Lebanon: Hezbollah's Control Over the Military

2 MINS READAug 5, 2009 | 16:00 GMT
A reliable source in the Lebanese military with strong connections to Hezbollah has informed STRATFOR that Hezbollah's security chief, Wafiq Safa, has significantly increased his authority over all Shiite officers in the Lebanese army. Safa, who maintains close contact with the Lebanese army command, now apparently has a say in all appointments, promotions and deployments of these officers. Safa also allegedly has made arrangements with the Lebanese army command to be regularly informed of the army's movements and plans. Tensions are continuing to build across the Lebanese-Israeli border, with Israel sending almost daily signals to Iran that an attack on Hezbollah in southern Lebanon — a precursor to a potential military strike against Iran — could be in the cards. Hezbollah has grown increasingly anxious over these threats, but is also wasting little time in preparing for such a confrontation. Hezbollah has been steadily building up influence over the weak and fractured Lebanese military; now, it appears this influence has translated into direct authority over the army's Shiite contingent. By French design, Lebanon's Maronite Christians have dominated the Lebanese military. Over the past couple of decades, however, Iranian and Syrian efforts to incorporate more Shia into the armed forces have undermined Maronite influence. Approximately 30 percent of the Lebanese armed forces are Shia, and that number is growing. STRATFOR sources in the Lebanese military admit that the army has neither the capability nor the will to stand up to Hezbollah. Indeed, the Lebanese army turned a blind eye even when Hezbollah overran Beirut in the summer of 2008 when the government attempted to clamp down on the group's communications network. Maintaining a strong stake in the Lebanese armed forces is essential for Hezbollah to mitigate any threats from within Lebanon while focusing on the Israeli threat. Lebanese politicians have discussed the possibility of formally integrating Hezbollah into the Lebanese army as a separate brigade, but under the existing conditions, the army appears to be developing into more of an auxiliary force attached to the Shiite militant group.

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