A company called Hezbollah
To understand why Hezbollah has expanded beyond Lebanon into Syria and Yemen, we have to look at it as a limited-liability company
To understand why Hezbollah has expanded beyond Lebanon into Syria and Yemen, we have to look at it as a limited-liability company that provides services to its owner, the Iranian regime. The party reportedly receives $900 million annually from Tehran. In return, Hezbollah undertakes multiple tasks.
It serves as a fighting force that exempts Iran from direct involvement in wars - this is why Israel attacked Lebanon, not Syria or Iran, even though it is well aware that the party is just a tool and that the Lebanese people are helpless. Tehran’s interest in confronting Israel has nothing to do with the occupation of Palestine, but with a game of regional confrontations.
Iran has desires that it wants to impose on the West and Israel, such as allowing its nuclear program and extending its influence in the Arab Gulf countries and Iraq. This is what Tehran has achieved in part due to Hezbollah and other forces such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Hezbollah launched its activities in the early 1980s in favor of Tehran. It kidnapped Western journalists, diplomats and professors. It also hijacked planes and conspired to carry out assassinations and bombings in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
As a result of the Iran nuclear deal, Hezbollah’s main function - facing Israel - may expire. This is why the party is trying to reinvent itself as a company that offers other servicesAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Iran has expanded Hezbollah’s services, ordering it to collect and launder money from smuggling and dealing heroin from Afghanistan via Iran, cocaine from South America, and even U.S. cigarettes. Hezbollah recently used some Lebanese banks that were penalized by Washington, resulting in the whole Lebanese banking system being put under tight international control.
When Tehran decides to stop funding Hezbollah, it will shrink in size and activity like any other commercial company. Portraying it as a religious party is unrealistic. Hezbollah, which some had thought could do no wrong, has experienced many scandals over the past few years.
Some of its leaders looted money for personal purposes while its members were dying for the party’s convictions. Hezbollah has also admitted serious infiltrations by Israeli spy agency Mossad, which succeeded in recruiting a number of its leaders and members. As a result of the Iran nuclear deal, Hezbollah’s main function - facing Israel - may expire. This is why the party is trying to reinvent itself as a company that offers other services.
Accordingly, we can understand Yemen’s importance to it. Hezbollah is training Iran-backed Shiite Houthi militias. Recently, after the Houthis lost control of most of Yemen’s provinces, Hezbollah increased its presence and is trying to open a front against Saudi Arabia on its southern border in the province of Saada, the Houthi stronghold. There are reports of Hezbollah fighters in other conflict zones.
It is substituting its task of confronting Israel by fighting the Syrians and perhaps the Turks at a later stage. It is also training multinational Shiite militias to form an army of mercenaries following the Qods Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Hezbollah has trained the Iraqi Hezbollah, Assaeb al-Haq and other extremist Shiite militias fighting on behalf of Iran in Syria and Iraq today, and is expanding the fight to Yemen and other countries.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 01, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.