Hizballah-Party Of God Essay, Research Paper
The truck sped down Beirut s airport road, quickly arriving outside the heavily guarded walls of its target. The driver ignored the shouted orders to stop and crashed the truck through a flimsy wooden barricade. In front of him stood a long, concrete building. The driver rammed the front of the building, came to a stop, and pressed a switch in the cab. Twenty thousand pounds of explosives detonated a few feet behind him.
In an instant, tons of broken concrete and twisted steel had buried more than 200 United States Marines. The truck and its driver were blown to pieces. Within a few weeks, the United States would remove its forces from the war-torn nation of Lebanon. In the name of Ayatollah Khomeini and Hizballah, one man s suicide had forced the world s most powerful nation into a humiliating retreat.
In the late 1970 s, Khomeini, an Islamic clergyman from the Middle Eastern nation of Iran, lived in exile. The government of Iran, under the rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, had forced Khomeini to leave his homeland. From Iraq to France, Khomeini used an inexpensive tape recorder to record his fiery, revolutionary sermons. His followers smuggled the tapes into Iran, where they were copied and sold by the thousands.
The Shiite Muslims in Iran revered Khomeini as their spiritual leader. The Shiites are an Islamic sect with members in many Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Lebanon. In Iran, the Shiites form a majority of the population. Khomeini and his Shiite followers believed in a government strictly based on the laws of Islam. Through his recorded sermons, Khomeini called on Iranians to overthrow the shah and establish an Islamic government.
The shah of Iran employed a modern army and a large network of secret police to control his country. He made billions of dollars from the sale of Iran s oil and also had the support of the United States. Nevertheless, anger towards his harsh regime erupted in a violent rebellion in 1978. The Revolutionary Guards, a militia loyal to Khomeini, attacked government forces with grenades, machineguns, and homemade bombs.
Unable to put down the rebellion, the shah fled Iran in 1979. The Ayatollah Khomeini soon made a triumphant return, and quickly carried out his promise to replace the shah with an Islamic government. Religious law, as interpreted by Khomeini, became the law of the land. The Revolutionary Guards became Khomeini s police force, using violence to enforce the new Islamic code. The revolutionary government executed thousands of Iranians who had supported the shah.
Iran s revolution stunned leaders throughout the Middle East. The Shiite Muslims in Lebanon also took notice of this miraculous change. But within Lebanon, the Shiites made up only one of many religious and ethnic groups that were fighting for political power. Christians controlled northern Lebanon; Muslims, the south of Lebanon. The army of Syria, a neighboring country, occupied the Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon. Since 1975, Christians, Muslims, and Syrians had been fighting in much of Lebanon.
The civil war in Lebanon was a disaster for the Shiites. Thousands were killed, and many more lost their homes. The Shiites in southern Lebanon had also endured deadly bombing raids from Israel, which lay across the border to the south. The Shiite militia, known as Amal, was losing ground in the war. Many Shiites who felt betrayed by Amal s leaders looked to Khomeini s Islamic revolution to help their cause.
The situation in Lebanon had grown even more chaotic with the arrival of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In the 1970 s, many PLO fighters moved into southern Lebanon. Refugee camps for Palestinian civilians were taken over by the PLO. From these camps, PLO guerillas staged raids on northern Israel. Israel retaliated with bombardments that destroyed Shiite villages and farms. With Amal unable to control this region, the Shiites were trapped in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
On June 6, 1982, the Israeli army invaded southern Lebanon, overrunning PLO camps and driving north to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. At first, many Lebanese including the Shiites welcomed the chance to drive out the Palestinians, who were in control of much of southern Lebanon. Gradually, however, the Lebanese Shiites turned against the Israelis. In mosques and village squares throughout southern Lebanon, Shiite clerics began calling for a jihad (holy war) against the imperial Israeli forces. Within a few months of the Israeli invasion, the Iranian government sent Islamic clerics into Lebanon to organize Hizballah the Party of God.
The Ayatollah Khomeini appointed the Hizballah leaders and supported the group with money and arms. A Lebanese Shiite cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Hassan Fadlallah, became a leader of the Hizballah organization. Under his guidance, Hizballah groups sprang up in town throughout southern Lebanon and in the Shiite suburbs south of the capital of Beirut. By using Hizballah, Khomeini hoped to defeat Israel, bring down the weak government of Lebanon, and establish a Shiite Muslim state in Lebanon. Hizballah s ideology would be first published in its political platform in February 1985, as follows:
The solution to Lebanon s problems is the establishment of an Islamic republic as only this type of regime can secure justice and equally for all of Lebanon s citizens. The Hizballah organization views as an important goal the fight against western imperialism and its eradication from Lebanon. The group strives for complete American and French withdrawal from Lebanon, including all their institutions. The conflict with Israel is viewed as a central concern. This is not limited to the IDF presence in Lebanon. Rather, the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem is an expressed goal.
Part of this radical ideology is the groups militant approach to using terror as a means of attaining its goals. Hizballah condemns the existence of Israel, viewed as a foreign to the region, which constitutes a threat to Islam and Muslims. The destruction of Israel and the liberation of Jerusalem are viewed by Hizballah as a religious obligation to Islam. Hizballah justifies the use of terror against these enemies (US, France, SLA, IDF, etc ) as a weapon in the hands of the weak and the oppressed against the strong aggressor.
Hizballah grew quickly, gaining thousands of members from the ranks of Amal. Its Islamic program united the poor Shiites of Lebanon in a common cause. New members dedicated themselves to founding a new Islamic state, free from the influence of European nations and the United States.
The Hizballah never grew large enough to face the Israelis, the Syrians, or the PLO directly on the front lines. Instead, the group attacked its targets with bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings. In a short time, Hizballah became the most feared terrorist organization in the Middle East.
By 1983, the Lebanese civil war had drawn in Israel and Syria and was threatening to turn the Middle East into an international battleground. To prevent this, Italy, Britain, France, and the United States sent troops into Lebanon. Sheikh Fadlallah and the leaders of Hizballah saw this as a direct threat to their goal of establishing an Islamic state in Lebanon.
To attack the multinational forces, Hizballah invented a terrible new weapon the suicide truck bomb. The group loaded several hundred pounds of explosives into a truck. A member of the group someone prepared to sacrifice his or her life would drive the truck in front of an embassy or into a military base. The driver then set off the explosives with a control switch in the truck s cab. The detonation would instantly destroy the driver, the truck, and any buildings or people standing within several hundred feet.
Sheikh Fadlallah and Hizballah never took credit for these attacks. As a Shiite cleric, Fadlallah knew that Islam forbids terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians. Fadlallah also claimed to be running Hizballah as a political, not a military, organization. Many Islamic nations, however, have declared jihads against their enemies. For this reason, an organization calling itself the Islamic Jihad publicly claimed responsibility for the terrorist acts in Lebanon. For several years, the United States and other governments tried to find out who was running the Islamic Jihad. Nevertheless, in order to remain a true Islamic entity, Hizballah maintained that it was a political group and kept Islamic Jihad responsible for the terrorist acts. As a matter of fact, Hizballah and Islamic Jihad were one and the same.
Hizballah s deadly truck bombs forced France, Italy, Britain, and the United States to withdraw their forces from Lebanon in the spring of 1984. Seeking safety, the United States also moved its embassy to a more secure building in East Beirut, the Christian section of the city. To prevent an attack, workers set up concrete barriers in the front of the embassy. But these security measures failed. In September, a Hizballah driver crashed through the barriers and set off a thunderous explosion. The truck bomb killed twenty-three people and destroyed the front of the building.
The attacks in Lebanon prompted the government of the United States to use the CIA the United States spying agency to investigate the bombings. The CIA discovered that Sheikh Fadlallah s Hizballah was responsible for the attacks. To strike back, the CIA hired Lebanese agents to attack Fadlallah. On March 8, 1984, a CIA agent parked a car filled with explosives in front of the sheikh s home in south Beirut. The explosion destroyed the building and killed eighty people. Sheikh Fadlallah escaped he had been away from the building at the time of the explosion.
The attack on Fadlallah s house made the Hizballah even more determined to attack United States targets. In April of 1984, after the United States attack on Fadlallah s headquarters, Hizballah terrorist bombed a restaurant near a United States military base in Torrejon, Spain, killing eighteen people. Most of the casualties were United States servicemen.
In the summer of 1985, Israel withdrew its army form southern Lebanon. The invasion of 1982 and the three years of occupation had accomplished little as civil war still raged in Lebanon, and the Lebanese government still had no control over most of the country. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon was viewed as a victory on the side of Hizballah. However, to prevent attacks across the border, the Israelis set up a narrow security zone north of the Lebanese border and hired a Lebanese Christian army to guard it. In this way, Israeli leaders hoped to protect their country from the troubles in Lebanon. The withdrawal of Israel left southern Lebanon without any single authority in control. With the PLO driven out, Amal, Hizballah, and other militias fought openly for control of the Shiite territory.
Although they wished to avoid direct connection to terrorism, the Shiite clerics of Hizballah also sought publicity for their cause. They believed they could gain sympathy and support from abroad by making their demands through the new media. They also hoped that this strategy would lead to the release of Hizballah prisoners held by Israel and Kuwait, one of the Arab nations opposed to Hizballah s activities.
To gain media coverage, Hizballah began to hijack commercial airlines. By taking a plane s crew and passengers hostage, Hizballah could prolong one of its operations for days or even weeks, drawing the attention of millions of people through newspapers and television. In June 1985, Hizballah carried out one of the longest terrorist operations in history the hijacking of TWA flight 847.
Flight 847 began on June 14, in Athens, Greece. The plane was scheduled to fly to Rome, Italy. But soon after take off, several men rose from their seats, produced guns, and ordered the plane s captain to fly to Beirut. After the plane landed, the hijackers released nineteen passengers. Several more Hizballah terrorists then boarded the airplane for the next leg of the journey a flights to Algiers, Algeria. Hizballah made public its demands: the Israeli government must release hundreds of Hizballah and Palestinian prisoners or the hijackers would shoot, one by one, the passengers and crew of Flight 847.
By this time, television coverage of the hijacking was bring the operation directly into the living rooms of millions of people around the world. The publicity put enormous pressure on the Israelis, who had vowed to make no deals with Hizballah or any other terrorist group, to act.
On June 15, the plane flew back to Beirut, Lebanon. The hijackers now sought the help of Amal, which controlled the neighborhoods near the Beirut airport. To prove their threats were serious, the hijackers marched Robert Stetham, a U.S. serviceman, to the front of the plane. There, they shot Stetham and threw his lifeless body onto the ground beneath the plan. Soon afterward, Nabih Berri, the leader of Amal, sent several of his military onto the plan to negotiate.
Hizballah intended to prolong the hijacking as long as possible. At each stop, the hijackers released a few more passengers, giving the media fresh news. After flying to Algiers once again and then returning to Beirut, the terrorists took the remaining 44 hostages off the plane and hid them in the suburbs of Beirut. Amal, Sheikh Fadlallah, and the government of the Republic of Iran then began negotiations with Israel.
On June 24, Hizballah brought the remaining hostages out of their hiding places in Beirut, drove them to Damascus, Syria, and then flew them to Frankfurt, Germany. In the meantime, Israel had agreed to release more than 1,500 prisoners. The hijacking was over, and Hizballah had achieved its goals worldwide publicity and the freeing of Shiite and Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Another Hizballah action was the taking of single hostages. Hizballah used these hostages for publicity and diplomacy by kidnapping western Europeans and United States citizens who were living and working in Beirut. On March 16, 1984, Hizballah seized William Buckley, the chief of the CIA bureau in Beirut. Instead of demanding ransom, the kidnappers put Buckley on trial and executed him. This may have been an act of revenge for the CIA s attack on Sheikh Fadlallah, which had occurred only a few days before. Over the next few years, Hizballah took more than a dozen British, French, and American hostages. The group held most of them captive for many years.
In September of 1985, Hizballah also began targeting citizens of the Soviet Union, a close ally of Syria. The organization kidnapped four Soviet officials working in Lebanon, killed one of them and held the other three, hoping to pressure the Soviet Union into stopping Syria s attacks in Lebanon. The Soviets reacted quickly by evacuating all their personnel form the country; they arranged the kidnapping and murder of one of Sheikh Fadlallah s relatives. A few days later, Hizballah released its hostages and never targeted Soviet citizens in Lebanon.
Although Hizballah was growing, its activities were drawing the attention from police agencies in Europe. On September 13, 1987, the German police apprehended and arrested Mohammad Hammadi, a member of Hizballah. At the time, he was carrying several bottles of liquid explosives. While holding Hammadi, the police identified him as one of the hijackers of TWA Flight 847. Hammadi s fingerprints were found of the plane and a TWA hostage had positively identified Hammadi as one of the terrorists who was a part of the 1985 TWA hijacking. Shortly after his arrest, Hizballah kidnapped two West German citizens in Lebanon. The group then demanded Hammadi s release, and the West German government gave in to the terrorist demand by allowing the employer of one of their hostages to pay a two million dollar ransom.
Acting as an agent of Iran, Hizballah also targeted French citizens in Lebanon. A series of 1985 bombings in Paris had terrified its citizens. After the bombings, the French police identified an Iranian, Wahid Gordji, as one of the men responsible for the bomb attacks. When the French demanded his prompt surrender form the Iranian embassy in Paris, Iran responded by surrounding the French embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
The governments of France and Iran were at a standoff. Although embassies were traditionally private property, the Revolutionary Guards had seized the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979 and taken the embassy staff hostage for 444 days. Seeking to avoid the seizure of their embassy, France s leaders decided to negotiate with the Iranians. France asked Iran to free the French captives held by Hizballah in Lebanon. IN return, the French government allowed Wahid Gordji to leave the Iranian embassy in Paris and return to Iran. In addition, the French stopped shipments of arms to Iraq, a country with which Iran was fighting a war with at the time.
Despite its successes, Hizballah began to lose support among Shiites in southern Lebanon in the late 1980 s. The clerics who led Hizballah refused to make any alliances with other Muslim factions in Lebanon. Hizballah found that, with fewer recruits and with many of its fighters still being held in foreign prisons, it could no longer operate outside of Lebanon. In the autumn of 1986, Hizballah made its greatest mistake. The groups kidnapped and tortured a large group of Syrian fighters in Beirut. After the organization released the soldiers, Syria formed an alliance with Amal to rid the capital of Hizballah fighters. In February 1987, Syria s army invaded a Hizballah controlled neighborhood and massacred dozens of guerrillas. A year later, Hizballah fought a long battle with Amal and the Syrians for control of southern Beirut. After several days of savage street-to-street fighting, Hizballah was forced to abandon the city.
At the same time, the Iranian government was losing its enthusiasm for Hizballah. After Khomeini died in June of 1989, the new Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, changed his country s stance toward the Western nations. Rafsanjani needed to rebuild his country after the long war with Iraq. For this, trade with the West was essential for the Iranians and this was a fact that they must understand. Iran convinced Hizballah s kidnappers to free their British, French, German, and American hostages. Terry Anderson, the last hostage, was released on December 4, 1991.
As the Lebanese civil war came to an end in the late 1980 s, an agreement between the Lebanese government, the Syrian government, and many of Lebanon s private militias ended the open warfare. With the civil war at an end and the Iranian government pressuring the group for the release of the hostages, Hizballah gradually lost its influence in the Middle East.
Although Hizballah survived in sough Lebanon, the movement now has only a few hundred guerrillas. While its terrorist acts are fewer, Hizballah has thrived as a political organization. In fact, several of the Hizballah leaders won election to Lebanon s parliament in 1992, after a cease-fire came into effect.