Hezbollah‘s worldwide war against Israel
Gen. Shimon Shapira writes about the recently assassinated Iranian Gen. Hassan Shateri in Lebanon:
Shateri’s importance is indicated by the seniority of the Iranian figures who took part in his funeral ceremony in Tehran before his coffin was brought for burial to his hometown of Semnan. He was given final honors by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, IRGC commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, and Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani (who broke out in tears), along with representatives of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in these two organizations. The aim was to demonstrate the honor and importance that the Islamic Republic attributes to its fighters in Lebanon. The rites for Shateri in Tehran became part of the memorial day for Mughniyeh, and pictures of the two appeared on the same posters.3 Ali Riza Pamahiyan, an associate of Khamenei who had met with the Iranian general a few years earlier at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, linked Shateri and Mughniyeh together: “We are near the days of martyrdom of Imad Moughniya. Our Shateri was no less than Moughniya. He had a special place in the way that he will be missed and his purity. That’s all that can be said, as his secret contribution cannot be mentioned.”4
In a ceremony in Hizbullah’s honor in Tehran, Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative in the Quds Force, threatened Israel that Iran would soon respond to Shateri’s death.5
Despite the mystery surrounding Gen. Shateri and a report that he sat on Hizbullah’s leadership council and was an adviser to Nasrallah, he was not the IRGC commander in Lebanon; that person’s identity is kept secret by Iran and Hizbullah. According to information published in Lebanon, the position is held by Hassan Mehadavi or, in his Persian name, Mohammad Riza Zahadi. The career path of Shateri was in the realm of engineering, of construction, rehabilitation, and fortifications. He spent most of his years in that field – first in the war with Iraq, then in Afghanistan, while after the Second Lebanon War he was sent to oversee the rehabilitation program for southern Lebanon and the Dahiya quarter of Beirut,6 along with projects that enabled Hizbullah to create the independent infrastructure for a state within a state. These included establishing an independent fiber-optic network that gives Iran and Hizbullah a telephone, television, and satellite communication network throughout Lebanon. Shateri also set up a real estate company whose task was to purchase land, sometimes quite sizable tracts, in Christian and Druze villages and thereby extend Hizbullah’s control from its strongholds in the Beqaa Valley to Mount Lebanon on the way to Beirut. He ran a business empire in Lebanon that includes banks, shopping centers, hotels, transportation companies, travel agencies, and radio, television, and press networks.7
Shateri’s role in southern Lebanon recalls a recent analysis by Ron Ben Yishai:
At the same time, the Shiite terror group launched a major social/real-estate project that bolstered its political standing: It purchased lands on the outskirts of the villages, built homes on these lands and offered them to poor Shiite families at bargain prices (to rent or buy), one the condition that at least one rocket launcher would be placed in one of the house’s rooms or in the basement, along with a number of rockets, which will be fired at predetermined targets in Israel when the order is given.
In addition, Hezbollah has set up camouflaged defense positions in villages which contain advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles it had received from Syria. Hezbollah gunmen have planted large explosive devices along the access roads, and inside the villages structures that were purchased by the organization were converted into arms caches. The Hezbollah gunmen are focusing their efforts on finding ways to hide underground to protect themselves from IDF fire and to prevent Israeli intelligence from tracking them down so they will be able to continue fighting even when IDF forces are nearby.
In this manner some 180 Shiite villages and small towns situated between the Zahrani River and the border with Israel have been converted into fighting zones in which Hezbollah is preparing – above and below ground – for the next conflict with Israel. Hezbollah has some 65,000 rockets and missiles at its disposal.
It’s often commented that terror organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas also offer social services. In this case, the social services are directly tied to Hezbollah’s terror activities.
But if Hezbollah’s “social services” have served as a fig leaf until now, its support of the Assad regime is putting it under new scrutiny. Al Monitor reports on SNC Cites Hezbollah Role in Syria:
According to the Syrian National Council (SNC), members of Hezbollah attacked “three Syrian villages in Kusair, near the Lebanese border, employing heavy weapons openly and under the auspices of the Syrian regime army.” In the same statement, the SNC said it regards Hezbollah’s actions as a “serious threat to Syrian-Lebanese relations and regional peace and security,” adding that the Beirut government has a responsibility to end this “aggression.”
The SNC’s statement came as a Lebanese security source requesting anonymity revealed to Al-Monitor that three Hezbollah members had died in clashes on the northeastern border with Lebanon. The source added that 12 Syrian rebels had been killed in Kusair, which, although in Syria, has a majority Lebanese Shiite population.
Until March 2011, Hezbollah had been the most popular non-Syria organization in the war-torn nation. Posters of Hassan Nasrallah, the organization’s charismatic secretary general, were everywhere. To many Syrians, he was “The Inspirer.”
With Hezbollah’s role in Syria being scrutinized, every word, reaction, and dead member mourned has been put under the microscope by the Syrian opposition and its supporters in the region, especially in Lebanon. Pictures once posted in support of Hezbollah’s leaders in some areas have been set on fire, as yesterday’s inspirer has now become a foe and aggressor.
Meanwhile, the results of Bulgaria’s investigation into last year’s Burgas terror attack are increasing pressure on the European Union to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization:
The support of Hezbollah, a powerful political and guerrilla Shi’ite Muslim movement that is armed and funded by Iran, is vital to the authority of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. But Avi Dichter, in Paris to discuss the matter with French officials, told Reuters the EU should blacklist the group because it also drew a large portion of its funds from European capitals and later laundered the money.
“Europe, that’s the real base of Hezbollah … If they won’t be able to gather money or to raise finances in Europe, they are going to be in trouble,” he said, adding the funding came from a network of charities and front-companies.
The results of Bulgaria’s investigation into Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in the bus bombing are likely to take weeks or months to deliver.
On another front too, Hezbollah’s international terror activity is being exposed. The New York Times reports Trial Offers Rare Look at Work of Hezbollah in Europe:
Mr. Yaacoub’s testimony offered unaccustomed insights from an active Hezbollah member into the militant group’s secret operations. But it carried potentially greater significance for the European Union, which has thus far resisted following Washington’s lead in declaring the group a terrorist organization. Experts say that a conviction here would substantially raise the pressure on the bloc for such a designation.
“Foreign ministries around Europe are watching this quite closely because many Europeans, particularly the Germans, have laid such a stress on courtroom evidence being the basis for a designation,” said Daniel Benjamin, until December the top counterterrorism official at the State Department, who visited Cyprus last year after the arrest.
Security experts also suspect that Mr. Yaacoub was playing a small but potentially deadly role in a much broader shadow war that has produced what some Israeli and American intelligence officials say were nearly a dozen plots by Iran and Hezbollah against Israel and its allies abroad.