Lebanon, Hezbollah and UNIFIL

Jul 23, 2010

Update from AIJAC

July 23, 2010
Number 07/10 #07

Following the revelation earlier this month by Israel security forces of specific details about Hezbollah military infrastructure in Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has initiated some confrontations between its supporters and the UN’s UNIFIL peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. These seemed to be designed to limit UNIFIL’s ability to uncover Hezbollah violations of UN resolutions. This Update looks at what appears to be happening in southern Lebanon.

First up, a backgrounder from the British-Israel Communications and Research Centre, BICOM, details both the Israeli revelations and  the history of the apparent Hezbollah clash with UNIFIL. It then looks at the implications of both these recent developments, concluding that Hezbollah has not only succeeded in rebuilding its military infrastructure in complete violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 Lebanon conflict, but has done so in a way which deliberately places the Lebanese civilian population in danger. Moreover, UNIFIL has not and cannot do much about this. For all the details, CLICK HERE. Also looking in detail at the implications of the same recent developments relating to Lebanon is Israeli scholar Dr. Jonathan Spyer.

Next up, American academic Stephen Cohen of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development says the UN and the Arab states now face a test to respond to the latest revelations about the Hezbollah build-up in south Lebanon in violation of Resolution 1701. He says if the UN does not respond, it will be revealed that guarantees such as those offered to Israel in 1701 as part of the end of the 2006 war are hollow. For the Arab states, he argues, they now have the opportunity to save Arab live by demanding Hezbollah move its infrastructure out of homes and villages and away from hospitals and schools, where casualties will be inevitable if Israel ever has to respond to Hezbollah rocket fire. For Dr. Cohen’s call for them to act, CLICK HERE.

Finally, Lebanon specialist Tony Badran looks at the ideology and slogans Hezbollah uses to justify its continuation as a militia after all other Lebanese militias have been disarmed. In particular, Badran focuses on Hezbollah’s concentration on the originally Iranian-devised slogan “Resistance, people, army” as the essential formula for Lebanese defence. Badran explains how this formula emphasising the “people” over the “state” as part of a conscious policy to distance the population from the state because, following the model of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah is establishing a parallel state apparatus with which it eventually hopes to supplaint the Lebanese government. For more on Hezbollah’s political effort to subvert Lebanon, CLICK HERE.

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BICOM ANALYSIS, 19/07/2010

Key points

  • Newly de-classified IDF intelligence has revealed unprecedented details of Hezbollah’s deployment in south Lebanese towns.  
  • Recent clashes between UNIFIL’s French contingent and residents of Shia villages in southern Lebanon have demonstrated the challenges in international monitoring of Hezbollah in south Lebanon.
  • The latest events shed new light on Hezbollah’s expanded military infrastructure south of the Litani River, in contravention of UN Resolution 1701. The new military infrastructure is deliberately centred on populated areas, placing the Shia population of south Lebanon in danger.
  • Placing military facilities in populated areas is a tactic that enables Hezbollah to side-step the presence of UN monitors and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
  • Lebanon is in a state of increased tension as the country awaits possible indictments by the Tribunal investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Growing tension between Hezbollah and French UNIFIL patrols may be related to this.


Recent events have shed new light on Hezbollah’s rearmament in south Lebanon. In the last few weeks, the IDF has issued de-classified intelligence material showing in unprecedented detail Hezbollah’s deployment in a south Lebanese town. There has also been increased friction over the last two weeks between UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) and Shia residents of south Lebanon. Organised protests by Shia villagers appear part of an orchestrated attempt by Hezbollah to prevent UN monitors from interfering in the origination’s activities.

These developments contribute to a picture that is causing deep concern in Israel. Hezbollah is now believed to have 40,000 short range rockets south of the Litani River, more than before the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah’s military infrastructure has been rebuilt, with its armaments now located within populated areas.  

Hezbollah’s reconstruction has taken place in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 war. This resolution specifically forbids Hezbollah from holding weaponry south of the Litani River. To enforce the resolution the size of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was increased to 12,000 troops, backed by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

Four years after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, the provisions put in place by 1701 have not prevented Hezbollah rearming. The weakness of the UNIFIL mission undermines the credibility of international monitoring forces to prevent the smuggling of weapons to extremist groups. This analysis looks at the recent developments, the shortcomings of the UNIFIL mission, and domestic developments which may be contributing to increased tensions within Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s rearmament

On 7 July, Israel Defense Forces revealed, in unprecedented detail, previously classified information about Hezbollah’s deployment in south Lebanon. The information released focused on El Khiam, a Shia town in south east Lebanon a few miles from the border with Israel. El Khiam was the scene of fighting during the 2006 war; the surrounding area was used by Hezbollah to launch Katyusha rockets at Israel. The IDF material included maps and a 3D simulated video of the village, showing that weaponry and rockets were being stored close to schools, hospitals and residential buildings.

The decision to release the material is interesting in itself. It shows the IDF’s growing awareness of the need to provide more public information about the challenges it faces.

Hezbollah’s weapons prior to 2006 were based mainly on areas of open countryside. However, since 2006 Hezbollah’s reconstruction has been in populated areas. This practice uses the civilian population of these areas as human shields, making it more difficult for Israel to attack Hezbollah’s military sites without risking civilian casualties. But the locating of ordnance in civilian areas is also a response to the presence of UNIFIL and the LAF.

UNIFIL is active and visible in south Lebanon, but its activities follow predictable patterns. The UN forces carry out 400 foot, vehicle and air patrols per day. These take place exclusively along recognised patrol paths in rural areas. Here the force has had some success in locating hidden weapons.

When it comes to populated areas, UNIFIL has the right to conduct searches, but it must coordinate this activity in advance with the Lebanese Armed Forces. The LAF, however, prefer to avoid entering populated areas, in order to avoid friction with Hezbollah. This means in practice that populated areas have become more or less out of bounds to the forces tasked with implementing resolution 1701. Such areas are therefore the ideal site for Hezbollah to rebuild its military infrastructure.

An explosion at a Hezbollah arms storage facility in the village of Tayr Falsir in October 2009 showed the extent to which Hezbollah is able to prevent interference from UNIFIL or the LAF. Hezbollah operatives sealed off the village after the explosion and removed weaponry from the site to another storage area to prevent it being seized. Throughout this process UNIFIL and LAF were not permitted to enter the area.

Recent tensions between Hezbollah and UNIFIL

Tensions between UNIFIL and Hezbollah have re-surfaced in the past weeks, the underlying issue remains UNIFIL’s restricted access to populated areas. On June 29, UNIFIL carried out a deployment exercise. In the following week, enraged civilian crowds demonstrated against a number of UNIFIL patrols. French troops were particularly singled out for attention. An angry crowd pelted a French patrol in the village of Touline with rocks, sticks and eggs.

A few days later, in the village of Kabrikha, 100 civilians gathered to prevent a French patrol from entering the village. The soldiers were reportedly disarmed by the crowd, and one was injured. Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon, described some of the incidents as ‘clearly organized’. There seems little doubt that the angry ‘civilian’ crowds who confronted the UN soldiers were organised by Hezbollah. The movement’s control of Shia villages in the south is complete, and its presence pervasive. Hezbollah leaders subsequently issued warnings to UNIFIL. The movement’s deputy leader Naim Qassem said that UNIFIL should ‘pay attention to what it does.’ UNIFIL’s Spanish commander, Alberto Asarta Cuevas, later apologised for the incidents. He promised that greater care would be taken in coordinating with the LAF into populated areas.

A number of explanations have emerged as to why Hezbollah chose this moment to escalate tensions. Firstly, Asarta Cuevas is considered to be a serious and professional commander. It is possible that Hezbollah wanted to demonstrate to him their authority in south Lebanon. However, Lebanese analysts have suggested other possible reasons.

The political situation in Lebanon is particularly tense because indictments may soon be issued by the Special Tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. It is widely believed that Hezbollah is the main suspect in the killing. France is known to be playing a particularly active role in supporting the tribunal. The attacks on French UNIFIL patrols could be an attempt by Hezbollah to intimidate the French, reminding them of the vulnerability of their soldiers. Hezbollah might also be attempting to assert its authority against its pro-Western political rivals within Lebanon. Samir Geagea, leader of the ‘Lebanese Forces’ party within the pro-Western March 14 coalition, reportedly suggested that French force may also have been targeted because of French support for sanctions against Iran.


Recent events offer further confirmation of a worrying situation in south Lebanon. Hezbollah has rebuilt its military infrastructure in a way which deliberately places the Lebanese civilian population in danger. The provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 have been progressively undermined, by a combination of subterfuge and intimidation. Hezbollah has been able to go about its business largely undisturbed. The organisation has also shown its determination to prevent any effective curbing of its activities. There is no mandate or political will in any UNIFIL member country for confrontation with Hezbollah. The present situation is a logical consequence of this. The result is that a new military infrastructure has emerged, deeply embedded in the populated areas of south Lebanon.

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Preventing the Next Lebanon War

Israel has released valuable intelligence on Hezbollah weapons placement. Will the U.N. and Arab governments act?


Wall Street Journal, JULY 20, 2010

Four years ago last week, Hezbollah launched a cross-border attack from Lebanon into Israel. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two reservists kidnapped. (They died sometime later, and their remains were subsequently returned to Israel in a prisoner exchange). This attack ignited a month-long war. Israel responded with an air, sea and ground campaign, while Hezbollah launched some 4,000 rockets and missiles into the Jewish state. Nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel died.

The summer 2006 war ended with United Nations resolution 1701, which imposed a blockade on weapons intended for Hezbollah and banned it from operating near the Israeli border. To implement its provisions, the resolution dispatched a U.N. peacekeeping force to Southern Lebanon which, as of April, numbers over 11,000 troops from 31 nations.

Israel recently embarked on an extraordinary form of deterrence against the possibility of a second Hezbollah war. Instead of engaging in a pre-emptive military strike, the Israeli military launched a public relations offensive. It broadcast and publicized highly detailed intelligence maps and aerial photographs depicting exactly where Hezbollah constructs and maintains missile and rocket caches, as well as command centers.

These maps show that Hezbollah’s bases are located in villages in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, in very close proximity to schools and hospitals. Its weapons are aimed at Israeli cities and civilian targets. If these missiles were to be launched, Israel would be required to defend its population by destroying the missile emplacements and depots.

“Hezbollah has worked to develop its readiness to rise to the challenge should it arise, and we can safely say that in the past four years we have prepared ourselves far more than Israel has,” the group’s second in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in an interview published last week in the Arabic-language daily An-Nahar.

The Hezbollah plan of deployment means that any Israeli military response to a massive missile attack on its civilian population will involve civilian casualties in Lebanon. Because of its deliberate placement of these weapons, Hezbollah is condemning Shiite villages to destruction.

The U.N. now faces the test of whether it will do anything to assure the legitimacy of its 2006 resolution. If the U.N. does not act against Hezbollah’s weapons caches, the resolution will be revealed as merely a stick with which to beat Israel and not the means to enforce the cease-fire the U.N. insisted Israel comply with to end the war.

Arab governments also face a critical test. By making its deterrence transparent, Israel is offering the governments of Syria, Lebanon and their Arab supporters, as well as world policy makers, an opportunity to protect Arab lives instead of blaming Israel after the fact for what can be prevented.

Now that Israel has taken the rare step of disclosing its valuable intelligence, will the U.N. enforce its own resolution to prevent war? Will the Arab governments in the region act?

Mr. Cohen is the author of “Beyond America’s Grasp: A Century of Failed Diplomacy in the Middle East” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) and president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development.

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The Islamic Revolution Is Still Alive

Written by Tony Badran   

 NOW Lebanon, Tuesday, 13 July 2010 11:24

The recent tension in South Lebanon, choreographed by Hezbollah against UNIFIL under the guise of spontaneous protests by villagers, has been used by the party to reassert its equation of “the Resistance, the people, and the army”- the three mutually-reinforcing pillars which, Hezbollah maintains, are alone responsible for safeguarding the country’s security. The core premise of this mantra, however, has its origins in Iran’s Islamic revolutionary doctrine.

After its military assault in May 2008 against western Beirut and the Druze-controlled mountains, followed by the Doha Accord, Hezbollah imposed this line on public discourse and the current government’s policy statement. The party has, since, elevated the formula to the status of sole acceptable blueprint for Lebanon’s so-called “defense strategy.” In a May 25 speech, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah held that this equation was the basis of Lebanon’s strength, and he accused anyone who undermined it of “working intentionally to expose Lebanon to Israeli aggression.”

During the 1990s, the Lebanese political class robotically regurgitated Syrian-imposed slogans, and Hezbollah is reproducing the same phenomenon today with the “Resistance, people, army” mantra, thereby aborting any domestic debate about its armed status. As such, Nasrallah pointed to Michel Sleiman’s endorsement of the formulation, which the president offered on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV no less. The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has also performed the required ritualistic profession of this mandatory article of faith.

The absence of any reference to the “state” in this formula, and its substitution with the category of “people” is not accidental. It is useful in this regard to recall a peculiar March 2007 encounter between Jumblatt, when he was still hostile to Hezbollah, with the correspondent of the Iranian Arabic-language Al-Alam TV in New York. In response to a question about Hezbollah’s 2006 “victory” against Israel, Jumblatt replied that he had publicly asked to whom Nasrallah would offer this alleged victory, then added that Nasrallah’s response was “to the Lebanese people and the Arabic and Islamic umma.” Jumblatt said that he would have preferred for the victory to be offered to the Lebanese “state,” as the state alone must have the right to take the decision of making war or peace. 

The correspondent then asked Jumblatt, “Is the state more important than the people?” To which Jumblatt replied emphatically, “Yes!” Jumblatt wasn’t offering a gratuitous thought about political philosophy, nor was he mounting a defense on behalf of statism. Rather, he understood the underlying premise of the question, which directly echoed a central policy of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Dissociating the peoples from their governments in the Arab world was and remains a vital aim of the Iranian revolutionary regime. The Islamic Revolution posits a leadership role for Iran as the vanguard of the “oppressed” Muslim masses against the “arrogant” Western forces of repression and local governments allied with them. As such, Tehran seeks to directly address the people over the heads of governments, to imbue them with an Iranian revolutionary ethos, and, when possible, to lend them material support or establish local organizations that promulgate or go along with Iran’s political line and undermine local political and religious elites and establishments.

Iran’s revolutionary regime established an institutional apparatus to support this enterprise of exporting the revolutionary ideal. It included offices dealing with the dissemination of Iranian cultural (not just political) influence, such as the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the Islamic Propagation Organization.

For instance, in the mid-1980s, as factional rivalries raged in Iran over controlling the exporting of the revolution, one faction inside the Iranian Foreign Ministry (backed by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) was attacked by its adversaries for abandoning the principle of establishing relations with peoples as opposed to governments.

In keeping with this doctrine, Hezbollah distinguishes between the “Arab system” or “Arab regimes” on the one hand, and the “Arab peoples” or the “region’s peoples” on the other. The former are complacent capitulationists, while the latter embrace “resistance.” It is from this vantage point that Nasrallah, for example, sought to address the people and armed forces of Egypt in 2009, calling on them to rise up against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak in the name of resistance. In other words, the armed forces should have joined the Resistance and the people against the state.

That is the essence of Hezbollah’s formula. Much like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah operates in a parallel universe; it forms a parallel military and presides over a parallel society, which “coordinate” with the armed forces and interact with the state only in order to neutralize the state’s ability to challenge the party’s autonomous, parallel existence. All of which of course makes a mockery of those in the West advocating dialogue with Hezbollah to encourage its further “integration” into the “political mainstream.”

As party official Mahmoud Qomati explained in 2009, Hezbollah seeks to integrate the state into “the axis of the army, the people, and the Resistance.” This of course merely echoed a central theme in the thinking of Hezbollah, articulated by the party’s deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, in a June 2007 article in An-Nahar revealingly titled “How Does the Rest of Society Integrate into the Resistance?”

In also exalting the virtues of the “Resistance, people, army” concept, Hezbollah parliamentarian Mohammad Raad declared, “We are a great people … in a state that is still in the formation process.” According to Hezbollah’s vision, it’s a process that prepares the foundations of the state in order to create a parallel structure that can better control the state’s actions – the IRGC model.

Whoever said Hezbollah gave up its long-term objective and its longtime slogan of Islamic revolution in Lebanon?

Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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