U.S. Counterterrorism Policy and Hezbollah’s Resiliency

This article was featured in GSSR Vol. 1 Issue 3.

By Nathan Brown

Of all the terrorist organizations operating today, Hezbollah may be the most capable and firmly established. In addition to its terrorism capabilities, Hezbollah is a political entity with a formidable guerilla force; a media conglomerate; a network of hospitals, schools, and other social services; and an international crime syndicate involved in money laundering, extortion, and smuggling operations. In an oft-repeated quote, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said, “Hezbollah may be the A-team of terrorists and maybe al Qaeda is actually the B-team.”[1] Armitage went on to add, “They’re on the list and their time will come.” His statement somewhat ambiguously indicates that Hezbollah has never been the object of a U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign designed to truly defeat it.

The United States’ interest in defeating Hezbollah stems from its record of scoring significant strikes against U.S. targets in Lebanon in the 1980s and assisting in terrorist attacks against other U.S. targets abroad over the past thirty years. Yet, therein lays the difficulty: what does defeating Hezbollah mean? If defeat means rendering Hezbollah nonexistent in any form, then it is unlikely that the United States can ever succeed. However, if defeat means effectively deterring Hezbollah from engaging in terrorist activities, then perhaps the objective is achievable. Currently, the United States has yet to clarify what end-state it is seeking regarding Hezbollah. The following analysis will discuss U.S. counterterrorism goals pertaining to Hezbollah, which have remained fairly consistent over the years; ranging from “active defense”[2] in the 1980s to — in the current wording of the National Strategy for Counterterrorism of 2011 — understanding its intentions and capabilities, while also disrupting its terrorist operations.[3]

A solid understanding of Hezbollah’s formation and rise to power is essential for a thorough analysis of past U.S. counterterrorism actions against it. Only through understanding the fundamental sources of Hezbollah’s strength and popularity can its vulnerabilities be fully identified and exploited. In the interest of breaking down its thirty-year history into manageable segments, this analysis will examine key periods in Hezbollah’s history of over three decades, while also describing U.S. and Israeli counterterrorism actions taken during that time. Finally, this analysis will take into account the lessons learned from past actions and make recommendations for moving forward, which include increasing diplomatic and law enforcement pressure on Hezbollah’s financial network, isolating it further from its foreign sponsors, and improving the capability of the Lebanese Armed Forces to be a viable alternative to Hezbollah as the backbone Lebanon’s national security.


Past Actions

Analyzing U.S. counterterrorism strategy against Hezbollah using only open source information is a challenging task. That said, certain trends can nonetheless be observed. This analysis must also consider Israel. In addition to being a key U.S. ally in the region, Israel faces a significantly greater threat from Hezbollah and has taken the lead in kinetic actions directed against the organization. Over the years, the United States and Israel have cooperated in a number of ways against Hezbollah, spanning the military, diplomatic, and political spectrums. Despite this history of strong coordination, it is doubtful that there has ever been a truly bilateral U.S.-Israeli counterterrorism strategy designed to defeat Hezbollah.[4]

Shortly after its founding in 1982, Hezbollah emerged as a lethal enemy to both Israel and the United States. The prominent 1983 embassy and Marine barracks bombings in Beirut, followed by a number of high profile kidnappings and hijackings led to significant actions taken against the organization. These actions must be understood in light of wider geopolitical events taking place, as well as sometimes competing U.S. and Israeli interests. It would be detrimental to view just the terrorist attacks and consequent counterterrorism reactions as evidence of a failed strategy. Rather, U.S. actions pertaining to Hezbollah can best be understood as a small part of a much wider Middle East policy.

The United States became involved with Hezbollah as a ripple effect of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Israel’s objective was to defeat the PLO and secure its northern border from terrorist attacks indefinitely.[5] The first half of that objective proved more achievable than the second. As with recent U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military operation was initially successful in defeating the PLO. But Israel failed to devise a solid exit strategy and it counterproductively expanded upon its objective, one that was initially limited in scope. The United States entered Lebanon as part of an international force in 1982 to help end the conflict. In April 1983, sixty-three people died in a bombing at the U.S. embassy in Beirut followed by 241 Marines killed by a bombing at their Beirut barracks that fall.[6] Additional attacks were carried out against Israeli and French targets during the same time period. Daniel Byman, a Brookings Institute scholar on terrorism in the Middle East, points out that most of these attacks were carried out before Western and Israeli intelligence officials even understood that a new terrorist threat existed; consequently, reprisal attacks were frequently directed at the wrong targets.[7]

U.S. and Israeli counterterrorism efforts against Hezbollah in the 1980s can be analyzed on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. Tactically, Hezbollah proved very effective. Neither the United States nor Israel was prepared for Hezbollah’s use of suicide bombings. For example, the U.S. Marine on post at the Beirut barracks was under orders to keep his weapon unloaded in order to be consistent with the nonaggressive nature of the U.S. mission in Lebanon.[8] Thus, he was unable to prevent the explosive-laden truck from ramming through the barrack’s gate. Suicide bombings coincided well with Hezbollah’s veneration of martyrdom and sacrifice, and the tactic quickly proved to be highly effective and lethal.

Although the U.S. Intelligence Community certainly took note of Hezbollah after the series of bombings and kidnappings, resulting covert operations seem to have been limited in scope. The Reagan administration redefined its counterterrorism strategy in 1984 as “active defense,” with the goal of aggressively thwarting attacks before they occurred.[9]After the U.S. embassy and barracks bombings there is some evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began targeting Hezbollah leadership, likely in concert with Israeli intelligence. For example, media reports cite links between the CIA and the 1985 bombing of Hezbollah leader Sheik Fadlallah’s home that missed Fadlallah but killed Jihad Mughniyah, the brother of the leader of Islamic Jihad.[10] While these reports are unconfirmed, they indicate the existence of CIA-led operations against Hezbollah leadership during the 1980s.  However, these operations appear to have been narrowly focused, and not part of a broad, concerted effort to dismantle or defeat Hezbollah.

On a strategic level, the United States and Israel seemed more concerned with regional geopolitical issues in the early 1980s than with scuttling an emerging terrorist group. Thus, they inadvertently conceded two significant strategic victories to Hezbollah. First, the United States opted to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon shortly after the 1983 barracks bombing. The death toll there exceeded U.S. casualty tolerance, particularly in the absence of clear national interests in Lebanon at the time. While the withdrawal may have been a wise move in terms of limiting American involvement in a complex and bloody civil war, it was a strategic victory for Hezbollah. It is doubtful that even with the benefit of hindsight, the United States would have chosen to remain militarily committed in Lebanon in the 1980s; however, it is clear that the withdrawal demonstrated to Hezbollah that terrorism against the West can produce results. Moreover, there is some evidence that suggests that the U.S. withdrawals from Beirut in 1984 and from Somalia in 1994 inspired Osama Bin Laden to use terrorism as a means of driving the United States out of Muslim lands.[11]

The second strategic victory for Hezbollah in the 1980s came at the hands of the Israelis. Israel’s invasion successfully routed the PLO. The Israelis were initially welcomed by the Shi’ites of southern Lebanon due to the animosity between the Shi’ites and the oppressive PLO.[12] However, the longer Israel remained in Lebanon, the more the populace turned against it. Adding to this were several high-profile incidents that resulted in Shi’ite civilians being wounded and killed, further turning popular attitudes against Israel. In 1985, Israel established a security zone in southern Lebanon with a persistent Israeli Defense Force (IDF) presence.[13] Israel’s liberation of Sh’ite lands consequently became an occupation that played directly into the strategy and image of Hezbollah as a resistance organization.[14] Israel became its primary enemy and the underlying reason for Hezbollah’s existence as a resistance movement.

Many attribute Israel’s error to its lack of a clear strategy, particularly an endgame, before invading Lebanon in 1982. In A High Price, Dr. Byman writes, “Israel ended up trying to find a military solution without a political arrangement.”[15] Part of the problem was that Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon undermined the authority and sovereignty of the already weak Lebanese government, whose cooperation Israel badly needed. At the same time, Hezbollah was rising with strong Syrian and Iranian support, based on the public message that it was the true defender of the Shi’ites and that the Lebanese government was corrupt and inept. This message clearly resonated among the Shi’ites, as Hezbollah’s ranks swelled throughout the 1980s.[16] Consequently, at the end of the decade, Hezbollah was waging a growing insurgency, managing an effective social services network, and expanding into the realm of international terrorism. Israel, on the other hand, was mired in an untenable political situation. In sum, during the 1980s, U.S. and Israeli counterterrorism efforts may have resulted in a few tactical and operational victories in the form of detainments and targeted killings, but on the strategic level Hezbollah was clearly on the rise by the end of the decade.

During the 1990s, the United States began to take a slightly more integrated approach to counterterrorism, though there were several persistent problems that inhibited efforts against Hezbollah. One of the main improvements in the counterterrorism fight was the introduction of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996, which enabled new avenues of attack against Hezbollah’s global operations. At the same time that Hezbollah entered politics in 1992, it continued expanding its global fundraising network. The United States appears to have become aware of this growing problem in U.S. cities in the early 1990s, as federal investigations into Hezbollah activities were gradually launched. However, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 limited investigators and intelligence teams in their ability to confront the group because the act prevented effective sharing of intelligence during criminal investigations.[17] As a result of these legal barriers, one FBI official said at the time, “We were just keeping a lot of records on Hezbollah. We weren’t going after them aggressively.”[18] Moreover, Hezbollah was able to effectively exploit federal laws regarding fundraising activities and disguise financial support as charity.

The Antiterrorism Act made it illegal to support officially designated foreign terrorist organizations. Once Hezbollah was added to the list in 1997, new tools became available for attacking its global fundraising network. Prior to enactment of the legislation, federal law enforcement officials focused on obtaining convictions or deportations of Hezbollah operatives and supporters for smaller offenses, and by some accounts this was fairly successful.  More than fifty Hezbollah members were charged with criminal violations or deported in 1995 and 1996 alone.[19] After 1996, law enforcement officials were given greater freedom in pursuing actual terrorism charges against Hezbollah members in the United States. However, there were still significant obstacles to using intelligence in criminal courts to secure convictions. The Antiterrorism Act did not solve the institutional and legal information sharing barriers between intelligence and law enforcement agencies.[20]

By the end of the 1990s, Israel’s counterterrorism strategy against Hezbollah met even greater challenges.  Militarily, Israel could continue to engage in a tit-for-tat campaign against Hezbollah, but by 2000 it could not maintain political support for its military presence in southern Lebanon. Thus, it opted to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 with the exception of two small areas, Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba Hills.[21] As with the U.S. withdrawal in 1983, though on a much greater scale, this withdrawal conceded a significant strategic victory to Hezbollah. In the eyes of the Arab world, Israel had clearly backed down. Hezbollah’s credibility and popularity were boosted while Israel’s Lebanese partners were abandoned.[22]

Over the first twenty years of Hezbollah’s existence, most of the counterterrorism activity directed against the organization appears to have consisted of monitoring its international growth while also targeting its senior leadership. Despite, and perhaps because of, the killings of key Hezbollah leaders, the organization continued to expand and grow in popularity. Moreover, whenever Israeli pressure on Hezbollah intensified, its state supporters — Iran and Syria — were willing to continue escalating the level of aid they gave to Hezbollah. Most importantly, Israel’s attempts to destroy popular support for Hezbollah through a system of collective punishment of the Lebanese populace were counterproductive. When Israel responded to guerilla attacks with artillery barrages on nearby Lebanese villages that may or may not have had fighters present, the populace turned against the Israelis and increased its support for Hezbollah.[23] Thus, Israel’s counterinsurgency strategy failed and also undermined its counterterrorism strategy for combating Hezbollah. In 2000, Hezbollah emerged with a better fighting force, strong foreign backing, and more popular support.

The events of 9/11 served to significantly increase U.S. and international attention on terrorism. Most of that focus was on al Qaeda, but several things changed in the approach to Hezbollah as well. Internationally, state-support for terrorism became a much riskier endeavor, as governments caught sponsoring terrorism risked drawing U.S. ire. It is unknown to what extent this may have limited Iran’s willingness to sanction Hezbollah attacks outside of Israel. Certainly, Iran and Syria continued funneling weapons to Hezbollah and other Palestinian groups.

In targeting Hezbollah’s finances, the U.S. Treasury Department made some progress after 9/11. There were disruptions of cells in the United States followed by the dismantling of some of Hezbollah’s operations abroad, particularly in South America and Africa. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) reported efforts to disrupt Hezbollah finance networks in South America in 2004, 2006, and 2008, as well as another network in Africa in 2009.[24] These announcements displayed growing intent by the United States to expand its counterterrorism efforts against Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s operations in these areas had existed for many years, but it seems that the increased international focus on countering terrorism worldwide may have resulted in some of these arrests and asset seizures.

Israeli strategy vis-à-vis Hezbollah continued to seek military solutions to the problem. Israel resorted to military action in 2006, initially with strong international support. The 2006 Second Lebanon War began after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and then ambushed the Israeli unit sent to rescue them. In response, Israel launched an air campaign followed by ground operations that resulted in significant Lebanese civilian casualties and collateral damage, and dealt a temporary blow to Hezbollah in the form of a popular backlash against Hezbollah’s involvement in sparking the conflict. In the process, Israel sustained 121 combat deaths and, once again, suffered international condemnation for the destruction of Lebanese villages and buildings in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon.[25] The 2006 war was another example of Israel applying a military solution to a target that is effectively integrated within the Lebanese populace—making heavy collateral damage a certainty. Hezbollah benefitted from the prestige of dealing Israel a number of casualties and surviving the short-lived war, while Israel suffered another political blow. In the end, the 2006 war was a net gain for Hezbollah.

Since 2006, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy against Hezbollah has continued to loosely follow previous lines of action. The United States has persisted in targeting Hezbollah’s finances abroad, while also sharing intelligence with Israel. One breakthrough occurred when U.S. forces in Iraq recovered information that eventually led to the death of one of Hezbollah’s most notorious operators, Imad Mughniyah, in Damascus in 2008.[26]Outside of these isolated victories, it appears that Hezbollah continues to remain firmly enmeshed in Lebanese society. Its popularity is still high among Lebanese Shi’ites. Surveys conducted in 2003 and 2011 indicate Hezbollah is strongly supported by more devout Shi’ites regardless of income, education, or age.[27] Despite this, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy against Hezbollah appears to have changed little. The National Strategy for Counterterrorism of 2011 mentioned Hezbollah twice, but failed to clarify the desired end-state for confronting the organization. Instead, the paragraph on Hezbollah closely resembled the Reagan administration’s defensive policy of the mid-1980s.

Perhaps the best developments in the counterterrorism campaign against Hezbollah have occurred in the geopolitical realm. Syria’s civil war and international sanctions over Iran’s ongoing nuclear program have weakened Hezbollah’s two key patrons. Hezbollah is certainly concerned about these developments. There are indications that it, or Iran, has attempted to secure new transit routes for Iranian weapons and equipment flights over Iraq.[28] Moreover, Hezbollah has committed to backing the Assad regime, indicating that it views the fate of the Assad regime as an important, if not vital, interest. On April 30, 2013, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated, “Syria has true friends in the region and the world that won’t permit Syria to fall in the hands of America, Israel, and [extremist] groups.”[29] Shortly thereafter, his statement was backed up by the deployment of hundreds of Hezbollah fighters to Syrian cities in defense of the regime. Clearly, Hezbollah grasps the importance of the geopolitical shifts taking place in the region. Both of these unresolved issues present significant opportunities for the United States and Israel to truly undercut Hezbollah’s base of support.



Hezbollah’s center of gravity is its support from the Lebanese populace. That support provides it with recruits, a defensive shield from Israeli strikes, and political clout. The critical requirements for securing its popular support are the recognition of Hezbollah as a more competent and legitimate protector of Shi’ite interests than the Lebanese government, as well as the social service networks that play a critical role in the daily lives of the populace. A key enabler for Hezbollah’s services and military strength is its funding stream. Without funds, Hezbollah will be unable to pay its fighters or continue to provide the services that engender popular support among the Shi’ite Lebanese, and it will likely begin to unravel. These funds are derived from a number of sources, but perhaps most prominently from Iran. While the exact extent of Iran’s support for Hezbollah is unclear, it does seem evident that Hezbollah is dependent on Iran’s support to maintain its various programs. Syria and Iran are both mired in their own problems; thus, those funding streams have become a key vulnerability for Hezbollah.

One recommendation is to ensure that any strategies devised for intervention in Syria or negotiations with Iran take into account their relationships with Hezbollah. The United States should establish the goal of securing Hezbollah’s isolation. As Hezbollah loses confidence in its regional patrons, it is likely that it will seek to make up for the lost revenue through further expansion of its criminal network. Hezbollah’s popularity and reputation as a less corrupt alternative to the Lebanese government may suffer as a result. The United States should seek to exacerbate this trend. The goal should be to force Hezbollah to give up its terrorist activity and fully integrate into the legitimate Lebanese government. If Hezbollah refuses to become fully legitimate, as will likely be the case, then isolating Hezbollah from its foreign patrons will force it further into criminal activity which can be exploited by U.S. information operations and law enforcement efforts in order to corrupt its image as a resistance movement and further disrupt its funding network.

The United States should also try harder to win the perception war. This is a difficult task since, unlike Hezbollah’s popular Al-Manar channel, the United States and Israel cannot control the media. However, they can choose what to feed it. The United States should encourage a greater spotlight on Hezbollah’s criminal activities. Senior officials should get involved in press releases regarding actions taken against Hezbollah’s criminal network. Public affairs offices should release mug shots after key arrests along with documentation of Hezbollah’s smuggling and narcotics trafficking activities. Moreover, multiple reports have indicated Hezbollah often uses extortion among Lebanese communities abroad in order to secure financial contributions.[30] Basically, Hezbollah operatives threaten to punish expatriate families’ relatives in Lebanon if certain fees are not paid. These activities should be well documented and released to the press for maximum effect. Hezbollah should be seen as a global criminal organization that is actively buying votes in Lebanon for the purpose of its own survival and power rather than the good of the country.

To compliment this, the United States should increase pressure on Hezbollah’s fundraising network abroad. Continuing to blacklist banks and individuals found to be supporting Hezbollah will have some effect; however, the United States should use its political weight to pressure the European Union to officially recognize Hezbollah’s political wing as a terrorist organization. After the 2012 Bulgaria bombing, the European Union eventually designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization in July 2013.[31] This was a step in the right direction; however, it is likely that Hezbollah will retain the ability to continue fundraising in Europe thanks to the overlap of its military and political leadership. Despite the significant diplomatic hurdles associated with labeling Hezbollah’s political wing as a terrorist organization due to its strong representation in the Lebanese government, this is a necessary step that would assist in providing further mechanisms for isolating and delegitimizing Hezbollah. If Hezbollah’s political wing is eventually blacklisted, its removal from the list should be conditioned on the organization laying down its arms.

Regarding Israeli policy toward Hezbollah, Israel should refrain from another major ground invasion of Lebanon. Past operations have clearly shown that military action is inherently limited in what it can accomplish in Lebanon. It also tends to foster popular support for Hezbollah among Lebanese Shi’ites. Instead, Israel should focus on improving its defensive capabilities. Israel should continue bolstering its missile-defense systems—its Iron Dome network has already shown itself to be very useful against Hamas. Stronger missile defense gives the tactical benefit of neutralizing one of Hezbollah’s key means of force projection, and provides the political benefit of assuring Israelis that they are not entirely at the mercy of random rocket attacks. This reduces Hezbollah’s intended terror effect. Congress and the U.S. Defense Department should throw their full weight behind these missile-defense programs in order to continue expanding their coverage and capabilities.[32] It is worth noting that Iron Dome only succeeded after U.S. financial backing was provided in 2009.[33]

The United States should continue to attempt to empower the Lebanese government and its military. Currently, the Lebanese government’s Special Investigation Commission (SIC) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are well aware of Hezbollah’s illicit financial activities, yet they are unwilling to prosecute Hezbollah members or freeze their assets.[34] Ostensibly, this is because the government does not recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; however, it is most likely out of fear of retribution. This weakness should not prevent the SIC from at least building cases against Hezbollah members such that if Lebanon’s internal balance of power shifts, it will be able to utilize the already developed cases.

Finally, Hezbollah’s strength as a terrorist organization is directly tied to its strength as a guerilla fighting force. There are no silver bullets in regards to combating this problem. As Israel has learned, direct confrontation with Hezbollah is a difficult affair, and time and again military operations have proven to bolster Hezbollah rather than weaken it. Instead, the United States should pursue a different strategy to weaken Hezbollah, namely by building up the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

A large part of Hezbollah’s popularity and perceived legitimacy is wrapped up in its claim to be the only Lebanese force truly capable of resisting Israel. The U.S. military has cooperated with the Lebanese Special Operations Forces (LSOF) since 1997, often through foreign internal defense missions. However, unlike the LAF, the LSOF are not stationed in southern Lebanon alongside Hezbollah. To solve this problem, some U.S. special operations commanders have recently proposed creating training teams drawn from the LSOF in order to build up the fighting capacity of the LAF in southern Lebanon.[35] They have also emphasized that this action must be accompanied by Lebanese information operations intended to bolster the reputation of the LAF as their capabilities increase.

Legally, there is already a clear mandate for building up the LAF for the purpose of disarming Hezbollah; all that is lacking is the strength and political will to do so. Following the 2006 war, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 stated that all weapons in Lebanon were to be limited to the Lebanese government.[36] At present, the LAF is in no position to attempt to disarm Hezbollah. In all likelihood, building up the LAF to compete with Hezbollah will be a long process. However, given the current regional events that are threatening Hezbollah’s external base of support, it makes sense to expedite the process now. Strengthening the LAF will raise the costs Hezbollah would be forced to incur in the event of an internal conflict with the Lebanese government. As of late 2011, there were only four U.S. special operations units involved in training the LSOF.[37] Increasing the number of U.S. trainers would demonstrate U.S. commitment to strengthening the Lebanese government and push Hezbollah into a more precarious internal position, even while it strains to support the Assad regime in Syria. Metrics for success in this endeavor should include the number of southern Lebanon-based LAF units trained in counterterrorism operations, surveys of Lebanese public opinion regarding the LAF’s capabilities, and surveys gauging public support for Hezbollah retaining its arms.



In its thirty-year history, Hezbollah has repeatedly defied efforts to weaken or destroy it. Its center of gravity rests in its strong support from the Shi’ite Lebanese. This support enables it to live and work among the people, which transforms attacks against Hezbollah into attacks against the Lebanese people. This defense has worked during the course of its existence, foiling repeated Israeli military attempts to destroy it. Moreover, Hezbollah’s ties to the populace and strong sense of community built around Shi’ism provide it with a ready pool of potential recruits who are often indoctrinated at a young age. This youth indoctrination process will also help Hezbollah overcome potential generational obstacles as its current leaders hand off the cause to the next generation. Hezbollah’s popularity seems to stem from several factors, but perhaps most importantly, its social services have filled a much needed role abdicated by the government. These services require significant external sources of funding, and that has become Hezbollah’s critical vulnerability.

Past Israeli counterterrorism strategy appears to have focused on eliminating key Hezbollah leaders and deterring Hezbollah attacks through aggressive reprisals for any transgressions along the volatile Israel-Lebanon border. The United States largely seems to have let Israel take the lead against Hezbollah. It has provided Israel with international political backing, significant military aid, and intelligence sharing, in addition to carrying out limited attempts to disrupt Hezbollah’s international finance network. Moving forward, the U.S. Treasury Department should increase targeting of Hezbollah’s financial network while stepping up the public affairs portion of those efforts to delegitimize Hezbollah’s image. At the same time, the U.S. State Department should use the momentum from Hezbollah’s recent attacks in Bulgaria and elsewhere to increase pressure on the European Union to officially label Hezbollah’s political wing a terrorist organization, rather than only Hezbollah’s military wing. Doing so would further enhance the international efforts against Hezbollah’s financial network by limiting its ability to use political fundraising mechanisms to channel funds to its militant operations. Furthermore, as the diplomatic community deals with Syria and Iran, Hezbollah should also be considered in any planning and negotiations with the ultimate goal being to isolate the group as much as possible from its foreign sponsors.

Finally, the U.S. should increase efforts to strengthen the LAF. Building up the LAF’s capabilities and bolstering its image within the Lebanese populace through coordinated information operations would raise the costs to Hezbollah of sparking a conflict with the Lebanese government while also undermining Hezbollah’s claim to be the only force in Lebanon capable of resisting Israel. The United States should clarify the goals set forth in the National Strategy for Counterterrorism of 2011, particularly by specifying a desired end-state for combating Hezbollah. This would assist in fostering interagency cooperation and would go a long way toward finally defeating an old enemy of the United States.





Mr. Brown is an MA candidate in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University focusing on terrorism and sub-state violence. Prior to attending Georgetown, he served four years as a ground intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps.

[1] Rebecca Leung, “Hezbollah: ‘A-Team of Terrorists,’” CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-550000.html (accessed 28 April 2013).

[2] Naseer H. Aruri and John J. Carroll, “U.S. Policy and Terrorism,” American – Arab Affairs, Vol. 14, 59, 30 September 1985. http://search.proquest.com.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/docview/219491821/13D7E8BD9696EBF2847/18?accountid=11091 (accessed 28 April 2013).

[3] United States, National Strategy for Counterterrorism, June 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf (accessed 23 February 2013).

[4] It is “doubtful” because no mention of a joint agreement to that effect could be found in open sources; there has been intelligence sharing and joint research and development efforts but not a bilateral strategy for defeating Hezbollah.

[5] Daniel Byman, A High Price (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 210.

[6] Ibid., 217.

[7] Ibid., 216.

[8] Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman, Lightning Out of Lebanon (New York: Presidio Press, 2005), p. 59.

[9] Aruri, “U.S. Policy and Terrorism.”

[10] Byman, 218.

[11] Diaz, 69.

[12] Byman, 211.

[13] Ibid., 220.

[14] Dominique Avon and Anais-Trissa Khatchadourian, Hezbollah:  A History of the “Party of God” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), p. 119.

[15] Byman 219.

[16] Ibid. 225.

[17] Diaz, 149.

[18] Ibid., 146.

[19] Ibid., 159.

[20] Ibid. 194.

[21] Avon, 69.

[22] Byman, 240.

[23] Avon, 51.

[24] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Hizballah” Press Releases, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center (accessed 28 April 2013).

[25] Byman, 260.

[26] Andrew Wander, “Israeli Daily Fleshes Out Anatomy of Mughniyeh Assassination,”The Daily Star Lebanon, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/Feb/09/Israeli-daily-fleshes-out-anatomy-of-Mughniyeh-assassination.ashx#axzz2SMZNSjAs (accessed 4 May 2013).

[27] Simon Haddad, “What Leads Some Lebanese Shiis to Support Hizballah?” Comparative Strategy, 32:71–87, 19 February 2013, http://www.tandfonline.com.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/doi/abs/10.1080/01495933.2013.754166 (accessed 28 April 2013).

[28] Anthony H. Cordesman, Michael Gibbs, Bryan Gold, and Alexander Wilner, “US-Iranian Competition: The Gulf Military Balance – II,” CSIS, Tenth Edition, p. 37, http://csis.org/files/publication/120222_Iran_Gulf_Mil_Bal_II_WMD.pdf (accessed 1 May 2013).

[29] Sam Dagher, “Hezbollah Chief Pledges to Aid Assad Regime,” The Wall Street Journal, 1 May 2013, final edition.

[30] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Designates Islamic Extremist, Two Companies Supporting Hizballah in Tri-Border Area,” Office of Public Affairs, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js1720.aspx (accessed 28 April 2013).

[31] The Associated Press, “EU Declares Hezbollah’s Military Wing Terror Group,”National Public Radio http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=204415777 (accessed 13 August 2013).

[32] H.R. 2717, which calls for increased U.S. support for Israeli missile defense programs, was introduced on 17 July 2013, but there has been no action on it to date other than its referral to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Library of Congress, H.R.2717 – United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation Act of 2013, http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/2717/committees (accessed 19 August 2013).

[33] Adam Entous and Charles Levinson, “Israel’s Iron Dome Defense Battled to Get Off Ground,” The Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2012, final edition.

[34] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011: Lebanon, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195544.htm (accessed 28 April 2013).

[35] Michael Foote, “Operationalizing Strategic Policy in Lebanon,” John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, http://www.soc.mil/swcs/SWmag/archive/SW2502/SW2502OperationalizingStrategicPolicyInLebanon.html (accessed 2 May 2013).

[36] United Nations, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8808.doc.html (accessed 3 May 2013).

[37] Foote, “Operationalizing Strategic Policy in Lebanon.”


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