[Marxism] "The Best Guerrilla Force in the World"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 14 07:27:58 MDT 2006


'The Best Guerrilla Force in the World'
Analysts Attribute Hezbollah's Resilience to Zeal, Secrecy and Iranian Funding

By Edward Cody and Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 14, 2006; A01

BEIRUT, Aug. 14 -- Hezbollah's irregular fighters stood off the modern 
Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to 
extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the 
population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective 
weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.

"They are the best guerrilla force in the world," said a Lebanese 
specialist who has sifted through intelligence on Hezbollah for more than 
two decades and strongly opposes the militant Shiite Muslim movement.

Because Hezbollah was entrenched in friendly Shiite-inhabited villages and 
underground bunkers constructed in secret over several years, a withering 
Israeli air campaign and a tank-led ground assault were unable to establish 
full control over a border strip and sweep it clear of Hezbollah guerrillas 
-- one of Israel's main declared war aims. Largely as a result, the U.N. 
Security Council resolution approved unanimously Friday night fell short of 
the original objectives laid out by Israel and the Bush administration when 
the conflict began July 12.

As the declared U.N. cease-fire went into effect Monday morning, many 
Lebanese -- particularly among the Shiites who make up an estimated 40 
percent of the population -- had already assessed Hezbollah's endurance as 
a military success despite the devastation wrought across Lebanon by 
Israeli bombing.

Hezbollah's staying power on the battlefield came from a classic 
fish-in-the-sea advantage enjoyed by guerrillas on their home ground, 
hiding in their own villages and aided by their relatives. Hasan Nasrallah, 
the Hezbollah leader, summed up the guerrilla strategy in a televised 
address during the conflict when he said, "We are not a regular army and we 
will not fight like a regular army."

The group's battlefield resilience also came from an unusual combination of 
zeal and disciplined military science, said the Lebanese specialist with 
access to intelligence information, who spoke on condition he not be 
identified by name.

The fighters' Islamic faith and intense indoctrination reduced their fear 
of death, he noted, giving them an advantage in close-quarters combat and 
in braving airstrikes to move munitions from post to post. Hezbollah 
leaders also enhanced fighters' willingness to risk death by establishing 
the Martyr's Institute, with an office in Tehran, that guarantees living 
stipends and education fees for the families of fighters who die on the front.

"If you are waiting for a white flag coming out of the Hezbollah bunker, I 
can assure you it won't come," Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the 
Israeli army's general staff, said in a briefing for reporters in the 
northern Israeli village of Gosherim. "They are extremists, they will go 
all the way."

Moreover, Hezbollah's military leadership carefully studied military 
history, including the Vietnam War, the Lebanese expert said, and set up a 
training program with help from Iranian intelligence and military officers 
with years of experience in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The training 
was matched to weapons that proved effective against Israeli tanks, he 
added, including the Merkava main battle tank with advanced armor plating.

Wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missiles were the most effective and 
deadly Hezbollah weapons, according to Israeli military officers and 
soldiers. A review of Israel Defense Forces records showed that the 
majority of Israeli combat deaths resulted from missile hits on armored 
vehicles -- or on buildings where Israeli soldiers set up observation posts 
or conducted searches.

Most of the antitank missiles, Israeli officers noted, could be dragged out 
of caches and quickly fired with two- or three-man launching teams at 
distances of 3,200 yards or more from their targets. One of the most 
effective was the Russian-designed Sagger 2, a wire-guided missile with a 
range of 550 to 3,200 yards.

In one hidden bunker, Israeli soldiers discovered night-vision camera 
equipment connected to computers that fed coordinates of targets to the 
Sagger 2 missile, according to Israeli military officials who described the 
details from photographs they said soldiers took inside the bunker.

Some antitank missiles also can be used to attack helicopters, which has 
limited the military's use of choppers in rescues and other operations. On 
Saturday, Hezbollah shot down a CH-53 Sikorsky helicopter in Lebanon, 
killing all five crew members, according to the Israeli military. As of 
late Sunday, Israeli troops still had been unable to retrieve the bodies 
because of fierce fighting in the area of the crash.

The Hezbollah arsenal, which also included thousands of missiles and 
rockets to be fired against northern Israel's towns and villages, was paid 
for with a war chest kept full by relentless fundraising among Shiites 
around the world and, in particular, by funds provided by Iran, said the 
intelligence specialist. The amount of Iranian funds reaching Hezbollah was 
estimated at $25 million a month, but some reports suggested it increased 
sharply, perhaps doubled, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over as president 
in Tehran last year, the specialist said.

Fawaz Trabulsi, a Lebanese professor who helped lead Palestinian-allied 
militia forces against the Israeli army in 1982, noted that Hezbollah's 
fight has differed in several respects from that mounted by the Palestine 
Liberation Organization during the 1980s. In that war, Israeli forces 
punched straight northward and reached Beirut in a few days with only minor 
resistance, he recalled, saying Israeli officers seemed to think they could 
duplicate that performance against Hezbollah.

One reason for the sharp difference is that Israeli intelligence had much 
less detail on Hezbollah forces, tactics and equipment than it had on the 
PLO, which was infiltrated by a network of spies, said Trabulsi, now a 
political science professor at Lebanese American University. "Hezbollah is 
not penetrated at all," he said.

Nehushtan, the Israeli general, said the Israeli military had enough 
information to appreciate the fighting ability and weaponry of Hezbollah as 
the conflict opened. In addition, Israeli warplanes have hit pinpoint 
targets throughout the fighting, presumably on the basis of real-time 
intelligence reaching the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv through drones and 
other surveillance equipment. Other observers, however, said the sweep of 
fighting over the last month -- when Israel on several occasions said it 
controlled the terrain, only to continue fighting in the same border 
villages -- suggested intelligence had not provided an adequate 
appreciation of the battlefield.

"I think it's no secret that the Israeli military didn't have the 
intelligence on this," said Richard Straus, who publishes the Middle East 
Policy Survey newsletter in Washington. "They didn't know what Hezbollah 
had, how it had built up, what it was capable of."

Another difference that gave Hezbollah fighters an edge is the experience 
they acquired in combating Israeli troops during the nearly two decades of 
Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon that ended in 2000. In contrast, 
Palestinian guerrillas had gained most of their experience fighting 
Lebanese militias in the civil war here -- using nothing more than assault 
rifles and rocket-propelled grenades -- and were unprepared and unequipped 
to resist the advance of Israel's modern army.

"The difference is in training, the difference is in weapons, but the big 
difference is that most of the Palestinians had never engaged in fighting 
Israel," Trabulsi said. "They were used to fighting a civil war in Lebanon."

Hezbollah's resistance to penetration by Israeli intelligence was part of a 
culture of secrecy extreme even by the standards of underground guerrilla 
forces. The code fit with a tendency toward secrecy in the Shiite stream of 
Islam, called faqih . It also fit with a sense of solidarity against others 
that Lebanese Shiites have been imbued with since the beginning of their 
emergence as a political force in the mid-1970s, when their first 
organization was called the Movement of the Deprived.

One young Lebanese doctor learned that her brother had been a Hezbollah 
fighter for several years only when the movement notified her he had been 
killed, colleagues said. Similarly, a Lebanese man found out his brother 
was a senior Hezbollah militia officer only when informed of his death; the 
brother had cloaked occasional trips to Tehran by saying he was trying to 
start an import-export business.

Reporters who over the last month went to the bombed-out sections of 
southern Beirut suburbs where Hezbollah had its headquarters were 
approached within minutes by young men asking who they were and what they 
were doing there. Interviews with the people living there, most of whom 
were ardent Hezbollah supporters, were not allowed, the young men said. 
Around the battlefields of south Lebanon, however, the militia was busy 
fighting Israeli troops and hiding from airstrikes.

Reporters were free to move as much as they dared, since they, too, feared 
being hit by Israeli jets.

Even the movement's political leadership was kept in the dark about many 
military and intelligence activities, Trabulsi noted. Ghaleb Abu-Zeinab, a 
member of Hezbollah's political bureau, said in an interview, for instance, 
that he was not informed about operations on "the field," Hezbollah 
shorthand for the villages and hillsides across southern Lebanon where the 
battle raged.

"They have a military and intelligence organization totally separated from 
the political organization," Trabulsi said.

A dramatic example of the secrecy and careful preparations for conflict 
with Israel was Hezbollah's al-Manar television. The station has kept 
broadcasting its mix of news and propaganda from hidden studios throughout 
the fighting, despite repeated Israeli airstrikes against relay towers and 
antennas across the country. Lebanese said some of the broadcasts seemed to 
include coded messages to Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon. But as 
with most things about Hezbollah, they were not really sure.

Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, used al-Manar to make a number of speeches 
rallying his followers and explaining his strategy. With his cleric's 
turban and student's mien, appearing on the screen in pre-taped broadcasts, 
he was perhaps the biggest secret of all, hunted by Israeli warplanes and 
hiding in a location about which Lebanese could only guess.

Moore reported from Jerusalem. Correspondent Jonathan Finer in Gosherim 
contributed to this report.

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