Hezbollah’s turning point came in 1992

1992 was the year of denim jeans, Nirvana and Bill Clinton. It was also the year that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group, became the deadly force it is today.

Thirty years ago in March, Hezbollah spear an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The attack claimed the lives of twenty-nine people. It also presaged more deadly attacks to come, setting a grim pattern for other terrorist organizations.

Indeed, 1992 is the year that made Hezbollah. In addition to the bombardments, the year was marked by the assassination of the leader of the organization, Abbas al-Musawi, and his replacement by a young and dynamic Shiite cleric named Hassan Nasrallah. While Hezbollah had existed for nearly a decade, the group only took on its modern incarnation when Nasrallah took the helm.

The origins of Hezbollah are murky. The group was founded in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war by Iranian operatives and diplomats drawn from a “motley crew of Shia militias and groups,” as Matthew Levitt, director of counterterrorism and intelligence, explained. intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Noted. The sectarian conflict and the 1978 Israeli invasion to deter Palestinian terrorists had helped “create a situation ripe for external manipulation”, Levitt observed.

Israel entered Lebanon as part of Operation Litani, an attempt to thwart Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists who were using the country as a base. Yet the PLO was doing more than just training fighters to attack Israel. Since the late 1970s, the group had also used the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for form Shiite terrorists opposed to the rule of the Shah of Iran, many of whom would eventually form the core of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an entity that would help train and equip Hezbollah in decades to come. Indeed, a former member of Fatah, the movement that dominated the PLO for decades, was Imad Mughniyeh. He was to become a star Hezbollah agent.

Magnus Ranstrop, a renowned terrorism analyst, has Noted that from the beginning Hezbollah “operated under Iranian supervision”. As many as 1,500 IRGC advisers settled in the Bekaa Valley, running terrorist training camps in which all Hezbollah members were required to attend.

Iran also encouraged militants to infiltrate Amal, a Shia militia that was founded in 1974 by Musa al-Sadr, an Iranian-born Lebanese cleric, who was probably murdered in 1978 by Libyan dictator Muammar el-Gaddafi, potentially in collusion with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Eventually, tensions between the original members of Amal and those backed by Iran reached a breaking point, and members like Hussein Abbas al-Musawi broke away to join Hezbollah, the “Party of God”.

In its early years, Hezbollah was a loose confederation, with many operatives agreeing on long-term strategic goals like establishing an Islamic Republic in Lebanon, but differing on strategy and tactics. Like Matthew Levitt observedthere has been some controversy over when Hezbollah was founded, with many analysts citing the group from February 1985 public announcement of its existence and its “program”. However, “evidence since declassified indicates that several Shiite militia groups merged with Hezbollah… as early as 1982.” Hezbollah began committing suicide car bombs as early as November 1982, with an attack on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) headquarters in Tire that was “the first Islamist suicide bombing outside of Iran.” as noted by historian and journalist Ronen Bergman. .

To an untrained observer, however, Hezbollah might have been difficult to distinguish from the myriad of terrorist groups that operated in war-torn Lebanon, kidnapping Westerners and hijacking airliners. Hezbollah added to the confusion by using various names, partly in an attempt to conceal his Iranian patronage. Yet American investigators were not fooled – and there were early signs that Hezbollah would one day become something more.

On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber attacked the United States Embassy in Beirut, killing over sixty people, including seventeen Americans. Despite attempts to darkeningWE courts would end up declaring that Hezbollah was responsible. Another suicide attack on October 23, 1983, targeting the barracks of the US Marine and the French army, killed 241 American blue helmets and fifty-eight French. According to FBI forensic analysis, the 1983 barracks attack was the largest non-nuclear explosion on earth because The Second World War.

More bombings and attacks would follow, including an attack on September 20, 1984, on a U.S. Embassy annex. Within days, the CIA concluded that “overwhelming circumstantial evidence points to Hizb Allah, operating with the support of Iran under the cover name of Islamic Jihad”.

The 1980s therefore saw the founding of Hezbollah, its first attacks and the beginnings of its global reach. The group was certainly great. Between 1984 and 1991, Hezbollah carried out no less than 3,425 operations against the IDF, although these were mainly in southern Lebanon and confined to the Middle East. It would be the next decade that would catapult Hezbollah into becoming the “A-Team” of terrorists, as former US Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage would later do. Put the.

Hussein Abbas Musawi had been involved with Hezbollah since its inception. Trained in the PLO camps, he then studied Shiite theology with the disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini. In May 1991, Musawi was appointed secretary general or leader of Hezbollah. Israel originally planned to seize Musawi while he was visiting southern Lebanon. However, the mission was amended after Islamic Jihad terrorists attacked an IDF field camp, killing recruits with knives, axes and pitchforks.

On February 16, 1992, Musawi and several members of his entourage, including his wife and son, were killed by an Israeli Hellfire missile. As Ronen Bergman recounts in his History of Israeli Intelligence, Get up and kill first, some IDF military analysts had opposed the strike for a variety of reasons, including that “Hezbollah was not a one-man show, and Musawi was not the most extreme man in its leadership. “. Indeed, they warned, he “would be replaced, perhaps by someone more radical”.

One may wonder if Musawi’s replacement, Hassan Nasrallah, is more or less committed to the idea of ​​an Islamic revolution. But it seems clear that Musawi’s successor is more capable and more charismatic. Hezbollah would grow considerably under Nasrallah’s leadership. And the terrorist group would immediately start flexing their muscles and seek revenge for Musawi’s death.

A Beirut-born 32-year-old cleric, Nasrallah was chosen by the twelve-member Shura Council of Hezbollah, the group’s religious leadership, who recommended him to then Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. For a time, Nasrallah was the “star disciple” of Musawi, Bergman Remarks. But the two would eventually have disagreements, with Nasrallah objecting to close ties to the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad and believing that “guerrilla warfare against Israel should take priority” over attempts to take over the government in Lebanon.

But with Nasrallah at the helm, Hezbollah would both prioritize war against Israel and eventually take control of the levers of power in Lebanon. Ironically, the group would also forge even closer ties with Iran and Syria, including taking part in the Syrian civil war to prevent the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez’s son and successor. Indeed, Bergman Remarks“after the targeted assassination” of Musawi, “priorities changed” and the IRGC “started to prefer Nasrallah’s approach”.

In early March 1992, Hezbollah carried out two bombings in Turkey, one targeting an Istanbul synagogue and the other the car bomb attack on Israeli embassy security chief Ehud Sadan. And on March 17, Hezbollah used a car bomb outside the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. the explosion murdered twenty-nine people and injured 242 others. Hezbollah had officially gone global in its attempts to murder and maim Jews. Admittedly, Hezbollah has always been violently anti-Semitic, single out Jewish passengers during his previous skyjackings. But March 1992 seemed to signal greater ambitions.

The sophistication behind the attacks, particularly the Buenos Aires bombing, showed that the group had planned them long before Musawi’s assassination. A subsequent investigation by Israel and the CIA would determine that the attack was carried out by one of the forty-five sleeper cells that Hezbollah had deployed around the world. Other attacks would follow.

In January 1993 and March 1994, Hezbollah attempted to carry out attacks in Turkey and Thailand, targeting the leader of the Turkish Jewish community and the Israeli embassy, ​​respectively. And on July 18, 1994, Hezbollah carried out the bomb attack on the building of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, killing eighty-five people and injuring more than 300. AMIA bombardment was the worst terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere until September 11, 2001.

Hezbollah has also advanced in Lebanon. Strong of Nasrallah, Imad Mughniyeh multiplied the attacks against Tsahal. “Month by month and year by year, Hezbollah’s performance has improved and its audacity has increased,” Bergman noted. The group “used increasingly sophisticated electronic systems” to monitor IDF radio communications, accelerated its operational tempo, and used finely tuned propaganda aimed at encouraging Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon, all with a dismal success. In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, giving Nasrallah’s Hezbollah a tremendous public relations victory.

Comments are closed.