Hezbollah was founded in 1989 by a group of Shiite religious leaders. The group was inspired in part by the teachings of Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 revolution in Iran. Hezbollah’s early leadership mobilized Lebanon’s Shiite population to resist Israel and began training hundreds of recruits in Eastern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990, but Hezbollah was permitted to keep its weapons. In 1985 Hezbollah issued a public manifesto of its ideology and stated one of its chief goals to be the end of Israel, the liberation of Jerusalem, and the formation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.
Since the end of the civil war, it has become an essential player in Lebanese politics, while depending on its ability to retain support among Lebanon’s Shiite community.
Hezbollah has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks since its formation, including the 1983 suicide bombing of the US Embassy (killing more than 300 US personnel), the 1992 attack of the Israeli embassy in Argentina (killing 29), the 1994 London Israeli Embassy attack (injuring 29), and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, killing 19 US citizens.
More recently, the 2006 Lebanon War was a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon and Northern Israel, which started when Hezbollah militants fired anti-tank missiles at two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence. The attack killed three and injured two.
Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon, an air and naval blockade, and a ground invasion of Southern Lebanon. The war continued until August 14th, 2006. By the end, Hezbollah had made thousands of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians living in towns in Northern Israel.
Threat Going Forward
Perhaps the most significant threat that Hezbollah poses to US interests lies in its relationship with Iran. Hezbollah answers to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The country has played a vital role in building up Hezbollah’s military capabilities over the years, which enabled the group to fight the Israeli army to a standstill in 2006. I personally follow one of the leading experts on Iran Mark Dubowitz of FDD here. For Iran, Hezbollah’s military strength serves as an essential deterrent to any potential US or Israeli plan to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. If they strike Iran, then Iran could rely on Hezbollah to attack northern Israel.
This threat is more dangerous now than ever before, given the strained relationship between the US and Iran. On May 12th, President Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the Iranian nuclear agreement and reinstituting sanctions. Mark Dubowitz from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently spoke more in-depth about the criticisms of the deal. Check out Mark Dubowitz’s website here for more information.