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Hezbollah’s War against ISIS

Despite Hezbollah’s radical Islamist ideology, they are opposed to ISIS and are working with local Christians within Lebanon to fight a war against the Sunni extremist terror group. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, is Shia, while ISIS is Sunni.

Hezbollah, despite its radical Islamist ideology, considers ISIS to be a major security threat, according to a report in Al Arabia. “Wherever there are followers of the ideology, there is ground for ISIS and this exists in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, and the Gulf states,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. “It appears that the capabilities, numbers and capacities available to ISIS are vast and large. This is what is worrying everyone and everyone should be worried.”

“This danger does not recognize Shiites, Sunnis, Muslims, Christians or Druze or Yazidis or Arabs or Kurds. This monster is growing and getting bigger,” Nasrallah stated. Hezbollah has been fighting against ISIS in Syria and even in Iraq. A Hezbollah commander was killed last month fighting against ISIS in Iraq, Al Arabia reported.

However, when it has come to battling ISIS within Lebanon so far, the Lebanese Army and not Hezbollah has taken the lead. “Lebanon specifically is key to the dynamics of the fight against ISIS, not least because of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and because of the jihadists’ presence alongside the Lebanese border,” Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst at the Delma Institute, told the Lebanon Daily Star.

Nevertheless, Sami Nader from the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs stressed “you can’t put Hezbollah in front of ISIS.” While Hezbollah is better armed than the Lebanese Army and probably has a stronger drive to fight, Nader emphasized that Hezbollah cannot take the front seat without inciting sectarian tension and he claimed that Hezbollah understands this. This is why when ISIS seized the Lebanese city of Arsal; they battled the Lebanese Army and not Hezbollah.

This does not mean that Hezbollah has not played an important role in the war against ISIS in Lebanon. With the growing expectation that ISIS will be coming to Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military preparations have included the establishment of Peoples Protection Committees, which unites all sects in Lebanon against ISIS. Surprisingly, many Lebanese Christians have been working with Hezbollah to counter the ISIS threat, according to a report in Al Monitor.

A Lebanese Christian youth explained to Al Monitor why he joined the local protection committee: “What has happened in Mosul has been a message to all Christians of the East that the world will not protect them and that they need to rely on themselves to defend their existence.”

According to detained jihadist Imad Jomaa, ISIS seeks to establish an Islamic state between the Bekaa Valley and northern Lebanon. The Lebanon Daily Star reported that the assault on Arsal was designed to start a state of chaos that would initiate in Bekaa and spread to northern Lebanon. “Sleeper cells in those regions would work on sparking instability,” Jomaa said, adding that he was arrested three days prior to the launching date of the operation. ISIS sought to kill off all Hezbollah members, as well as any individual over age 15 who declared their support for Hezbollah. Jomaa claims that ISIS would have spared the Christians in Lebanon, emphasizing they mainly sought to go after Shias.

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. In addition, she is a contributing writer at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. For over 6 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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