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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunni and Shia Islamist Connection Rooted in Lebanon

Hussein al-Khalil first established Hizballah’s security apparatus in Bekka [9] during the summer of 1982, coordinating operations with Islamic AMAL before it was formally
subordinated to Hizballah under Hussein Musawi after 1984. [10] The Musawi and Hamadi clans became the core clans of the embryonic Hizballah organization, [11] and this structure magnified the difficulty for hostile services attempting to penetrate Hizballah.

It made the exercise akin to penetrating a family. Hizballah’s security apparatus reflected the configuration of Shi’a clans and Hizballah’s operational emphasis in each of Lebanon’s three distinct geographic regions of Shi’a dominance. The geographic regions themselves became subdivided into sectors, creating a compartmentalized operational environment. The Bekka region with the largest IRGC component was characterized by a focus on logistics and training. [12] The southern region of Lebanon had an operational emphasis on the confrontation with Israel, and the organizational focus in the Beirut region was primarily political. In all of the regions, the security apparatus focused initially on internal security, then on covert and military operations.

Hizballah developed multiple and overlapping security organs aimed at maintaining organizational integrity. Hizballah’s operational security requires a strict separation between Hizballah’s political and military wings. Consequently, the ability of Hizballah’s political wing to exercise administrative control over the military wing and its security organs is problematic.

Additionally, Hizballah is, at least in part, heavily influenced by Iran, which has created divisions over any external political and administrative control over the military and security components of the organization. Because the impetus for the creation of Hizballah was Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, administrative control over the Hizballah’s military and security components are divided between both the Hizballah political leadership and the Pasdaran Iran’s objectives were to further Shi’a Islamist revolution, while Syrian President Hafez al-Assad facilitated Pasdaran operations in the Bekka to immunize his troops in Lebanon against Shi'a militants.[13] Al-Assad’s support of both AMAL and the Hizballah was important because of the greater affinity of Assad’s Alawite tribe for the secularists of AMAL.

A common element across all of Hizballah’s security entities is their reliance on fighters drawn from the Shi’a communities throughout Lebanon. The initial model for Hizballah’s security services was Fatah’s Jihaz al-Razd and the AMAL security entity based loosely on it. [14] Because Hizballah is not a state, a basic intelligence dilemma that faces the organization is the problematic task of establishing and maintaining secure territory and secure facilities. The problem is ameliorated somewhat by using secure facilities in territories of friendly states like Iran. [15] Hizballah’s first security concern was necessarily a counterintelligence function [16] to maintain organizational integrity. Hizballah counterintelligence capabilities were influenced by the Pasdaran Quds and applied by Hizballah to local Lebanese circumstances in the context of Syrian occupied Lebanon. Hizballah has successfully executed both defensive and offensive counterintelligence operations. Successful defensive counterintelligence operations are documented as far back as the middle 1980s, when Imad Mugniyah disrupted United States operations involving Lebanese nationals working the Lebanese-Cyprus ferry lines. [17] By 1997, Hizballah counterintelligence could effectively use double agents to mislead the Israelis, successfully executing operations against 13 Israeli Shayetet naval commandos near Sidon, leaving 12 Israelis dead [18] The Hizballah kidnapping of Mossad operative Colonel Elhanan Tannenbaum in 2000 illustrates a more recent successful defensive counterintelligence operation. Tannenbaum had apparently tried to run a “false flag” operation against Hizballah from Europe by claiming to represent a European country. Hizballah lured Col. Tannenbaum to Beirut, where he was taken into custody by Hizballah security personnel. [19]
There are also several known instances of successful Hizballah offensive counterintelligence operations. Hizballah, for example, managed to compromise IDF Lieutenant Colonel Omar al-Heib, who traded surveillance data on IDF military installations for narcotics later distributed by al-Heib’s organization. The IDF believes that data compromised by Lt. Col. al-Heib allowed for successful Hizballah targeting of Mt. Meron [20] at the outset of the Israel-Hizballah war of 2006.[21] Recently, Hizballah successfully placed Nadia N. Prouty in the CIA. In a classic operation reminiscent of the U.S-Soviet Cold War, Prouty legally entered the U.S. and then gained citizenship through a sham marriage. She thereafter applied for work and successfully infiltrated the FBI and used that position to leverage a job at the CIA. [22]

Western services have also seen achievement. The defection of Abu al-Kassam Misbahi (Farhad, a co-founder of Iran’s VEVAK intelligence organ) in Germany during the middle 1990s [23] was a significant accomplishment. The 2007 defection in Ankara of General Ali Reza Ashgari [24] of Pasdaran Quds, who was instrumental in building Hizballah’s organization in Bekka during the early-middle 1980s, was also important. Most recently, the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mugniyah (Hajj Radwan), presumably by Mossad’s Kidon element, was a significant coup for Western intelligence. [25]

Hizballah’s intelligence collection abilities have improved over time as well. Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon taught Hizballah the importance of tactical intelligence collection, precipitating Hizballah’s careful and ongoing effort to understand how the IDF conducted operations in southern Lebanon. Intelligence collected by Hizballah respecting IDF operational methods prior to the IDF withdrawal in 2000 paid off with the Hizballah victory in the 2006 war.

Hizballah covert operations are carried out using multiple descriptors for its security apparatus. Hizballah followed some early Fatah conventions wherein Fatah’s Jihaz al-Razd security entity operated using the Black September Organization moniker during the 1970s.

The creation of Hizballah in the summer of 1982 under IRGC guidance necessarily saw preliminary operations limited to the coalescence of Hizballah’s constituent entities under multiple names. Hizballah’s only opposition at that juncture were small scale actions aimed at controlling territory and organizing personnel with AMAL and other local militias. [26]

The security apparatus was then focused on a very narrow core of Hizballah operations, organized with fighters drawn primarily from the Hamadi and Musawi clans. These same fighters conducted operations using different organizational names.

The core functions were configured and nurtured by elements of the Bekka’s Pasdaran Qud’s [27] sustaining Hizballah’s Lebanese operations. The attack on the U.S. Embassy in the spring of 1983, and attacks on both the multinational forces and the Israeli intelligence center established in occupied Tyre in the fall of that year, were Hizballah’s first major operations against foreigners. These covert operations executed by the security apparatus initiated an operational pattern characterizing subsequent major events. The pattern was direct IRGC support in financing and logistics facilitated by Syrian non-interference [28] in Hizballah operations. During the middle 1980s, this pattern was followed by the security apparatus in its management of kidnapping operations directed against foreigners. [29]

As Lebanon became relatively more stable, the tasks of the security apparatus evolved to include security functions supporting Hizballah’s social and political operations as well as military operations. With Hizballah’s emergence as a political party representing the bulk of Lebanon’s Shi’a, the security apparatus accrued some functions analogous to an Interior Ministry. Police functions became necessary to maintain both the integrity of the party and Lebanon’s Shi’a body politic in territories controlled by Hizballah. Within this “domestic” side of the security apparatus was an entity Amad Hamzeh described as an “engagement and coordination unit” under the authority of Hajj Wafic Safa. [30] It eventually turned ordinary criminals threatening Hizballah persons or property over to Lebanon’s ostensive authorities. [31] The security apparatus thereby divided functionally between these police functions and functions supporting military and covert operations. Additionally, about two hundred Hizballah fighters operate in a preventive security apparatus under Mahmud Haidar (Abu Ali) in an executive protection role modeled on Fatah’s Force 17 that provides security for Hizballah politicians. Elements of the security apparatus also served as an asset for the IRGC Quds. Hizballah’s Unit 1800, for example, was established primarily to serve Iranian foreign policy goals by coordinating Hizballah assistance to multiple Sunni Palestinian Islamists organizations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The operational genesis was rooted in the deportation by Israel of four-hundred Hamas militants into southern Lebanon in 1992. Those Sunni Palestinian Islamists were housed and indoctrinated through the good offices of Hizballah. This allowed ties to be forged across the not so insignificant religious division between Shi’a and Sunni Islamists. The Sunni have historically seen the Shi’a as an illegitimate heretical sect, and much blood has been shed between the two main sects of Islam throughout the centuries over these religious disputes. In this instance, however, Israel’s role as a common enemy, superseded the two sect’s theological differences, and this coordination against Israel facilitated a rarely seen cooperation between the Sunni and Shi’a.


The security architecture created by the Hizballah organization reflects its development in Lebanon’s operational environment. The structure of the security apparatus was a function initially of the kinship patterns within the Hamadi and Musawi clans and their associated Islamist groups welded to a security architecture created by the Pasdaran Quds within Syrian and Israeli-occupied Lebanon. Additional Shi’a clans and families were incorporated into Hizballah as the organization expanded. Hizballah’s security architecture evolved with the reconstruction of Lebanon in the 1990s and the changing role of the Shi’a in Lebanese society. The emergence of a more developed and assertive Shi’a polity saw the expansion of the Hizballah security apparatus into a more nuanced and sophisticated organization even as relations between Hizballah and Iran strengthened.
The various Hizballah security entities interact today with external services which necessarily shape the configuration of Hizballah’s security apparatus at any given point in time. Hizballah’s fundamental intelligence challenge is filtering analysis through an Islamist veneer thereby degrading the analytical product. Hizballah has emphasized Hebrew language skills for some of its fighters, yet comprehending Hebrew is not the same thing as grasping Israeli thought. Archie Roosevelt [32] argued long ago that a lust for knowing which seeks understanding unclouded by worldview must animate the intelligence enterprise. Hizballah’s security apparatus must lust to know Israel even as it understands Hebrew. In a larger sense, the Hizballah security apparatus must create a raison d’être that goes beyond moribund dreams of a Lebanese Islamic Republic or its utility furthering Iran’s imperial ambitions. Hizballah’s security apparatus must affirm Shi’a political and social aspirations in Lebanon to survive.

Te Rest frpm Carl Anthony Wege

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