Why Not Herbollah

Hezbollah, the “Party of Allah/God” is a  Lebanese Shiite militia and political party that is fighting in Syria on the side of the Russian and Iranian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels seeking his demise. The ‘group’ was formed in 1982 as a response to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.  and derives much of its ideological inspiration from Iran,  which aided in its emergence during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s.  Despite Iran’s substantial influence, Hezbollah’s roots stretch back to the Shia Islamic revival in Lebanon in the 1960s and ’70s; which was a reversal of the common Arab and Asian governments “Westernization” approach earlier in the 20th century.  Superseding the quadrupling of oil prices in the mid-1970s, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution which undermined the assumption that Westernization strengthened Muslim countries and was the irreversible trend of the future.

Both the United States and Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  This appellation is far from controversial due to the party itself announcing its intentions.  In 1985, Hezbollah officially declared the US and the Soviet Union as Islam’s principal enemies and called for the “obliteration” of Israel, which it said was occupying Muslim lands.

The most significant progress that has been made towards achieving that goal was to force Israel’s military to end its 22-year occupation in May 2000.  After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to bolster its military strength.  This decision worked well in their favor, and by 2006 some of its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, which was demonstrated with the considerable firepower Hezbollah used against Israel in the 2006 war.  

Israel has not allowed their acts to go without consequence and retaliation.  Later in 2006, Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border attack in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped, triggering a massive Israeli response.  Israel also fought a monthlong war against Hezbollah known as the ‘2006 Lebanon War’ which was the second ‘Lebanon War’ between these two opposing forces.  To much surprise, it is widely accepted that Hezbollah emerged victorious.  Israel still views Hezbollah as a formidable enemy on its border and watches the group carefully.  Over the past few years, Israel and Hezbollah have both worked to improve their capabilities for the kind of war they expect to fight.

Hezbollah is widely recognized as the most formidable military force in Lebanon, which the United States has tried to balance with support for Lebanon’s armed forces. While the two forces have historically remained separate, the escalation of the war in Syria has led to cooperation between them to secure Lebanon’s borders.

Hezbollah’s strategic situation has also changed following its commitment of significant forces to Syria, with an estimated 5,000 personnel serving there at any one time.  They are believed to have made other improvements in their capabilities, including air defense and coastal defense, with systems acquired through Syria.  According to Israeli officials, Hezbollah has about 8,000 fighters in Syria and has has lost about 1,700 fighters in Syria and thousands more have been injured.

As of today, Hezbollah is more powerful than the existing sovereign Lebanese state.  The party has a paramilitary wing which essentially subscribes to a military resistance against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  This has forced Lebanon into an existential crisis, because the state itself, the Lebanese state, must have a monopoly on the use of force.

Boko Haram: Are Northern Nigerians still at Risk?

If someone walked up to you ten years ago and asked ‘who are “Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad?” or in English,”’People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,’’ I am doubtful you would be able to accurately describe this rising terrorist group, now known as “Boko Haram.”

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria on the night of April 14, 2014, quickly allowed Boko Haram to become a household name across the world. The high-profile kidnapping caused an outburst of social media reaction, even from our First Lady, who posted an image with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.”

Before these kidnappings, Boko Haram was barely known, nor cared about by Americans. What many do not know is that this terror group has actually been around since 2002. The Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad were mostly opinionated Muslims gathering together to share their beliefs. Eventually, the expressed hated of western values became more prominent, which led to attacks on civilians. Once these attacks began, the group changed their name to “Boko Haram” which loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” At that time, they were mostly controlled by Mohammad Yusuf. After his execution in 2009, it was commonly thought that it was also the death of the terrorist group. However, the following year, new and more sophisticated attacks began. The new leader who was thought to have been executed the year prior, Abubakar Shekau carefully spent his time underground planning new strategies for Boko Haram.

Since 2010, the group has devoted themselves to preaching their interpretation of the Quran, but this quickly turned to hatred of Western values and destruction of any disapproval. The number of members has increased exponentially, as well as the number of attacks. The governments in northern Africa have has no choice but to fight back. These circumstances created by Boko Haram set up a civil war type situation. Boko Haram is fighting for their extreme Islam view, while the government is fighting back to protect what has already been established in society. Boko Haram’s two main goals are to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled with no western influences. In order to accomplish this they implement violence and destruction to anything in its path.
However, Boko Haram’s structure is also similar to that of a gang. They have few, very successful people at the top, and many people to associate themselves with the group. Those who claim that they associate with Boko Haram may not actually be official members, but agree with what the group stands for, and they carry out attacks on their own. Gangs have this similar structure. The most successful remain at the top, while the rest are trying to prove themselves worthy.
This civil war of sorts has accomplished nothing except slaughtering thousands of people, and creating a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. The goal of Boko Haram is mostly to have their prisoners released and Islamic state to be created. The government has fought back to protect the country, although many innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, neither side is willing to give up on their goals, so Boko Haram and the Nigerian government will continue to cause hundreds of casualties, for what looks like many years to come.

Ensuring the Future of the Revolution for Generations to Come

With a membership roughly 125,000 strong ranging across army, navy, air force and intelligence personnel, a force of revolution lies in the deserts and streets of Iran. This isn’t some new revolution, this is the same revolution as the late 1970’s. Of course, many post- revolution states have had problems integrating guerilla forces back into society, the Iranian supreme leader in his divine and glorious insight came up with the perfect solution. The Iranian revolutionary militias morphed into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

With divine mandate in hand these warriors of god set out to defend the revolution against infinite foreign threats. Aside from the military force of the IRGC itself, two other organizations fall under the umbrella of the IRGC, the Quds and the Basij. While the IRGC is a highly-trained military force in charge of the defense of Iran and the state’s strategic weapons, the Quds and Basij fulfill different roles. The Quds work spread the Islamic revolution outside of Iran, operating as spies, saboteurs, assassins and trainers for foreign militant groups. They have even gone so far as to attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington D.C. restaurant. Far more public, the Basij militia are mainly a volunteer force who protect the ideology of the revolution in Iran mostly through coercion. In 2008 approximately 20% of the Iranian population was part of the Basij though only roughly 1.5 million could theoretically be mobilized for combat. Many members of the Basij are youth undergoing ideological indoctrination to reinforce support for the regime. During the Iran-Iraq war Basij forces mobilized between 7 and 8 hundred thousand fighters for disastrous “human wave” attacks. Given that there is no enemy for the Basij to hurl themselves against currently, members partake in activities such as drug trafficking crack downs, boarder patrols and moral policing.

The more shadowy main body of the IRGC is the most powerful single organization in Iran. Working alongside the government, they are subordinate only to the supreme leader. The IRGC isn’t just a military stronger than the state’s military, they also control billions of dollars of investments both in an outside of Iran, the organization has a stranglehold on both the legitimate and black market economic scene in Iran. Perhaps most horrifying though is the fact that the IRGC will hold major influence over determining the next Supreme Leader. Speculation holds that the only reason the Iran nuclear deal passed was because the IRGC wanted it to.  It is reasoned that the IRGC believed that the resources freed up would be available to send off to foreign militant groups sympathetic to the IRGC’s interests. Some recent IRGC actions include training Houthi rebels in 2014 and attacking a replica US aircraft carrier during a training exercise in 2015. The IRGC has developed links to organizations from Hamas and Hezbollah to Los Zetas and Venezuelan drug cartels. All in all what was once a ragtag group of Islamic revolutionary militias in the 70’s has become a global organization with an insidious grip on both its home country and foreign groups, answering to no one.