Vol. 8, No. 9 26 August 2008
Hizbullah’s Role in Attacks Against U.S. and British Forces in Iraq
Jonathan Dahoah Halevi
- Asharq Alawsat reported on August 18, 2008, that Hizbullah operatives were involved in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in four Iraqi provinces. In June 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield disclosed that Hizbullah cadres had attacked U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. Hizbullah units claimed responsibility for operations against coalition forces and Iraqi security personnel as early as the latter part of 2005.
- A senior U.S. intelligence officer said that activists of the “Special Groups” (Shiite terror cells in Iraq) undergo training and military instruction administered by the Iranian Revolution Guards’ Qods Force and Lebanese Hizbullah at training camps in the cities of Qom, Tehran, Ahwaz, and Mashad.
- The official website of the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq features scores of video clips depicting the setting off of a number of sabotage charges in one place; the use of two explosive charges in succession in order to harm rescue forces as well; the use of mortars mounted on trucks in order to make a quick getaway, and the launching of a shoulder-fired Strela missile against helicopters.
- Hizbullah’s deep involvement in terror throughout Iraq demonstrates that the organization does not view itself purely as a Lebanese factor with national and local objectives, but as an arm of Iran in spreading the Shiite Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East and in the long term throughout the entire world. Hizbullah's strategic ties with with Iran's Revolutionary Guards for the purpose of operations in Iraq once again illustrate how Iran, in general, and its Revolutionary Guards, in particular, directly promote international terrorism globally.
Britain Designates Hizbullah’s Military Wing as Terror Group
The U.S. and Britain have increasingly singled out Hizbullah as one of the most serious threats to coalition forces in Iraq. Asharq Alawsat reported on August 18 that Hizbullah operatives were involved in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in four Iraqi provinces.1 British Home Office Minister Tony McNulty announced on July 2 that Britain has included the military wing of Hizbullah on its list of terror organizations. The import of the announcement is that membership in or providing assistance to the military wing of Hizbullah will be considered a criminal act. Prime Minister Gordon Brown explained that London had received “new evidence” concerning Hizbullah’s involvement in Iraq and in areas under Palestinian jurisdiction.
The decision as reported does not apply to the political or social activity of Hizbullah. However, the British minister noted that this decision conveyed a clear message of condemnation for Hizbullah violence and the assistance that the organization is providing for terror. “The military wing of Hizbullah provides active assistance to militants in Iraq who are responsible for attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens, including training in the use of roadside bombs,” said McNulty, who added that “the military wing of Hizbullah also provides assistance to Palestinian terror groups in the occupied Palestinian territories such as, for example, Islamic Jihad.”2
Hizbullah Training Camps in Iraq and Iran
U.S. military and intelligence bodies have uncovered many details in the past year regarding Hizbullah involvement in terror throughout Iraq. Relying on a briefing by a senior U.S. intelligence officer, the Associated Press reported on August 15, that the activists of the “Special Groups” (Shiite terror cells in Iraq that split off from the Mahdi Army and circumvented the cessation of hostilities called for by its head, Muqtada a-Sadr) undergo training and military instruction administered by the Iranian Revolution Guards’ Qods Force and Lebanese Hizbullah at training camps in the cities of Qom, Tehran, Ahwaz, and Mashad.3 The training includes intelligence-gathering, use of light weaponry, basic combat training, terror cell operations, the use of explosives for sabotage, and antitank fire, including use of the RPG-29 launcher.
Lebanese Hizbullah members are particularly useful to Iran for training Iraqis because both groups speak Arabic, while the Iranians speak Farsi. Lebanese Hizbullah may also have additional credibility with Iraqi Shiites because of what is viewed as their success. Hizbullah training was intended to ready Iraqi Shiite operatives for assassination and terror attacks in Iraq. According to Iraqi members of parliament and military figures, Hizbullah trainers operated training camps in northern Iraq until April 2008, and were then forced to transfer to Iran due to Iraqi army activity against the armed militias.4
Hizbullah Attacks Inside Iraq
Thus, Hizbullah does not only interface with Iraqi Shiite militias on Iranian soil, but within Iraq itself. Indeed, Hizbullah units claimed responsibility for operations against coalition forces and Iraqi security personnel as early as the latter part of 2005.5 In June 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield disclosed that Hizbullah cadres had attacked U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.6 Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh had been tasked to organize Shiite militias in southern Iraq already in 2005. Reportedly, he had been seen in Basra, facilitating the movement of Iraqi Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army into Iran.7 He was also responsible for establishing Hizbullah cells outside of Lebanon, especially in Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
Testimony regarding the extent of Hizbullah involvement in terror throughout Iraq has been gathered from the interrogation of prisoners by U.S. forces. In August 2008, the U.S.-led Multinational Force-Iraq forces command reported the arrest of nine activists from the Hizbullah Brigades in Adhamiyah (Baghdad). One of them is suspected of operating a terror organization in Basra and smuggling weaponry from Iran. Another activist is suspected of involvement in launching missiles and mortar shells. War materiel and electronic equipment were discovered at his home.8
Previously, information was divulged about the commander of a terror cell who had undergone training in Iran. This activist trained sabotage experts in Baghdad and was responsible for terror attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces in Baghdad.9 Likewise, two activists from “the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq” were arrested. They carried out propaganda activities in Baghdad on behalf of the organization, and in this framework they uploaded video clips to the Internet documenting terror attacks against U.S. forces.10 In September 2007 it was reported that U.S. forces had arrested a Hizbullah activist from Lebanon who functioned as an emissary on behalf of the Iranian Qods Force in Iraq.11
In his testimony before the Armed Services Committees of the Congress on April 8, 2008, General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, reported that the Iranian Qods Force, with the assistance of Lebanese Hizbullah’s Department 2800, was training, arming and guiding the “Special Groups” in Iraq.12 Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, head of the Communications Division for the multinational forces in Iraq, also noted a month previously that terror operatives arrested at the end of 2007 reported they had undergone training in Iran directed by Hizbullah activists.13 Two activists of Lebanese Hizbullah (one of them Abu Mousa Dukduk) operated in the framework of the “Special Groups.”14 U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said in August 2008 that the interrogations of Hizbullah activists within the secret cells of the Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi) demonstrated the deep involvement of Iran in terror attacks against coalition forces and attempts by Iran to “create a Lebanonization or Hizbullahzation in parts of southern Iraq.”15
The official website of the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq provided background data on the organization and its patterns of operation. The organization took credit for initiating terror attacks against coalition forces on October 23, 2003, when it attacked a Hummer vehicle belonging to American forces in Baghdad. The Hizbullah organization in Iraq operates a number of “brigades.” The Abu Fadel al-Abbas Brigade and the Karbala Brigade operate in the area of Baghdad, while the Zayd bin Ali Brigade operates in the area of the southern city of Basra. The prototypes of the terror attacks that the organization carries out can be deduced from official press announcements and scores of video clips the organization has disseminated that include:
- The use of explosive charge theaters (setting off a number of sabotage charges of various types in one place in order to increase the vulnerability of armored vehicles and infantry forces).
- The use of two explosive charges in succession in order to harm the rescue forces as well.
- The use of mortars mounted on trucks in order to make a quick getaway.
- The use of heavy stationary mortars.
- The launching of missiles mounted on separate launchers (one or two at a time).
- The massive launch of missiles (sometimes scores of missiles in a single attack).
- Sniper fire at soldiers and foot patrols.
- Launching a shoulder-fired Strela missile against helicopters (the downing of one American helicopter was documented on July 31, 2006).
- The use of antitank launchers of the RPG-29 model with high armor penetration capability.16
Hizbullah’s Ideological Platform
The ideological platform of Hizbullah in Iraq is predicated on the Shiite faith and the path of Imam Khomeini. It sets forth three fundamental principles – “resistance, Jihad, liberation.” The major avowed goal is the removal of the “occupation” from Iraq. “From the very first minute our objective was to defeat the occupation within Iraq and subsequently expel it from Iraq, humiliated and defeated….The enemy will witness in the future things that will cause him great pain and the loss of many soldiers…that he has largely assembled from the back streets of New York, Texas and Hollywood. We swear by Allah that we have chosen this path and we will not abandon it until these invaders have been defeated.” This statement appeared on the group’s official Internet site in an announcement regarding the organization’s objectives.
Another announcement on February 13, 2008, was devoted to the memory of Imad Mughniyeh, the head of Hizbullah’s military wing who was assassinated in Damascus on the previous day. “We the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq have sworn to avenge his death and continue on the path of struggle and Jihad until the removal of the Americans from the region,” the “liberation of Palestine,” and “the restoration of dignity and sovereignty to the Arab and Islamic homeland.”17 The Hizbullah Brigades also announced that any security agreement that would be signed between the Iraqi government and the American forces would be considered null and void and that Iraq had to adopt a policy that defined the United States as a threat to the region, defended Islam, and prevented any foreign control over its natural resources.18
Hizbullah has never concealed its support and sympathy for terror organizations operating in Iraq. When the Fourth Congress in Support of the Resistance was convened in Beirut on March 30, 2006, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah supported “resistance” in Iraq and Palestine.19 Hizbullah television station Al Manar provided ongoing coverage, surveying the terror attacks that the Hizbullah Brigades were carrying out in Iraq.20
Summary and Implications
Hizbullah’s deep involvement in terror throughout Iraq demonstrates that the organization does not view itself purely as a Lebanese factor with national and local objectives, but as an arm of Iran in spreading the Shiite Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East (the Shiite crescent) and in the long term throughout the entire world. Over the last few decades, Hizbullah branches have appeared in several Arab countries with substantial Shiite populations like Bahrain, Kuwait, and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The military arm of Hizbullah, as the British Home Office Secretary termed it, is a dexterous arm of terror that is spreading its tentacles to various countries in the West for the purpose of fundraising, recruitment and establishing a network of sleeper terror cells to be activated by Tehran at the appropriate time.
The distinction between the military wing of Hizbullah and the political or social wing is an artificial distinction that is fundamentally flawed. Hizbullah views all wings of its organization as parts of a single body that are intended to achieve the identical strategic goal of spreading Islam and waging constant war against the apostates until their defeat. Decision-making on the military level is the purview of Hizbullah leaders headed by Hassan Nasrallah. The major objective of Hizbullah’s social-educational network, as Nasrallah’s deputy Naim Qassem has testified, is to create a new generation that will follow the path of the Imam Hussein, by “yearning for death in the love for Allah and craving for Jihad in the path of Islam.”21 In other words, the educational network of Hizbullah serves as an assembly line for the brainwashing of the younger generation to make them fit for their role as fighters prepared to serve as live bombs and suicide terrorists in the struggle against the apostates.
Western countries as well as international organizations have been collaborating with Hizbullah front groups and economic entities. Western aid funds help reinforce the Hizbullah infrastructure in Lebanon that is attempting to take over the country by exploiting the protection of democracy, in order to establish an extremist Islamic Shiite regime, similar to Iran, that will abolish democracy.
Hizbullah’s Jihad al-Bina (Jihad for development) construction company is in contact with European bodies and it receives funding, inter alia, from Lebanese municipalities that are supported by the West. This organization was apparently a partner in the establishment of Hizbullah’s clandestine military communications infrastructure and other projects set up in the context of Hizbullah’s attempts to establish the institutions of a “state within a state” prior to its final takeover of the Lebanese government.
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. Ali Nourizadeh, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to Train Iraqi Shiite Youths,” Asharq Alawsat, August 18, 2008.
3. Refers to the organization Asaib al Haq (The “Bands of the Righteous”) and Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq that split off from the Mahdi Army.
5. Yaakov Katz, “"Hizbullah Operatives Caught in Baghdad,” Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331169189&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter
6. Matthew Levitt and David Schenker, “Who Was Imad Mughniyeh?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch #1340, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=2716
7. Ali Nouri Zadeh, “Imad Mughniyeh: Hezbollah’s Phantom,” Asharq Alawsat, August 11, 2006, http://www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=5964
http://www.mnf-Iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13664&Itemid=128, http://www.mnf-Iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13790&Itemid=128, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/Petraeus-Testimony20070910.pdf
16. http://www.d-sunnah.org/forum/showthread.php?t=7733. The website of the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq operated at http://www.alaseb.com and is currently unavailable.
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Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder with Brian Falkenstein of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.