By: Dr Laina Farhat-Holzman
Shiite Muslims comprise at most 15% of the Muslim World, yet play a violent role worldwide well beyond their numbers. The majority of Shiites live in Iran, with spillovers into Iraq (where they now rule), and Afghanistan. There are also pockets in Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, all descended from Persians but over time Arabized.
Most Sunni Muslims are hostile to Shiites for theological and ethnic reasons. Except for the small number of Arab Shiites, Arabs think of Shiites as Iranian (Persian), a people who do not speak Arabic and who have a much older, more distinguished history than the Arabs. But in today’s convoluted politics, Shiites and Sunnis will put aside their enmity temporarily when they have better outside enemies: in descending order Israel, the United States, and Europe.
The Hezbollah movement began in Lebanon, where Shiites were a minority that resented its lack of inclusion in the power-sharing deal between the Sunnis and Christians. Over the decades, population explosion propelled them into a majority (the same process took place in Iraq), and the Iranian Revolution provided Hezbollah with weapons, foot-soldiers, and Islamist fanaticism.
The CIA believes that Hezbollah:
Kidnapped David S. Dodge, president of the American University in Beirut in 1982, and 30 other Westerners seized over the next 10 years.
Car bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983, killing 63 people, 17 of them American citizens.
Truck bombed U.S. Marine barracks in 1983, killing 241 American military personnel stationed in Beirut as a peace-keeping force. A separate attack against the French military compound in Beirut killed 58.
Kidnapped CIA operative William Francis Buckley in 1984. After 15 months in captivity of torture and illness he was killed. Also kidnapped and tortured to death was U.S. Marine Colonel William R. Higgins.
Car bombed the U.S. embassy annex in Beirut in 1984 taking the lives of two Americans and 22 others.
Hijacked a Kuwait Airlines Flight 221 in 1984 and murdered four passengers including two Americans.
Kidnapped about 30 other Westerners between 1982 and 1992, including U.S. journalist Terry Anderson, British journalist John McCarthy, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy Terry Waite and Irish citizen Brian Keenan.
Hijacked TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome in 1985.
Bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, killing 29, and bombed the Jewish Community Center there in 1994. Also car bombed the Israeli Embassy in London.
Syria, a country that is primarily Arab and Sunni, is ruled by a dictatorial dynasty that is Shiite – albeit secular – that now has a cozy relationship with Iran. Poor Lebanon, a pawn in the midst of this radical game-playing, had suffered from a long civil war and was just starting to recover its former position as the favorite garden spot for Arabs and a return of tourism. Now the conflict has propelled Hezbollah into the most formidable player in the neighborhood – alarming Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States while pleasing Syria and Iran. Israel is now faced with very nasty neighbors – Hezbollah to the north and Hamas in Gaza (Sunni terrorists, but newly friendly with Shiite Hezbollah) to the south. Israel will have to deal with both of these in the not distant future; they cannot be ignored militarily.
Hezbollah has long been on the American and now British lists of international terrorists, although the European Union chooses to see them as “freedom fighters.” Now with events in Lebanon alarming Europeans (particularly the French), they may be seeing this group in its true light. It is a militant sect whose basic worldview is resentment that they never got their share of power. Their worldview is exactly that of Shia Islam, which was based on resentment over losing a shot at Muslim leadership 1,400 years ago. Cults of resentment armed to the teeth and planting cells around the world are a menace to everyone.
But hang on – the Israelis and Syrians are talking. This could upset Hezbollah’s applecart.
This article is complements of Family Security Matters.