Changing Relationship with Hezzbollah

Hezbollah is a powerful political and military force in Lebanon.  It is a Shiite organization and also has prominent connections to Iran and Syria and is seen as a resistance group to Israel. Originally founded as a guerrilla force against the Israeli dominance of Southern Lebanon, it first attracted attention for a bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Today it is more powerful than Lebanon’s official army. The large community of Shiites depends on the organization because they provide welfare. In 2008, Hezbollah gained a legitimate position within the government.  In 2011, the prime minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati revealed that members of Hezbollah, and also their allies dominated Lebanon’s government. Hezbollah has high control of the Lebanon’s international airport, smuggling routes along the Syrian border, and finances of various government agencies.

Hezbollah Flag

The United States relation to Hezbollah is one of opposition. It is very important to note that this viewpoint differs from that of United States and Lebanon. Politically, the US supports Lebanon and has aided in attempts to disarms militias around Lebanon and to end the conflict surround the border with Syria.  Additionally, the US has pledged over $1 billion in relief efforts from damages from Lebanon’s, 1975-1990, civil war.  Money has also been aided to give support to development programs dealing with education, public services and employment in more rural areas. To help escalate the importance of a civilian controlled military the US took part in the International Military Education and Training program in 1993.  Lebanon has a laissez-faire economy and they have signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States to support an increasing trade relationship.  With this positive relationship the two countries share, Lebanon’s associated militia group, Hezbollah has contributed to some set backs.

Hezbollah has a close relationship with Iran and Syria.  The United States views Hezbollah as a terrorist group and its financial foundation has made cause for much conflict. Due to Hezbollah’s relation with Iran and Syria those countries are it’s main source for financial backing. Iran is currently under financial duress due to its nuclear program and Syria is at civil war, therefore their aid to Hezbollah has diminished significantly.  However, Hezbollah’s legitimacy as a military and political organization is growing and in return its financial needs are also seeing a rise.  Due to this problem, a reliance on criminal enterprises is escalating.  In current news, The United States is accusing a Lebanese Bank of money laundering to support Hezbollah through drug trafficking money from South America.

The United States has accused Hezbollah of supporting the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and helping to get rid of those opposing the government within Syria.  The US stands in opposition to the government of Syria. Adding to the accusation, the US claims Hezbollah to have trained Syrian forces to continue out the president’s expulsion of opponents to his government from Syrians.

The complex makeup of Hezzbollah is one that is generally unknown to United States citizens. This is due in part to a focus on al-Qaida during the past decade while the United States observation of Hezbollah took a back seat. However, recently this relationship has changed and the US is paying much closer attention to the organization. In 2011, Hezbollah took down Saad Hariri and the Lebanese government. With Lebanon’s government dominated by Hezbollah members and allies, this relationship will certainly be one to keep a close eye on. The so-thought illegal work of Hezbollah is intertwined with the government of Lebanon and therefore their relationship with the United States.

(New York Times: Hussein Mall/ Associated Press)

6 thoughts on “Changing Relationship with Hezzbollah

  1. I find Hezbollah to be one of the main reasons that the relationship between the U.S. and Lebanon is lacking. You would think that Hezbollah would be willing to step back it’s power in order to allow the United States to assist Lebanon with development projects, but it seems as though they do not want any foreign assistance. Hezbollah is an extremely nationalist group, and to be honest has the capacity to run all of Lebanon’s military and government if they wanted to. Most Lebanese support them because they are looked at as the only hope for a revolution. A non-government run group such as Hezbollah that has such power over their country could come as a threat in the future and possibly lead to an overthrow of the government, and i’m sure that leaves some lebanese feeling uneasy.

    1. A couple of things to consider when discussing international relations in the region. Those that don’t care for Israel and the U.S. view them as “little satan” and “great satan”.

      Hezbollah does not particularly care for Israel and the U.S. is Israel’s patron saint. Allowing the U.S. to assist in Lebanon would be akin to the U.S. inviting Iran to Washington, D.C. to help with development.

  2. Hezbollah is supporting Bachar Asad because the revolution itself is not against the regime or the oppression, but it has further reasons and it is a result of outside intervention.

  3. It is indeed a very complex issue and i believe that this might remain one of the main issues that the students from GLC and from LiU might not be able to agree on. But let us start by saying that Lebanon is not Hezbollah and the Americans are not representatives of the Washington establishment. That being said, I must point Natalie to the fact that the Lebanese government maintains very strong relations with the American administration so even the issue off Hezbollah did not affect these ties and as I had told you in class our army is trained and equipped by the US.
    The lebanese society like any other is very diverse and the fact that an important part of its supports Hezbollah means that this part of society might not be inclined to maintain close ties with the US. Still, like any misunderstanding the story has to sides so let us hear them, discuss them and try to reach a some sort of middle ground agreement!

    1. Walid, you make an excellent point and this is in fact a great opportunity to engage in dialogue.

      Foreign policy knowledge in the U.S. is generally sorely lacking. Thus, when many people in the U.S. hear about organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas, they only think of them as terrorist organizations. And that is if they even recognize the names at all.

      It is difficult for many people in the U.S. to understand how these organizations that are branded as “terrorists” can branch off into legitimate political parties in their respective nations.

      1. Mark, I don’t even think there is room for the U.S. general population to question the criteria behind categorizing Hezbollah or Hamas as “terrorist” organizations when the media is saturated with the association between the entities and the adjective. It is almost automatic now. Once the media instigates fear in the people and unites them against a common threat (terrorism), people don’t think critically about “why”.

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