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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hezbullah is not confined to Lebanon

Tony Badran reports that the Wikileaks documents released this week about Iraq explode the myths that Hezbullah's activities are confined to Lebanon and that Hezbullah is not a state actor.
The classified military documents obtained by WikiLeaks, which disclose Hezbollah’s role in Iraq under the direct command of the Iranian regime, may not be particularly surprising or even groundbreaking. However, they serve as a reminder of the reality of Hezbollah – all myths aside – as a brigade of the Islamic Revolutionary guard Corps. They also help keep in focus the nature of the strategic threat facing the US in the region: the alliance system led by Iran.

Fans of Hezbollah in the Western media are fond of asserting that the Party of God has become “Lebanonized.” Consequently, and contrary to claims by the US, according to this view the group does not possess “global reach” and has long stopped being involved in attacks against American targets, being focused instead on the narrower issue of Lebanon’s territorial dispute with Israel.

The documents, published by The New York Times, detail, among other things, Iran’s and Hezbollah’s direct operational involvement in training and supplying militias in Iraq. As such, they chronicle yet another chapter in the ongoing, decades-long war by the Iranians against the US in the region – a war in which Hezbollah has been the spearhead.

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This leads to the implosion of another myth, popularized especially in the last decade, and that is the notion of “non-state actors,” which is how Hezbollah is often referred to. However, it’s always been clear that the group and its mission were very much a state enterprise.

For instance, after the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, the US understood that this was an act of war by the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Indeed, when President Ronald Reagan asked the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up target lists for retaliation, they included “the Syrian defense ministry and other command targets in Syria” as well as “selected ‘snatches’ of Syrian officers based in Lebanon who had helped carry out the operation.”

It was in that vein that former ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, called in 2008 for using “military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we’re not going to tolerate this.” Yet the US did not pursue that option in 1983, nor has it done so today. That has allowed states such as Iran and Syria to strike at American targets without fear of retaliation. So much so, in fact, that, as detailed in the French Le Figaro on Monday, Syria feels confident enough to host Hezbollah arms warehouses on its own territory.

Instead of making clear the exorbitant price of such actions, we have come to entertain myths about the transformative powers of diplomacy that would ostensibly “incentivize” America’s adversaries to adopt more “constructive” behavior. Similarly, the myth of a “Lebanonized” Hezbollah persists, as does the legend of it being a “non-state actor,” when all evidence shows that it continues to be what it always has been: a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

It's a pity that Reagan didn't hit Iran and Syria in 1983.

Read the whole thing.

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