Significance of Hezbollah
Distinct from conventional warfare, other types of prolonged military campaigns are unconventional, including sub-conventional and supra-conventional (nuclear) warfare. As a sub-state actor, Hezbollah commits acts of violence under the rubric of sub-conventional warfare.
Even those uninterested in this particular group will find an analysis of Hezbollah’s violence a useful guide for understanding and predicting the actions of comparable guerrilla groups because the nature of guerrilla warfare demands that the militarily weaker, sub-state actor, whether located in Lebanon or Vietnam, use secrecy, attrition strategies, and the high cost of counter-insurgency to their advantage. Underlying similarities in the structure and function of these groups makes the study of any one an inherently useful rubric to study any other. At a time when the United States and its allies are currently embroiled in campaigns opposing unconventional actors, investigating the causes of asymmetric violence would benefit any political scientist or policy maker interested in state security.
Hezbollah (in Arabic, the “Party of God”3) was born out of the 1980s Lebanese Civil War, fighting other Lebanese militias and the Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation.4 Shi’ite Muslims, Hezbollah’s largest support base, account for 40% of Lebanon’s total population, many of whom feel under-represented in the Lebanese political and economic system.5 Headquartered in Beirut, Hezbollah controls Southern Lebanon, which represents about 10% of all Lebanese territory, where most Shi’a are concentrated.6
History Professor Rashid Khalidi adds that there was no Hezbollah before the Israeli occupation. Hezbollah portrays itself as a resistance and social movement that speaks for the disenfranchised of Lebanon.7
The group has maintained a military commitment to the expulsion of Israel from Lebanese territory, attracting “wide if non-unanimous support” in Lebanon.8 Hezbollah first entered the Lebanese government as a political party in 1992 and in 1996 outlined its political manifesto, declaring its ambitions to include: the resisting of Israeli ocupation on contested Lebanese land, reforming public education, safeguarding public freedoms, and instating a wide range of social and economic measures.9 Social services that Hezbollah offers include “hospitals, medical centers, schools, orphanages, and rehabilitation centers for the handicapped.”10 These welfare programs, while they assist the Shi’ite public, also benefit the resistance movement by lending it public support.
Although the group remains tight-lipped about its organizational structure, researchers have discovered that it is structured as a hierarchical pyramid, headed by the decision-making Advisory Council (Majlis Shura al-Qarar), 12 over which Sheikh Hassan Sayyid Nasrallah has presided as the Secretary General since 1992.13 The Advisory Council is comprised of nine members, including two Iranian representatives, whose presence implies not that the Iranian government leads the Council but that it is certainly influential. As is evident in Figure 1, underneath the Advisory Council are several subordinate councils known as functional councils: the Executive Council, the Judicial Council, the Political Council, the Political Advisor, and the Jihad/Military Council. Each functional council is in charge of several operational “desks” each responsible for specific topics.14 Nasrallah confirms that Hezbollah has four organizational levels, the top levels being more visible to the public, and the last level represented by the mujahidin, or guerrilla fighters.15
The Lebanese Government
There are two main political coalitions in Lebanon: the first is a coalition of mainly Sunnis, Druze, and Christians that formed after 2005 called the March 14 Group, named in honor of the protest on March 14th, 2005 when one million demonstrators called for an investigation into the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri — suspected at the time of having been ordered by the Syrian government.18
The second coalition is known as the March 8 group in commemoration of the large demonstration organized by Hezbollah and Amal to thank Syria for its role in maintaining peace in the country. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Amal competed with Hezbollah for Southern Lebanese support for guerrilla campaigns; however, Amal disarmed in 1992 and is now Hezbollah’s political ally in the government. The March 8 group is comprised predominantly of the southern Lebanese Shi’a represented by Hezbollah and Amal as well as “large elements” of the Christian community.19
Before the 1992 elections when Hezbollah established itself as a political party, Hezbollah’s leadership made strategic decisions to run as a coalition alongside Sunnis and Christians in some Lebanese districts to allow for political maneuvering and compromises with all factions that live in the region.20 For example, in Hezbollah’s first election, the group captured eight seats in addition to two seats won by loyal Sunni representatives and two seats won by Christian representatives with whom Hezbollah had bargained.21 Khalidi notes that the groups coalesced as the result of coalition politics, but the marriage of convenience has remained solid and stable.22
An Iranian Profile
Iran, despite the US media’s current obsession with its President, is not a one-man dictatorship. In fact, Iran is better described as an “oligarchy of Shi’ite fundamentalist clerics and laypersons who operate within a complex system.”25 No one person controls it. Instead, Iran is governed by a system of clerics and non-religious elites. As outlined in Figure 2, the Iranian Constitution gave executive, legislative, and judicial powers to the highest ranking Shiite cleric known as the Ayatollah but did not bestow unchecked power on him either, since the Constitution also created an elected president, an elected parliament known as the Majlis, and an elected Assembly of Experts. Although Supreme Leader Khamenei is the most powerful official, he could be overruled if the majority of the oligarchs wished.26 This government is really a regime, an entire system of elites. A change in any one of these structures — that is if a shift occurred in any of these governing bodies from one political faction to the other — might lead to a change in the articulation of Iranian foreign policy.
For example, the reformist school of thought dominated Iranian local councils in 1999, became a majority in the Majlis in 2000, and re-elected reformist President Khatami in 2001. The conservatives, however, maintained control over the non-elected offices during this time; these institutions include the Council of Guardians, the Council of Experts, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Khomeini, installed after the Islamic Revolution.27 Khatami’s policy of seeking dialogue and improved ties with the West gave way to increased tension with neighbors and the international community due to growing conservative power.31
Professor Eva P. Rakel reiterates that “Iranian foreign policy is linked to the policy preferences of the Iranian ruling political elite,” 28 so it is imperative to investigate the interests – sometimes dueling interests – of the different factions of the Iranian government. This is especially important for foreign policy since the reformists and conservatives have different interpretations of how best to reify a stable goal of protecting Iranian interests and thwarting Western influence in the region.
This is important to keep in mind because it is Iran’s foreign policy that governs that relationship.
Syrian troops were invited into Lebanon in 1976 to help the state deal with the increasing number of Palestinian refugees and increased turmoil caused by the PLO.31 The Syrian military took that opportunity to reassert its dominance and occupied the state, even controlling the rules of election process.32
Syrian president Hafez al-Assad supported Hezbollah since its creation in the 1980s, providing a weapon supply route and logistical support.33 When al-Assad died in 2000, his son, Bashar, took his father’s role as president, and enhanced Hezbollah’s political status and power not only by receiving Hezbollah leaders warmly but also by supplying the group with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.34 By 2003, Syria considered Hezbollah “a full-fledged strategic ally backed by the Syrian president, who maintains close relations with its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.”35
Syria used its political power in Lebanon “to support and give political cover to Hezbollah,
and directed Lebanon’s state security apparatus to support logistically the arming of Hezbollah.”36 Before leaving Lebanon in 2005, Syria guaranteed Hezbollah’s freedom of operation and prevented the Lebanese government from flexing its authority to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UN Resolution 425.37 Before 2005, Syria was instrumental in assisting Hezbollah maintain its powerful status within Lebanon, and one NGO even argued that Hezbollah would not have been able to reach its present status without Syria.38
As Syrian troops left Lebanon, Damascus lost political leverage; Hezbollah remains Syria’s tool to pressure the Lebanese government so it will not appoint anti-Syrian officials to important posts.39 Today, Syria maintains a close relationship with Hezbollah, continuing to deliver weapons.40 However, Syria does not have the influence in Lebanese politics or with Hezbollah that it once enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s.41
Not quite terrorism
Charles Tilly, who notes the difficulty of defining terrorism, uses the term to mean the intentional use of violence for political ends by non-state actors against civilians.44 The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”45 Different definitions reflect the idiosyncratic priorities of the individuals or groups that use a particular reflection of terrorism.46 There have been countless authors who have tried to pinpoint a precise definition of terrorism, and while I will not re-create the debate here, in general terms, terrorism is the act of committing asymmetric violence or the threat of violence against non-combatants by a non-state actor designed to create a political effect.
While Hezbollah is labeled a terrorist organization by the US Government for bombing the American Marine barracks and embassy, it is important to distinguish between early Hezbollah, which certainly employed the terrorist tactic, and present-day Hezbollah, which cannot shake its terrorist label.
Rationality of violence
Two theories of Hezbollah’s violence considered below assume Crenshaw’s rationalist model. Investigating the impact of both Israel’s actions and Hezbollah’s political participation on the group’s calculus surmises the group’s ability to make strategic calculations.
Terrorism as costly signaling
The outbidding logic seeks to demonstrate that one group can better protect its constituents from an existential threat than can rivals.51 Outbidding occurs when two or more domestic parties compete for leadership, and the general population is uncertain about which group represents their interests.52 Another author, Mia Bloom, defines outbidding as the use of violence to win over a constituency and away from the opposition that is cooperating with the enemy. She writes, “outbidding will result as groups try to distinguish themselves from one another to establish or increase a domestic constituent base.”53 While outbidding is generally directed towards the domestic audience, she also notes that outbidding attempts to undercut the international opponent as well as domestic rivals.54 Bloom’s and Kydd and Walter’s theories of attrition and outbidding are useful ways to think not only about terrorism but asymmetric violence as well since neither the logic of attrition nor outbidding requires civilian victims to retain salience.
The influence of Iranian directives on Hezbollah’s decision-making process must be considered because Iran is Hezbollah’s largest donor.55 Often, to find influence, one “must follow the money trail,” so to speak, and Hezbollah’s single largest benefactor is the Iranian government.
Some argue Hezbollah takes directives from Iran by pointing to Iran’s monetary support that financed Hezbollah’s inception. Hezbollah was not only inspired by the 1979 Shi’ite revolution in Iran but was established in the 1980s with Iranian funds.56 However, there is no evidence that at the outset Iran, like Syria to a lesser extent, was anything more than Hezbollah’s co-sponsor.57 Hezbollah is more analogous to a small business owner seeking venture capital than a child being told what to do. Professor Bulliet argues that although Iran is often referred to as “exporting” the Islamic Revolution, it would be more accurate to describe groups like Hezbollah importing the Islamic Revolution. “To portray it as an export,” he explains, “is to ascribe more agency to the Iranians than they had.” Bulliet warns against crediting Iran as the founders of the series of groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad that were self-styled in the image of the Islamic Revolution. While these groups may fashion themselves as part of an Iranian-led unity, they are no more unified than the disparate groups of various Al-Qaeda branches that have no relation to each other beyond the desire to each call themselves Al-Qaeda or the series of monarchical revolutions in 19th century Europe inspired by the 1789 French Revolution in which the French had no hand.58 Iran merely assisted Hezbollah in its own creation.
It is universally acknowledged that Iran has continued to financially support the Lebanese group,59 so one need not look at Hezbollah’s entire history when the last decade will sufficiently take this financial connection into account. For more information about Hezbollah’s origins, consult the texts of Krista Weigand,60 analyst Jon Alterman,61 Political Science Professor Ahmad Hamzeh,62 and Professor of international relations and anthropology Agustus Norton.63
More important than the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah in the 1980s is that their relationship remains a close one still today. Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem himself notes their natural bond due to their shared support of Islamic principles and goal of fighting Israel.64 Iran continues to send about $100 million a year65 and train and equip Hezbollah fighters.66 Furthermore, as mentioned Hezbollah’s Advisory Council, comprised of nine members, includes two Iranian representatives.
Many point to Iranian monetary support as evidence of collusion; however, money alone does not establish that one actor controls the actions of another. For example, the fact that the United States gives $3 billion to Israel annually67 does not automatically lead one to conclude that the United States is in control of Israeli politics. Monetary support is insufficient to conclude that Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy.
Different analysts have widely varying opinions about Iran’s influence on Hezbollah’s decisions to instigate violence against Israel. Weigad, for example, writes that Iran has been “directly involved” with Hezbollah’s strategies and uses Hezbollah as a proxy in order to assert itself in the region.68 The analysts behind the Middle East briefing take a more nuanced perspective, postulating that critical decisions such as Hezbollah’s decision to enter in the 1992 Lebanese parliamentary elections were likely verified by Iran’s supreme leader; however, while in theory Khamenei may have the last word, he has never overruled a decision made by the Advisory Council, Hezbollah’s governing body, suggesting that Khamenei’s position in the hierarchy is such to provide legitimacy to the Council’s decisions.69
Nassrallah insists that monetary donations from Iran are accepted without political conditions.73 He explains in an interview that donations “will not be subject to any conditions ... That is categorical and definite. I and my brothers do not take money, arms, or support with conditions attached from anyone.”74 An Iranian journalist and documentary filmmaker has studied the leaders of Iran and Hezbollah and notes that Hezbollah is no Iranian puppet. He writes in the New York Times, “Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese armed resistance group that owes its popularity to Israeli atrocities, biased American policies and corrupt Lebanese politicians. When the United States and Israel try to portray Hezbollah as an Iranian proxy, they are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.”75
The lack of consensus on Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s decision making has encouraged me to examine its influence relative to Israeli foreign policy and Hezbollah’s presence in the Lebanese political system. Professor Bulliet suggests that the formal structure of Hezbollah is that Iran is not in control but admits that a secret bond cannot be disproven by the very nature of any potential bond being secret. He notes that this kind of argument can be made on two bases: the first is based on power but is purely suppositious. Iran is the stronger actor and therefore must be in control. However, the same argument could be made of the United States and Israel; the United States, the more powerful of the two, is by this logic in control of Israeli politics. However, this is very unlikely to be the case, as Israel has defied the United States in the past. Therefore, simply being a powerful donor seems not to suggest that one state controls the actions of a less powerful beneficiary. Bulliet suggests that people also make the argument for Iran being in control of Hezbollah ideologically. They may want it to be true, but they cannot make the argument based on verifiable evidence, he explains: “In order to ascertain the true nature of the Iranian-Hezbollah connection, it is necessary to investigate the ways in which Iran benefits from this relationship.” 76
Professor Anoushiravan Ehteshami argues that Iran is concerned about Washington’s intentions, fearing after Sadaam, it could be the target of the next American military strike.77 The function of Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, according to Alterman and Bulliet, is to alleviate these fears. According to Alterman at CSIS, Hezbollah gives Iran a stick with which it can threaten Israel and the United States.78 Professor Bulliet agrees that were the United States to threaten Iran because of its nuclear weapons program, Iran could encourage Hezbollah to attack Israel, which would greatly frustrate the American government. Iran does not want to see Hezbollah take over Lebanon, Bulliet explains, but “what can Iran do to the United States if it sees us as an enemy? The answer is nothing.” Iran can make the Iraqi occupation difficult, but calling American officials bad names doesn’t excite them. Since the hostage crisis, Iran has been depicted very negatively in the American imagination. However, if Iran “pokes Israel’s eye, the United States has a heart attack.” It is much more acceptable to the U. S. Government for a group to be anti-American than anti-Israeli.79 Therefore, Iran benefits from the relationship with Hezbollah by having a weapon against the United States.
Furthermore, there are not many government or even quasi-government agencies that express admiration for Iran. Without Hezbollah, Iran would be surrounded by hostility. Bulliet argues that Iran has no intrinsic ties to its Arab neighbors, and, in fact, its natural allies such as China lie eastward. However, Iran derives “a sense of well-being from having people who like it.” Bulliet argues that the Hezbollah-Iran relationship only makes sense under this rubric. Hezbollah admires Iran, so Iran loves Hezbollah.80
The Real Iran
Implications of reformist policy
Implications of conservative policy
To Iran, Hezbollah is analogous to Venezuela. There is neither an inherent link between Iran and Venezuela nor Iran and Hezbollah, but once these actors declared admiration for Iran, the state reflexively nurtured that relationship. There is little risk involved in Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah: giving weapons to the group keeps the Iranian arms industry up-to-date. Iran wants to have a viable arms industry whether engaged in a war or not, and arming Hezbollah with rockets maintains the economical viability of that goal. Furthermore, through Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, the state gains a stick with which it can poke Israel — and by extension the United States — with little risk of Hezbollah ever pulling Iran into a war itself.87
The only instance in which Iran would benefit from Hezbollah acting violently against Israel is if the United States threatened a military incursion on Iranian soil, which has not yet happened and is unlikely to happen in the near future. If Israel threatened Iran, the same calculus would exist, and Iran would benefit from a Hezbollah-led attack. This perspective would account for moments of peace and would only predict violence after a military threat. Speaking of Iranian control when Hezbollah is left to its own devices for a majority of the time — given the infrequency of threats against Iran — then becomes meaningless.
Hezbollah can be argued to follow Iranian leadership if the group refrains from enacting violence during strong reformist moments and increases attacks during a strong conservative leadership. Only if for a majority of the last decade, Hezbollah follows the Iranian leadership can we use Iran A as our Iranian model, the influence of which will be investigated alongside Israeli actions and Lebanese politics, below. Otherwise, we must use “Iran B” as our model.
Strong Reformist Iran
Strong Conservative Iran
Conclusions about Iran
Cases of Hezbollah’s Violence
There was no evidence that Israel would react the way that it did, given its history of restrained responses to previous Hezbollah kidnappings.100 Nasrallah was not expecting Israel’s reaction because he did not take into account a change in Israeli leadership that occurred at the beginning of that year.101 Hezbollah was expecting the limited response they received in 2000 for a similar kidnapping that resulted in a prisoner swap in 2004 in exchange for the bodies of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. However, the new Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister did not have security experience and were particularly inexperienced in Israeli-Lebanese relations.102 Nasrallah admitted that if he had known the scale of the Israeli retaliation, he would not have commissioned the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers.103
Despite Nasrallah’s regret and extensive damage to Lebanon, Hezbollah won the 34-Day War politically. Israel and its sympathizers admitted strategic defeat. The contemporaneous Israeli Prime Minister’s popularity rating sank below 40% among Israelis.104 Former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack noted that “Hezbollah did what no Arab government ever has: They fought Israel and didn’t lose.”105 The bar was set too high for Israel to win. Israel’s goal of securing the two prisoners bowed to discourse of defeating Hezbollah. Therefore, Hezbollah had only to survive the bombardment to claim victory, since Israel defined an Israeli victory by the eradication of Hezbollah.106 Despite being out-gunned and losing militarily, Hezbollah won politically because Israel was unable to annihilate them, which boosted Hezbollah’s popularity even among Sunni countries.107
It would not make sense to argue that Iran is responsible for Hezbollah’s use of violence in July 2006 since neither the United States nor anyone else threatened Iran with military action at this juncture. Instead, Norell argues, it was Israeli embroilment in Gaza that provided Hezbollah with an opportunity it couldn’t refuse.108 He argues that the disturbances in Gaza were “undoubtedly an important factor” in Hezbollah’s calculus.109 Norell’s argument makes chronological sense: in June 2006, Israel sent troops into Gaza. In early July, Hezbollah planned a “well-timed” raid from Lebanon into northern Israel.110 Barak agrees that the timing of fighting in Gaza played an important role in Hezbollah’s decision making.111 Although the two groups are discretely different entities, Hezbollah supports Hamas rhetorically and in 2006 supported them with weapons.112 According to an interview with a senior member of Hezbollah in September 2006, “Hezbollah tries to support Hamas is any way it can.” 113Nasrallah insists that the kidnapping took four or five months to plan, 114 and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) independently believes that Hezbollah meticulously planned the kidnapping over several months.115 Nasrallah confirms that after the group planned the attack, they waited for the opportune moment, 116 and the most fitting chronological explanation is the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
It could also be the case, however, that it was Lebanese politics that influenced Hezbollah’s decision to kidnap two Israeli soldiers. On June 29, 2006, the gathering of key governmental factions known as the “national dialogue” in Lebanon was supposed to meet to discuss whether Hezbollah should continue to bear weapons, but this congress was moved to July 25. One political scientist argues that Hezbollah did not wait for its political power to be tested, however, and that the 34-Day-War was a direct result of Hezbollah’s attempt to shore up domestic power through the use of violence against Israel.117 Islamic Studies Professor Joseph Alagha agrees that Hezbollah seeking more legitimacy in politics at least in part, caused the kidnapping that led to the 34-Day War.118
Given these hypotheses, it makes the most sense that the Hezbollah’s actions were a combination of taking advantage of the situation in Gaza and political considerations. Nasrallah’s statements indicate that Hezbollah was planning an attack long before IDF invaded Gaza. What encouraged these plans was likely the result of political factors. After Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005, Hezbollah had to stand on its own two feet while justifying its arms cache. However, if the Gaza invasion were not a factor, Hezbollah likely wouldn’t have dealt with the logistical hassle involved with smuggling weapons into Gaza through Egypt.119 The assault on Gaza allowed Hezbollah to continue to claim its role as defender of Lebanon, fighter of colonialism, to boost their domestic standing. It is therefore important to keep in mind the role of both the Israeli attack on Gaza and Hezbollah’s political calculations when discussing the 2006 kidnapping that accidentally sparked a 34-day war.
Given these alternatives, Lebanese politics is the best explanation for Hezbollah’s restraint. As discussed above (3.1.1), Iran is peripherally responsible but cannot be the sole explanation. The fact that Israel invaded Gaza and Hezbollah did not engage in violence indicates that fighting in Gaza is no longer a useful measure. Political considerations explain Hezbollah’s decisions: Deterred by Israeli threats, Hezbollah acts prudently to preserve the lives and livelihood of their constituents.
Hezbollah’s Israeli Attacks
The new political environment created in 2005 when Syria left Lebanon was the permissive cause that led to the planning of the 2006 kidnapping that sparked the 34 Day War; however, I would be remiss in concluding that Israel’s incursion into Gaza was not an important chronological factor. Similarly, Professor Bulliet concludes that Hezbollah’s leadership has been very prudent and has not shown any inclination to use hostility towards Israel as anything but an excuse to retain its weaponry and increase its standing in the Lebanese political system. Concurrently, taking advantage of Israel’s embroilment in Gaza “obviously occurred to them once [in 2006].”124
Hezbollah’s appraisal of the kidnapping that sparked the 34-Day War was that it was a poor decision, and so they are unlikely to militarily support Hamas again. This theory is supported by the fact that when Israel pushed into Gaza in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Hezbollah offered nothing but rhetorical support, fearing an Israeli retaliation. In fact, Hezbollah has not attacked Israel since 2006 most likely out of considerations for the lives and livelihoods of those in Lebanon who would be bombed during a retaliatory strike. The one consistent thread throughout Hezbollah’s decision-making process is Lebanese politics.
Hezbollah’s Other Attacks
Sixty-five people died when Hezbollah took over the capitol from May 9 -14. As a result of Qatar’s mediation, Hezbollah’s minority coalition gained veto power in the Lebanese parliament, ensuring their ability to veto any future bills concerning the disarmament of Hezbollah, which further increased the group’s power in the government.131
Domestic Violence Conclusions
It was perceived as threatening Hezbollah’s pro-Syrian coalition. Damascus believed that Hariri was responsible for fueling the anti-Syrian fervor through his impressive connections. “Hariri was popular with the Bush administration, French President Jacques Chirac, and the Saudi Royal family. To the Syrians, it appeared that Hariri was mobilizing these connections against them, and they were furious.”132 Hezbollah and Syria had every reason to believe that a quieted Hariri would alleviate pressure from Syria, keeping a Syrian presence in Lebanon, ensuring Hezbollah’s continued political success.
Concern for political power is certainly the driving force behind the 2008 violence as well. It is clear from the negotiations process that Hezbollah’s chief concern is amassing more power in the government. This makes sense considering that the government had recently made two moves that threatened Hezbollah: it removed a manager at the airport sympathetic to Hezbollah and investigated Hezbollah’s private communications network.133 Furthermore, the constant possibility that the government would attempt to disarm Hezbollah, as it considered in 2006, loomed above the group’s head. The threat of disarmament coupled with the two events prior to May 2008 explains not only the timing of the protests but also why Hezbollah specifically wanted the power to veto legislation.
Future domestic violence continues to be a theoretical possibility as long as Hezbollah maintains its weapons cache. However, as long as Hezbollah’s role in the government is not threatened, according to this analysis, there is no reason for the group to turn their guns against Lebanese. To preserve peace, Hezbollah’s new place in government should be welcomed and encouraged.
So long as the current political environment remains the same, Hezbollah’s calculus will not change: it will not be beneficial for them to attack Israel. Even if Iran gifted nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, the group’s calculations would not change. Hezbollah would not attack Israel with a nuclear weapon since in all likelihood they would be unable to destroy Israel’s second-strike capability— their ability to retaliate — meaning Hezbollah would have to assume that Tel Aviv would respond in kind, destroying that which Hezbollah seeks to protect: its constituency in Lebanon.
In conclusion, Israel does not have to fear a strike from Hezbollah since the group’s raison d’etre is not the destruction of Israel but winning the hearts and minds of Lebanese in order to solidify their role in the political system. This goal often calls for nonviolence although may involve “minor political violence” domestically.134 The more power Hezbollah acquires, however, the less likely violence becomes – against Israel or the Lebanese. It is only when their political stature is threatened that Hezbollah engages in violence on Lebanese soil; their presence in the government has been responsible for maintaining years of peace vis-à-vis Israel, so the best way to prevent Hezbollah from engaging in violence is to ensure the growth and evolution of Hezbollah’s political wing.