Middle East Resources

Hezbollah’s Ubiquitous Activities

By Bassam Michael Madany

25 August 2020

In July 2017, the Al Arabiya Television channeli aired an Interview that Lebanese journalist Carole Maalouf had with two Hezbollah Prisoners. The prisoners had been captured in northwestern Syria, by the Al-Nusra Front, a militant Sunni group opposed to the Assad Regime.

It is important to know the background of how it came to be that Hezbollah was brought in to help shore up Bashar al-Assad’s faltering rule. In the early 1920s, France was the Mandatory power governing the Levantii. Shi’ite regions were incorporated into the new boundaries of Lebanon. This increase in the territory of the country required a restructuring of Lebanese politics to keep a balance between the various religious and confessional groups. The President was to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament, a Shi’ite Muslim. This arrangement functioned well during the early years of Lebanon’s independence from 1946 to 1957.

The 1952 Coup in Egypt that brought Colonel Nasser into power, encouraged some Sunni Lebanese to act in ways that upset the Lebanese balance of power. The situation worsened following the Jordanian conflict with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in September 1970, resulting in its move to Beirut, Lebanon.

In the spring of 1975, a bus load of Palestinians clashed with a Lebanese group precipitating a lengthy Civil War. Ten years later, Hezbollah (Arabic for Party of Allah) appeared on the Lebanese scene as a Shi’ite political party bringing with it a heavily armed militia. Five years earlier, the Islamic Revolution had taken place in Iran, creating a Shi’ite regime bent on extending its hegemony throughout the Arab world. Hezbollah became its surrogate military force serving Iran’s interests in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and beyond.  

Syria became independent with the departure of the French in 1946. It inherited a democratic system of government with a President, a Prime Minister, and a Parliament. Unfortunately for the country and the region, Syria experienced several violent military coups. Hafez al-Assad, an officer in the Syrian Air Force, staged the final coup in 1970, that put him in power for the next thirty years.  He belonged to the Alawite sect that had settled in the province of Latakia, northwest Syria, centuries before. 

Hafez al-Assad died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar. At first, the country hoped for a gentler regime, having suffered greatly under his father’s brutal governance. Their hopes were dashed in March 2011, when the local police reacted violently in the southern town of Dara’a, against students who had scribbled graffiti on the town wall that showed disrespect for the President. The event sparked an uproar in Damascus and elsewhere in Syria. President Assad’s attempt to hold on to power, he received support from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which signaled to its surrogate Hezbollah to get the job done for Assad. Scores of party members went to Syria and fought on the side of the regime. 

Pockets of resistance to the regime existed in Syria, among them was the Al-Nusra Front stationed in northwestern of Syria, close to the Turkish border. In 2016, members of this group captured two Hezbollah fighters. This news attracted the attention of the investigative Lebanese journalist, Carole Maalouf, who was working for Al-Arabiyya Television station. Ms. Maalouf went to the area and interviewed the prisoners.

The following is my translation of excerpts from the Interview

Carole: This Interview is not meant to add to your sufferings! I am an independent Lebanese journalist, I got wind that the Al-Nusra Front had captured two members of Hezbollah fighters that are held at this place. I managed to get over here, first by going to Turkey. Please introduce yourselves.

POW1: I am a Hezbollah communications technician recently stationed in the Aleppo-Idlib part of Syria. I was on a mission to install antennas and other gears in a nearby position. On our return to the base, we lost our way, were ambushed, and captured.

POW2: I come from the same region in south Lebanon and belong to the Shi’ite community; I joined Hezbollah’s militia like several other men in the area. I was on a mission to this part of Syria and ended up as a prisoner!

Carole: You are both from south Lebanon, what were you doing in this distant place?

POW1: You are a Lebanese, certainly you must be aware of the situation in our country. Members of the Shi’ite community are indoctrinated in our faith which has a religious and a political side. I had been working as a teacher at a Government school. At the same time, I was a member of Hezbollah. Had I not joined the Party; I would have been ostracized by the Shi’ite community. Hezbollah’s main goal was leading the Resistance against Israel in south Lebanon. Eventually, the conflict moved to Syria, where the Party played a vital role in defending Syria against the Israeli aggressioniii. Hezbollah expects us to be on active duty for 15 days annually. Soon after I got married in 2016, I was ordered to report to the Syrian front.

Carole addressing POW2: Did you ever consider why you traveled hundreds of kilometers to Syria to defend a regime that was oppressing its people for five long decades? One would have expected Hezbollah to take the side of the persecuted Syrians! 

POW2: All along, even after getting to the Syrian front, we were supposedly engaged in the battle against the Zionists! We were so thoroughly indoctrinated that we never questioned how by serving in northwest Syria, we were actually engaged in the Resistance against Israel!

Carole: Did you ever consider joining the Lebanese Army to defend your homeland? Now, by joining Hezbollah, you might end up fighting in Iraq, or Yemen, even in faraway South America! 

POW2: Our indoctrination was so complete and thorough, that we were convinced that our cause was just.

Following the ambush, the two Hezbollah fighters were captured by Al-Nusra Front. They were taken to a post for interrogation. POW1 was admitted to the field hospital for the treatment of his broken forearm. 

Carole: You should have realized that Hezbollah was in fact fulfilling Iran’s agenda that of spreading their hegemony over the Middle East and beyond. 

POW1 & POW2: You are right, but we had been deceived by Hezbollah’s intensive propaganda. 

Carole: Were there other groups fighting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad?

POW1 & POW2: Yes, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Afghanis and other radical groups were fighting on the side of the Syrian regime. They greatest help came from the raids conducted by the Russian Air Force that pursued a “scorched earth policy,” devastating large parts of the Syrian territory that was controlled by anti-Assad forces. 
 
Carole: By the way, have you been speaking in this manner, hoping to get a better treatment from your captors; only to change your story later, when you would have managed to get your freedom?

POW2: No, we have been telling exactly the truth. Following our captivity and the treatment we received, we experienced a profound change of mind vis-à-vis Sunni Muslimsiv.

Carole: You have been in captivity for 42 days, how do assess your situation?

POW1 & POW2: We had joined Hezbollah to get involved in the Resistance against Israel; actually, Hezbollah got us over here to fight their own war. We were carried away by their slogans and did not reflect adequately on the totality of their plan. Now however, we have become immune to their propaganda. The treatment we have been getting from our captors has been exemplary. We get decent food, a weekly warm bath, proper hygiene, and all the necessities of life. This is our appeal to Hezbollah: “treat kindly your Sunni prisoners!

POW1 & POW2: Addressing these words to Carole
Thank you very much for taking the trouble to come all the way here, for this Interview. When you get back to Lebanon, please tell our relatives about our situation. Inshallah, we will eventually get our freedom. 

Comment

It was a moving experience to watch and listen to this Interview carried in the Lebanese Arabic dialect. Carole Maalouf and the two Lebanese prisoners sounded like normal human beings engaged in an honest and serious conversation. 

The testimony of the two men revealed that the rise of Hezbollah had drastically altered the older Entente (agreement and cooperation) between the multi-religious and confessional groups in Lebanon. The Lebanon that had survived many challenges since independence, no longer exists. I need not catalogue the recent events of 2020 that confirm my conclusion that Lebanon is now held hostage to Hezbollah, and ultimately to the Iranian Regime.  The leadership holds to an otherworldly Shi’ite belief that the Hidden Imam will return to the world to bring peace and justice to mankind. It is impossible to reason with believers in an eschatological worldview that assumes the infallibility of its leadership. The Iranian Revolution of 1980 has morphed during the last four decades, into a global movement with Hezbollah as their agent. 

I may be exaggerating the consequences of Iran soon becoming a superpower, armed with long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. However, ignoring Iran’s activities in the region through Hezbollah, and its weaponry build-up can only lead to instability and turbulence in international relations. This is not a pleasant thought at any time, but especially when the entire world is facing the challenge of a global pandemic.    

 

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iAl Arabiya is a television news channel based in Dubai.
Click on the Link below to watch the Interview. Even if one is not familiar with MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) it would help to “feel” and appreciate this moving and educational event! 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELzuRL0155Q&t=111s

iiLevant a French term that refers to the territories The League of Nations granted to France as the Mandate that would lead them to independence. Practically, it comprised Syria and Lebanon. During the Ottoman rule that had lasted four hundred years, the term Lebanon referred to a smaller area called, Jabal Lubnan (Mount Lebanon). Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre formed the Ottoman Vilayets (Provinces) of Syria.  

iii“The conflict moved to Syria” was the propaganda line used by the leadership of Hezbollah to interfere in the Syrian Civil War. Actually, the Syrian front with Israel was on the Golan Heights and had been calm for a long time! 

ivEver since AD 680 when Hussein, son of Ali, and grandson of Prophet Muhammad was assassinated at Kerbala, Iraq, a longstanding enmity arose between Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims. Shi’ites living in Muslim-majority countries were marginalized. That was the plight of Iraqi and Lebanese Shi’ites under the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire that held the Sunni Caliphate until it was abolished in 1924 by Turkey’s Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.

vHezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God
https://www.amazon.com/Hezbollah-Global-Footprint-Lebanons-Party/dp/1626162018