capable of defending Shiite interests in the wider region, Syria uses Hezbollah primarily to score tactical gains in its "Godfather"-like political feuds in Beirut. At the same time, Hezbollah is having its own difficulties selling the Lebanese public on the idea that it is an independent, nationalist resistance movement, rather than a simple pawn of the Iranians and Syrians. All of these factors put a great deal of stress on the Hezbollah leadership, which has come under intense pressure in recent months over how to handle the presidential crisis in Lebanon while balancing these competing interests.

At the end of the day, the Iranians have the most sway over Hezbollah's actions. As believers (to varying degrees) in the Vilayat al-Faqih concept, Hezbollah leaders largely see the group's relationship with Iran as religiously sanctioned, and one that must be honored at all costs. Iran keeps close tabs on the group's leaders and does not hesitate to make the necessary adjustments when it feels its interests are being challenged. It also does not hurt that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) markets 75 percent of the Bekaa Valley's heroin, on which both Hezbollah and Syria rely heavily for their finances.

The Hezbollah Leadership

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is Hezbollah's secretary-general and has been Hezbollah's most pragmatic and charismatic leader -- though his stature has exceeded Iranian limits, and his accommodating attitude toward Syria and Lebanese politics does not sit well with a number of mullahs in Tehran. Therefore, given that many actors, including Israel, want Nasrallah dead, Iran has jumped on that excuse to order him into hiding. As a result, he no longer attends Hezbollah meetings and has limited his contact with the party leadership and cadres. Needless to say, Nasrallah's influence over the organization's decision-making process has waned considerably, raising concerns about just how moderated Hezbollah's future actions will be.

Imad Fayez Mugniyah, nicknamed "the Wolf," is Hezbollah's strongman. He has alternately been described as the head of Hezbollah's security apparatus, as the group's chief of intelligence and as its chief of special operations. Mugniyah also has been described by sources as having one foot in Hezbollah and the other in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, indicating that his loyalty is to Tehran. He is credited with some of Hezbollah's deadliest attacks and kidnappings of the 1980s, including the April 1983 attack against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the October 1983 attack against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the June 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. After spending years in the shadows, Mugniyah, according to our sources, has re-emerged in Beirut's southern suburbs, where he is busy organizing cells of Shiite operatives from the Arab Gulf states to carry out retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests and pro-U.S. Arab governments in the event of war against Iran. With Mugniyah back in the game, Hezbollah once again is capable of staging major attacks abroad, allowing Iran to raise substantially the cost of a U.S. attack against the country. Mugniyah coordinates with Hashim Abu Fares, Hezbollah's main official in Iran, who does the group's dirty work by training and recruiting operatives for Iraq and for reprisal attacks in the Gulf states.

Wafiq Safa is Hezbollah's head of security. Safa is one of the founding members of the group and is highly trusted by the IRGC and Nasrallah. Since Nasrallah no longer attends meetings, he depends primarily on Safa for updates. Safa, who is a terse and paranoid leader, takes care of the group's security arrangements, doing everything from arming Hezbollah allies in Beirut to forging automobile license plates to sheltering Syrian agents in the city's southern suburbs. Safa constantly coordinates with Mugniyah and controls most of Hezbollah's centers in the Bekaa Valley. He is known to have an extensive surveillance system throughout the Bekaa, with all incoming and outgoing security reports passing through him.

Hussein Khalil takes the lead in shaping Hezbollah's political position and activities, as well as communicating with local political forces in Lebanon. He also acts as the group's primary liaison with Syria. Khalil works in collaboration with Sheikh Naim Qasim, Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general. Qasim is widely seen as a hard-liner in the organization and is far more willing to carry out Iran's bidding than to accommodate the Syrians, whom he deeply distrusts. His views toward Damascus consistently put him at odds with Nasrallah.

The Iranian Grip

Each of these key figures in the Hezbollah chain of command is closely watched by Tehran. After all, Iran needs to convince its adversaries in the region and in the West that it exerts control over its militant proxies' decision-making processes. Iran's IRGC oversees practically every aspect of Hezbollah's activities, and Hezbollah officials regularly travel to Damascus to receive instructions from the Iranian Embassy there. In addition to keeping Hezbollah close, Iran also expends a great deal of effort keeping watch over Syria's military command. For example, it regularly sends Iranian military delegations to Syria and gives Syrian officers intense training in Tehran on operating and maintaining long-range missiles. In fact, sources in the region report that Iran has significantly increased its control over Syria's long-range military arsenal, including its missiles, at a military base in the Shinshar area, south of the city of Homs.

This is particularly alarming news for anyone who has gotten on Iran's bad side. Longtime Stratfor readers are aware that the summer 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah resulted from an Iranian decision to have Hezbollah launch an artillery rocket into Haifa and force Israel into a full-blown conflict for which it was ill-prepared. With IRGC officers literally in control of Hezbollah's military arsenal and holding sway over Syrian military commanders, Iran's adversaries -- particularly Israel -- cannot be sure what provocations might be unleashed. It is a game of risk the Iranians are not afraid to play, particularly as they seek to bolster their leverage in negotiations with the United States over Iraq.

Hezbollah's To-Do List

With Iranian help, Hezbollah has wasted no time in recovering from last year's conflict and is preparing for its next military confrontation with Israel. For example, to form a special force, Hezbollah has recruited hundreds of young Shiite operatives from across Lebanon and is training them at Hezbollah centers around Wadi al-Nabi in the Bekaa Valley. Each recruit is paid about $335 per month and is expected to report for combat missions when called upon. Hezbollah also has been buying up Beirut apartments left and right in order to secure its supply lines in the southern suburbs, in the event of a showdown between its members and rival Lebanese factions.

Hezbollah is spending the bulk of its effort on rebuilding its positions and communications systems in southern Lebanon, where more than 13,000 U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) troops currently are based. As we discussed after the conflict, the UNIFIL presence in the South will not be an effective buffer between Israel and Hezbollah strongholds there and in the Bekaa Valley. UNIFIL no longer does thorough searches for weapons depots, and violations it reports to the Lebanese army -- which includes a large number of Shia sympathetic to Hezbollah -- often are ignored. As a result, Hezbollah has succeeded in building two large armored defense lines north of the Litani River, which are critical to the group's strategy of pulling Israel into a protracted guerrilla war in the Bekaa in the event of another military confrontation. With UNIFIL troops just a few miles away, Hezbollah even had the chutzpah to stage large military exercises Nov. 5 north of the Litani. The maneuvers entailed Hezbollah fighters preparing missiles for launching and mobilizing village fighters on short notice. Hezbollah also was able to test the effectiveness of its communication systems between its paramilitary units and command centers along the river.

Though Hezbollah does not view UNIFIL as a critical threat to its operations, it still presents an obstacle that the group would rather see removed. Hezbollah, along with its patrons in Damascus and Tehran, remembers well that its attacks in 1983 drove U.S. and French forces out of the country. Hezbollah, however, is not jumping the gun to attack UNIFIL directly, as it is not yet ready to deal with the repercussions.

This is where Syria comes in.

The Syrians, via their military intelligence, have an artful way of transiting jihadists in and out of Syria -- operating a jihadist supply chain of sorts. Some of these jihadists turn up in Iraq, but lately a good number have turned up in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, particularly the Ain al-Hilweh camp outside Sidon. Many of those recruited at Ain al-Hilweh are coming from the now-defunct Fatah al-Islam movement. Their mission is to undergo training for a military campaign against UNIFIL troops. Two such attacks already have occurred -- a June car bombing that killed six members of UNIFIL's Spanish battalion and a July attack against a U.N. military police observation post involving the Tanzanian contingent. And this is only the beginning.

With Hezbollah preparations in full steam and Lebanon teetering on the brink of civil war, this theater is just waiting to explode. The controller of the time bomb, however, likely is sitting in Tehran.

11 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

Ton post est trop long.
En plus, tu gardes la grande typo du site ou tu l'as copié.
Je ne pense pas que trop de lecteurs aient envie de lire jusqu'au bout.
La prochaine fois, poste le lien seulement.
Ou synthétise le texte et signe le (...).
Mais ca serait trop dur, vu que tu ecris comme un zizi.

Anonyme a dit…

i agree with anonyme..

(...) a dit…

lis le et tais toi.

Anonyme a dit…

hihi :)
Ca t'enerve de savoir que tu ecris comme un zizi?

(...) a dit…

Non, je ne m'énerve pas facilement...
Pourquoi, tu écris avec ton zizi toi?

Anonyme a dit…

au moins j'ecris.
c mieux que copy-paste, non?

(...) a dit…

...tant que tu ne reflechis pas avec ton zizi, oui oui c'est mieux...

shrrr a dit…

euuuhhh
est-ce ke les niouzes est devenu un blog pornographique?
parceke mes parents ne me laiseront plus le lire :(((

anonime a dit…

vive le 3arak!

Anonime a dit…

Vive Abou 3ammar!

bech a dit…

juste a titre informatif, cette article est vraiment nul pour ceux qui veulent savoir deux trois trucs sur Hizbullah.

deuxio, qu'est ce que ca a avoir avec michel sleiman?