Counter-Terrorism: Captured Hizbollah Speak Freely


August 12, 2006: Israeli operations in Lebanon over the last month has resulted in over a hundred Hizbollah operatives being captured alive, and the ability to interview Lebanese who used to work with the Israelis, or are just willing to talk (because they are Druze or Christian, both of whom are a minority in southern Lebanon, and not well treated by the majority Shia.) Interrogations of these Hizbollah prisoners, reveals nothing dramatically new. For example, the prisoners made it clear that Hizbollah never considered Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 anything but a victory for Hizbollah. Back in the 1980s, the Israelis had established a security zone in southern Lebanon, where they hired Lebanese security personnel to help keep terrorists from moving in, via Lebanon, to fire rockets into Israel, or try and enter to carry out terrorist attacks. Hizbollah, like it's patron and paymaster Iran, is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Hizbollah kept attacking the security zone, in the guise of "liberating occupied Lebanese territory." While Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon as a peace gesture to Lebanon (and Israeli voters, who were unhappy with the Israeli soldiers getting killed and wounded), it was with the understanding that Lebanon would do what everyone knew most Lebanese wanted, disarm Hizbollah. That didn't happen. Not enough Lebanese politicians were willing to risk another round of civil war to disarm Hizbollah, especially 30,000 Syrian troops inside Lebanon. But since the Lebanese were able to get the Syrian soldiers sent back home last year, the pressure has increased on Hizbollah to stop being outlaws.
As the Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000, many pro-Israeli Lebanese went with them, fearful of Hizbollah terror. These Lebanese were right, as Lebanon backed down when Hizbollah gunmen quickly swarmed all over the former Israeli security zone. However, Hizbollah did back off itself, when pressured by the Lebanese government and the UN, and agreed not to launch terror attacks into Israel. At that time, that would have brought the Israeli troops right back into southern Lebanon.
But the recently captured Hizbollah gunmen, including at least one who took part in the July kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in northern Israel, described how, ever since 2000, Hizbollah has been training more fighters, building bunkers and moving weapons into southern Lebanon. While much of this was visible to outsiders, no one know exactly what Hizbollah was up to. Attacking Israel made no sense, as Israel has far more military power than Hizbollah. While Hizbollah could win some kind of "pretend" (propaganda) victory by attacking Israel, before long, Hizbollah would be severely damaged, possibly even destroyed. And a weakened Hizbollah was an organization more vulnerable to attack by the majority of Lebanese (who were not Shia) who resented this autonomous Shia terrorist organization controlling the southern portion of their country.
The prisoner interrogations made it clear that Iran was very much involved with Hizbollah, including training Hizbollah people in Iran. Convoys of Hizbollah trainees drove to Syria, boarded aircraft at military airbases, and flew off to Iran. Back in Lebanon, Hizbollah run schools that stressed religious instruction, and hatred of Israel and other non-Moslem states. While Hizbollah has lots of weapons and money, it apparently believes its greatest power is the hatred and dedication generated by its members. Not very practical, but pretty terrifying. In the end, however, the Islamic extremism of Hizbollah was seen as alien by most Lebanese (who were never noted for their religious fanaticism). The fact that Iran and Syria were propping up Hizbollah was not popular either. Now, the last straw appears to be Hizbollah going to war with Israel, and bring a rain of smart bombs on Lebanon. The Hizbollah prisoners know that their hero status in Lebanon will be short lived, and that eventually the Lebanese Shia community, the backbone of Hizbollah support, will be called to account. For that reason, many Hizbollah employees are sending their families to Syria, an exile that may prove permanent.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close