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Hizbullah: Strategic successes and tactical failures

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COMMENTS

20 April 2009 15:40

Some recent events have served to highlight the broad range of issues facing Hizbullah, and also provides an insight into the strategic successes (and tactical failures) that are a constant feature of the organisation's development. On the socio-political front, Hizbullah has sought to reverse the reputational (and physical) damage its ill-advised 2006 war with Israel caused. 

Regardless of its faux apology, the party understood the need to undertake practical damage control and consequently used its highly structured and diversified organisation, along with money generated by its own supporters, expatriate Lebanese and from Iran to provide immediate relief to its Shi'a constituency. But over two years later Hizbullah has successfully been accessing government relief funds to augment its own and Iranian funds to not only replace, but improve, the largely Shi'a southern suburbs of Beirut.

On the political front, Hizbullah MP Hussein al-Hajj Hassan visited the UK this month and spoke to members of the House of Commons at the invitation of British MP George Galloway utilising subsequent interviews to bolster the party's desired image as a legitimate resistance group unfairly pilloried by the international media. Another less publicised but much more significant development was last month's lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18.

While on the surface this appears straightforward, it has long been desired by the Shi'a Amal and Hizbullah parties given the significant youth bulge that the Shi'a possess as a result of their birth rates that are significantly higher than either their Christian or Sunni countrymen. The law won't come into effect until the 2010 municipal elections, and the requirements of Lebanon's confessional political system that accords the Shi'a 21% of parliamentary seats even though they constitute 40% or more of the population (although with the last census taken in 1932 figures are somewhat rubbery) means that the Shi'a cannot dominate parliament.

Still, with the constitution, the Ta'if Agreement (that ended the civil war), Amal and Hizbullah all calling for an end to sectarianism the lowering of the voting age is a useful first step in the long political game that Hizbullah have always played.

But while things may be going well socially and politically on the home front, Hizbullah has suffered some setbacks on the security front. Most recently it has earned the ire of Egyptian authorities who have arrested a Hizbullah member and associated members accused of plotting attacks on Egyptian soil.

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah admitted that a Hizbullah member was arrested but claimed he was helping Palestinians against Israel. This year has also seen the arrest of several men allegedly working for the Israeli spy agency Mossad who had managed to penetrate Hizbullah's notoriously tight internal security apparatus, including one this week.

Even though things appear calm on the surface in Lebanon, activity of one sort or another is always occurring. And Hizbullah is often not far removed from that activity.

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