Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For Those Who Claim Hezbollah Is Just A Militia Defending Lebanon Against Israel

Question: What is Hezbollah doing out of Lebanon?
Just as Egypt’s judiciary handed down convictions in the case of a Hezbollah cell that it uncovered, reports surfaced that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps cell had also been broken up in Kuwait.
That comes from Tony Badran, writing in Now Lebanon. Badran sees a trend:

This type of Iranian action, while hardly new, is a harbinger of what’s to come once Tehran, which is seeking hegemony over the Middle East and senses an American retreat from the region, crosses the nuclear threshold. It also highlights the precariousness of any containment policy against Iran and its regional proxies.

Based on the history of Hezbollah, it is clear that its interests go beyond Israel:
Kuwait has had something of a history with Iran and Hezbollah. In the 1980s, Kuwait suffered attacks and two infamous airliner hijackings at the hands of Hezbollah (in cooperation with the Iraqi Al-Daawa Party) and Imad Mugniyah, the man who would head the party’s external operations network until his assassination in 2008. 

After Mugniyah’s assassination, a commemoration rally was held for him in Kuwait, praising his legacy and absolving him of any wrongdoing against the state. Shia parliamentarians involved in the rally were expelled from their parliamentary bloc and placed in custody on suspicion of belonging to the Kuwaiti Hezbollah. The Kuwaiti authorities deported foreigners who had participated in the rally, which reportedly included Bahrainis, Lebanese and Iranians. 

The episode led to an intimidation campaign against Kuwait in Lebanon. Its embassy in Beirut came under bomb threat (followed by a telephone call from a Hezbollah official assuring the diplomats that they would be safe!). This led to a Kuwaiti government travel advisory warning its nationals to avoid Lebanon. And just to make sure the Kuwaitis showed respect to Mugniyah, a massive portrait of him was placed on the embassy’s wall by Hezbollah supporters. 

While it’s unclear whether the Kuwaiti cell indeed extended to Bahrain and the UAE, Bahrain has also been subject to subversive activities in recent years. On the eve of the Gaza war of 2008-2009, the Bahraini authorities announced the arrest of a group of Shia militants who had received training in Syria, accusing them of planning terrorist attacks during Bahrain’s national day celebrations. 

At around that time, on December 19, 2008, a massive rally was held in Manama at the call of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. The aim was to pressure Arab governments into helping end Israel’s blockade of Gaza. A few days later, the Gaza war started. 

As for the UAE, it followed Kuwait’s lead by deporting foreigners, especially Lebanese Shia. Starting in summer 2009, scores of Shia were suddenly expelled. A representative of those expelled linked the deportations to being “part of a community that supports the Resistance.” What prompted these expulsions remains unclear. However, given the role of Hezbollah’s networks in Iran’s regional activities, the decision was not particularly surprising.

Hezbollah's role as a puppet of Iran should not be either.

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