State Sponsors: Iran and Syria
Posted: March 31, 2008
Hezbollah emerged during Israel's first war against Lebanon in 1982 with the help of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran's elite military unit that deployed members of the Quds Force, its special operations branch, to Lebanon's Bekka Valley to fight against Israel's incursion into the region, which followed a series of cross-border attacks mounted against northern Israel by Palestine Liberation Organization forces based in Lebanon.
Since its inception, the IRGC has supported Hezbollah's military, paramilitary and terrorist activities by providing the Lebanese terrorist organization with weapons, intelligence and logistical support to "advance its anti-Israel campaign," according to the U.S. State Department. The growth of Hezbollah is directly linked to the guidance, training and material support it receives from the IRGC.
The Quds Force provides Hezbollah with $100-$200 million in funding every year and has allegedly trained Hezbollah fighters in both Lebanon and in Iran in various military tactics, including firing missiles, using artillery and operating unmanned aerial drones, as well as conventional and marine warfare.
Iran has been implicated in various Hezbollah terrorist plots and attacks against American, Israeli and Jewish interests overseas. The U.S. government has indicted members of Hezbollah for the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Marines. In 2007, a U.S. federal judge ruled that Iran, which provided Hezbollah with financial and logistical support to carry out the attack, was legally responsible for the bombing.
Similarly, the U.S. government has alleged that elements of the Iranian government inspired, supported and directed Hezbollah to carry out a 1996 truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen. In December 2006, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the truck bomb had been assembled at a base operated by the IRGC and ordered the government of Iran to pay more than $253 million to the families of those killed.
Senior IRGC and Quds Force officials have also been indicted by the Argentine government for their alleged roles in the 1994 bombing of an Argentina Jewish Center, which killed 85 people and injured approximately 300 others. Hezbollah and the IRGC, which allegedly provided extensive training and financial and logistical support to Hezbollah for the Argentina attack, have also reportedly joined forces to kidnap Jewish businessmen in Latin America.
The IRGC has continued to train, fund and send weapons to Hezbollah to aid the group in its fight against Israel. "Hezbollah is part of us," an Iranian official stated in July 2006, "We are standing with the Party, in spirit and physically, militarily and financially." In 2008 alone, Iran provided more than $200 million in funding to Lebanon and trained more than 3,000 Hezbollah fighters, according to the State Department. Iran has also aided Hezbollah in its attempt to avenge the 2008 death of its Operations Chief, Imad Mughniyah, and has reportedly provided Hezbollah with intelligence for plots against Israeli and Jewish interests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey.
In recent years, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened that Hezbollah has rebuilt and improved its rocket and missiles arsenal and now has the capabilities to strike deep into Israel, including Tel Aviv. "Not only have the Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah increased," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated in January 2010, "but there has also been significant upgrades in the quality of the weapons."
In June 2009, for example, an airplane reportedly carrying explosives and electrical instruments from Iran to be delivered to Hezbollah crashed north of Tehran. This transfer of arms was purportedly a special operation of the IRGC, and some of its members were among the 168 people killed in the crash.
Five months later, Israeli authorities announced that its naval unit had intercepted a Hezbollah-bound arms shipment from Iran. Concealed in the ship's cargo were hundreds of tons of weapons, including rockets, grenades, missiles and anti-tank weapons, according to the Israeli military.
In addition to the training, weapons and financial support from Iran, Hezbollah also receives diplomatic, political and logistical support from Syria, according to the U.S. State Department. Syria was first designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979 and has since continued to provide political and material support to Hezbollah.
Syria reportedly supplies Hezbollah with a quarter of the terrorist organization's arsenal of mid-and long-range missiles, including those used to destroy Israeli tanks in the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Additionally, Syria has allowed Iran to use Syrian territory as a "transit point" to impart its assistance to Hezbollah, and, in January 2010, allowed Hezbollah to train in the use of anti-aircraft missiles on Syrian territory, according to American officials.
While hosting Nasrallah and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus in February 2010, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad reaffirmed his administration's support for Hezbollah. "To support the resistance," al-Asad said, "is a moral, patriotic and legal duty."