The Unwritten Rule Between the US and Hizbullah

The two sides have long agreed to keep their hostilities covert, writes As`ad AbuKhalil, but Israel would like that to change.  

By As`ad AbuKhalil
in Beirut
Special to Consortium News

David Hale, the U.S. under secretary for political affairs, went to Beirut last week to make anti-Iranian comments, to worry publicly about the destabilizing effects of Hizbollah in the region and to make it clear that, after Lebanon’s elections in May, the composition of the new cabinet, which has been taking months to form, is an American matter. 

His visit, in other words, made it clear that the U.S. will continue interfering in internal Lebanese affairs.

As Hale’s boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talks up the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, Hale may have been interested in reviving the Saudi local coalition in Lebanon. In the past that group was clustered under the March 14 Alliance, which came together in 2005 to oppose the regime in Syria and to push the Saudi-American-French agenda in Lebanon. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 28, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greeted by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 28, 2018. (State Department)

Despite the overwhelming support of Western governments, Western media and Western human rights organizations, that coalition has fallen apart. And despite the usual U.S. and Saudi intervention and funding of its constituent elements in the last election, those candidates fared poorly. Some Shi`ite candidates who received Western and Saudi support drew no more than a hundred votes, and in one case, even less than that.

Hizbollah Wins Votes    

Hizbullah candidates, by contrast, did very well, proving yet again that the party has the overwhelming support of the Shi`ite community.

Given the furor that Israel is raising over attack tunnels that it claims Hizbullah is building into its territory, it’s safe to presume, that Hale’s visit was made at the  behest of Israel and aimed at bolstering a regional front against Hizbullah.

But that work is already complete. The Saudi-UAE alliance, have already declared Hizbullah a terrorist organization. The club of Gulf Arab despots is already aligned with the U.S. in its regional machinations. 

Instead, the big problem that the U.S. faces in Lebanon is the dislike of the people. It’s unpopular. Its anti-Hizbullah agenda — which is partly but not fully dictated by the Israeli lobby— puts it squarely on the side of Arab despots and Israel, both of which are widely despised in the region.

The U.S. has never considered its presence in Lebanon during the 1980s — on the side of Israeli militias notorious for committing war crimesas an occupying force. But that is how many Lebanese saw it.

Hezbollah fighters. (Wikimedia)

Hezbollah fighters. (Wikimedia)

However, time has passed in that regard, at least for some. Two parties — the Amal and the Progressive Socialist Party — both had militias that fought U.S.  forces. And both those parties now enjoy good relations with the U.S.

In Lebanon, the main thorn in the side of the U.S. is Hizbullah, as has been the case for decades.

Hizbullah, which is both a political party and a fighting force, officially established itself in 1985 with the issuance of its manifesto to the world. But it was born a few years earlier, during the tumultuous and horrific events that surrounded the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when the suffering of the southern Lebanese population spawned a new wave of radicalization that was sponsored and supported by the Iranian regime.

Starting Point Conflict

Its conflict with the U.S. began in that formative period, between 1982 and 1984, when U.S.  troops were stationed in Lebanon to support and uphold the rule of right-wing sectarian militias aligned with Israel.  It was during that time,  in 1983, that the U.S. embassy in Beirut was bombed. A few months later, a U.S. Marine compound, which included French soldiers, was bombed as well.

A long-running dispute surrounds the question of who carried out the attacks. The U.S.  remains convinced that Hizbullah and that one of its key leaders — Imad Mughniyyah personally—was responsible. After the attacks the U.S. and Israel labelled Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

Hizbullah is unwavering in its declaration of the U.S. as an enemy of Lebanon and all “downtrodden people” (although the latter phrase is used less and less). But it denies attacking the barracks or embassy. It also distances itself from the Islamic Jihad Organization, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Despite the heated rhetoric that the two sides use against each other, the U.S. and Hizbullah have avoided direct military confrontation over the years. Instead they have fought proxy battles, from Iraq to Yemen to Syria.  Even the U.S. assassination of Imad Mughniyyah in 2008 was not—from the standpoint of the U.S.  government–really a violation of the unspoken rule of direct combat since the U.S. has made it clear that it held Mughniyyah responsible for the attacks on U.S. targets in Lebanon. 

The U.S. has been fully supportive of Israeli wars on Hizbullah (and on Lebanon as a whole), hoping that Israel would finish off the party. 

A Turning Point 

In 2006, the U.S.  was unconditional in its sponsorship and support for Israel. But Hizbullah held its ground better than any Arab army that Israel had faced over the decades. The outcome for Israel, was an embarrassing retreat.

Since then, the might and skill of Hizbullah in facing Israeli occupation and aggression seem only to increase with every new war and every new confrontation. Regardless of one’s assessment of Hizbullah’s intervention in Syria, its fighters accumulated a unique battle experience there, along different fronts—which can only decrease Israeli confidence in its abilities vis-à-vis the party in the future round of war.

The U.S. does not want a military conflict with one of the most effective and popular militias in the Arab East. And Hizbullah does not want to add more conflicts to its plate. It is already actively engaged in regional conflicts and does not wish to start a global confrontation with the U.S.

Egypt’s former President Gamal Abdel Nasser (Wikimedia)

Egypt’s former President Gamal Abdel Nasser (Wikimedia)

But Israel, since its founding, has tried to make its enemies the enemies of the U.S. During the long years of the Cold War, the Israeli propaganda machine was desperately searching the Arabic press to find statements that could be twisted to portray Israel’s enemies — whether Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser; or Ba`thist leaders, or the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat —  as Soviet tools. 

When Nasser and the Palestine Liberation Organization were indicating their desire for good relations with the U.S., Israeli was intent on portraying them both as the sworn enemies of the U.S.

Keeping the Fight Covert

Since its invasion of the Middle East after Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has preferred to keep its own fight with Hizbullah covert while supporting the direct Israeli war on Hizbullah.

Israel, however, after suffering that stunning defeat in July of 2006, has become increasingly intent on having the U.S. engage Hizbullah directly. This is something that has been made clear in the speeches of Israeli leaders and in the unending supply of legislation sponsored by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, targeting Hizbullah.

As the Trump administration tinkers with the idea of retreating militarily from the Middle East — despite the opposition of the war lobby — it cannot possibly welcome a war between Israel and Hizbollah that could could spiral into a wider conflict and drag the U.S. into a heavier military intervention in the region. 

What the U.S. wants now is to create a front to challenge Iran and its allies throughout the region. But the front could not add to what already is a long list of sanctions against Iran and Hizbullah and the placement of their names onterrorist lists and watch lists.  None of that, however, is sufficient for the occupation state of Israel.  After failing to dislodge Hizbullah in one of the longest wars of its history in 2006, Israel urgently wants the U.S.  to take a shot on its behalf.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil

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22 comments for “The Unwritten Rule Between the US and Hizbullah

  1. Mohammed Al-Kaabi
    January 26, 2019 at 03:37

    Hezbollah are one of the few. Rely the Party of Allah (SWT)
    Long live Hezbollah; brave and wise heroes.

    • Mohammed Al-Kaabi
      January 26, 2019 at 03:37


  2. mark
    January 24, 2019 at 19:46

    Nothing new here. Uncle Sam is just Israel’s bitch, dumb goy muscle to fight Israel’s multi trillion dollar wars for it and hand over billions in annual tribute to sponsor racism and apartheid. AIPAC rules the roost. Virtually without exception, US politicians are just 30 shekel whores grovelling on their bellies to the Zionist Reich.

  3. Tekyo Pantzov
    January 24, 2019 at 17:47

    Meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon sounds like a very serious offense, until we reflect on the fact that the Shia military organizations of Lebanon have been interfering in the internal affairs of numerous European and American nations since their very inception in the 1980s. In the 1980s and 1990s Hezbollah and its predecessor organization the International Jihad Organization have perpetrated dozens of armed attacks in a dozen countries that were completely uninvolved with Middle Eastern affairs, including the El Descanso bombing in Madrid in 1985, supposedly directed against American troops, but in which 19 Spaniards died and not a single American, terrorist bombings in Denmark the same year, and the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina in 1994 that killed 86 Argentine Jews, a plane bombing in Panama the same year, and numerous political assassinations in Europe and North America committed on behalf of Hezbollah’s patron Iran throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
    The fact is that Hezbollah has attacked as many peaceful countries as Nazi Germany did in the 1930s and 1940s, while masquerading as a heroic liberation movement.

    • Peter
      January 25, 2019 at 02:53

      @Tekyo Pantzov You engage in grotesque Israeli hasbara lies!!!! Hezbollah is STRICTLY a regional power. Your Zionist propaganda citing international terror is typical British & Vatican Imperial misdirect leading readers down imaginary rabbit holes. None of the incidents you cite can be blamed on Hezbollah. None!!! You should mention however, Lebanese Phalangist’s militia allied with your arch criminal Zionist Entity and their role in the Sabra and Chatilla massacres.. Phalangists deeply rooted in Roman Catholic Fascist Italy and Spain. Also, a Lebanese Phalangist’s participation in Hitler’s 1936 Olympics. But no that would be too embarassing. Tick tock tick tock hasbara agent your time is almost up. The Zionst Entity faces it’s own Judgment in Nuhremburg.

    • John Sang
      January 25, 2019 at 03:08

      Ha Ha ! A little too far fetched for truth. Sounds much more like more Israeli inspired false flag actions.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      January 26, 2019 at 03:09

      Zionjazi agit-prop. The Argentine atrocity, for one, was a MOSSAD false flag operation. Nothing hates likes a Zionazi and they believe that Lebanon up to the litani belongs to the Jews, and they are slavering to slaughter the Shia who have the audacity to dwell there. Plus they hate Hezbollah for kicking their Herrenvolk backsides, more than once. The affront to their delusion of universal supremacy sticks in their craws.

  4. Brian James
    January 24, 2019 at 14:30

    Jan. 24, 2009 *How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas* Moshav Tekuma, Israel

    Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor’s bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile’s trajectory back to an “enormous, stupid mistake” made 30 years ago.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      January 26, 2019 at 18:16

      The Zionazi regime helping Hamas was no ‘mistake’. It was classic ‘Divide and Rule’ tactics to set the Palestinians against each other and set the scene for a regional Holocaust against Israel’s enemies, the Arab world, on the basis of a fraudulent ‘War on Terrorism’, a scenario advocated by Zionazi chieftains since Ben-Gurion, Dayan, et al, the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ ideology, and the Oded Yinon Plan, of 1982. Several million dead, maimed, orphaned or widowed victims, in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia etc later, the Zionazi butchers must be truly satisfied with progress-so far.

  5. vinnieoh
    January 24, 2019 at 12:22

    There is a definite inverse relationship between the actual US influence in Syria and Lebanon and the increasing and intensifying accusations, condemnations, and saber-rattling towards Iran. Shouldn’t surprise anyone: Iran has long been the end-game of both Israel and the US.

    W Bush telegraphed the Iraq assault because it was necessary to establish the concept of pre-emptive war as legitimate, by cowing and compromising the corrupted political class into endorsing it. By several treaties and agreements both (co) authored and signed by the US, “pre-emptive” war is rejected and abolished as just cause for military action. Pre-emptive war was fully recognized as naked aggression.

    I fear that if Iran is attacked we will learn about it only after Iran is in flames. However, the intent is certainly being telegraphed in our MSM. The CBS Sunday morning political vehicle featured a guy (didn’t catch his name) that was all about eradicating the world-ending threat posed by Iran. On ABC when they announced that Liz Chaney was going to be a guest I immediately told my wife that “just watch, she’s going to be all about Iran,” and sure enough…

    I can think of nothing to do to stop another tragedy and crime against humanity. I will write my Senators, Representatives, and even the POTUS, careful of course to use small words, to urge them not do this. I’ll write a letter to the editor of my local paper. But there will be no large marches around the country and the world this time. Like Viet Nam where our death machine learned that conscripts can not be relied upon to carry out the avarice of empire, they have also learned that in this hour, swift, secretive, unilateral assault is the order of the day.

  6. Skip Scott
    January 24, 2019 at 08:41

    I believe Robert Parry mentioned this in an earlier article, but I would like to know by what possible definition of terrorism is it an act of terror to target hostile, foreign military troops in your own country?

  7. KiwiAntz
    January 23, 2019 at 23:49

    America is Israel’s lackey? Israel calls the shots & dictates American Foreign Policy in the Middle East? Thanks to this small Nation of Jews, we have endless wars & chaos in this region! If it weren’t for Israel’s meddling & murderous interference in the affairs of its neighbors, we would have peace in the Middle East! But as regular as clockwork & as soon as Trump’s administration annouces its withdrawal from Syria, we have American serviceman being attacked & killed in a convenient Car bombing to justify & keep the US remaining indefinitely in their illegal occupation in Syria! Then we have increased Israeli air attacks on Syria to provoke a reaction by Syrian forces too suck them into attacking Israel thus providing a excuse to commit American forces to come to Israel’s defence?? Why can’t Israel stand on its own two feet, it has the Nuclear Bomb, making it the most dangerous Nation in that region, not Iran, Iraq, Syria or anyone else? And it’s illegal land confiscations of Palestinian Land & Syrian Territory in the Golan Height’s should be condemned by the UN & they should have International sanctions brought against them to punish Netanyahu & his Nation for this thievery!

    • AnneR
      January 24, 2019 at 09:13

      Quite. And All Palestinians made refugees (and/or their descendants) by the execrable Israelis in 1948 and thereafter should have the right to return to their homes/lands (lands because the Israelis in 1948 and afterward destroyed so many Palestinian homes in order to prevent their return).

      And the Israelis involved in the ethnic cleansing and killing of Palestinians throughout the 70 years of their reigning theft should be tried as war criminals.

    • DavidH
      January 24, 2019 at 16:37

      This thing over whether the bad guys are whipped or still there seems to be manipulated crazily. For one thing there’s not enough pro & con in media at all regarding whether reports like the car bombing are even true…or if they’re suspicious. I suspect true, but it’s real hard even to search ISIL attacks in Iraq for a given previous week. Google doesn’t think they’re important! There’s really hardly any real coverage.

      OFF TOPIC RANT from DavidH-> Pretty weird when either fb or prof Cole is removing not-obscene comments from Informed Comment’s page. The following was removed today…

      Maybe it’s not relevant, but to me a refuge for the Kurds should be established simply on humanitarian grounds…whether ISIL’s defeated or still hanging around. However ISIL ends up eliminated in Syria [what a conundrum in Idlib], as long as the drones continue recent default strategy, seems ISIL might continue [lots of bad news from Afghanistan]. A quieter picture is being painted, but then, as Glenn Greenwald notes (at least my interpretation of his view) —> one event (one chem attack speciously attributed to Iran eg) for all I know might launch present day Dems-in-Congress off into some knee-jerk support for Bolton’s (COUNTERPRODUCTIVE) war-on-Iran-dream.

  8. worldblee
    January 23, 2019 at 19:22

    If only the people would get out of the way, the US could install “democracy” everywhere! It’s really rude of the people of Lebanon not to appreciate all that the US wants to do for them. I mean look at what they did for Libya… or Iraq… or Afghanistan… or Yemen… success stories all, right?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      January 26, 2019 at 03:11

      They make a desert and call it ‘liberal democracy, with a Free Market economy’.

  9. David G
    January 23, 2019 at 19:14

    This is another reason to hope for full U.S. withdrawal from Syria as soon as possible: getting those troops out will eliminate many scenarios that could fully involve the U.S. in the Israel-Hizbullah conflict.

  10. Brian James
    January 23, 2019 at 16:17

    December 4, 2018 Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order Remarks by Michael R. Pompeo Secretary of State German Marshall Fund Brussels, Belgium

    SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Ian, for the kind introduction. Good morning to all of you; thank you for joining me here today. It’s wonderful to be in this beautiful place, to get a chance to make a set of remarks about the very work that you do, the issues that confront the Marshall Fund and confront our region as well.

    • AnneR
      January 24, 2019 at 09:17

      “Our region”? The USA lies some 5-8,000 miles away from Europe and the Middle East. Just as Asia is not its region (not that you’d know that from US bombast and presumption) nor is this side of Eurasia. But that’s the mindset of imperialists – it’s all ours, you’re all under our diktat.

      • T
        January 25, 2019 at 03:18

        > “Our region”? The USA lies some 5-8,000 miles away from Europe and the Middle East

        But Pompeo was addressing an audience of largely European “transatlanticists”, so to say “our region” was entirely appropriate.

        • Jams O'Donnell
          January 25, 2019 at 13:17

          Rubbish. So according to you Pompeo means that Europe too is part of “our” US region? Idiocy.

  11. jo6pac
    January 23, 2019 at 16:12

    ” After failing to dislodge Hizbullah in one of the longest wars of its history in 2006, Israel urgently wants the U.S. to take a shot on its behalf.”

    Past management and current management in Amerika are dumb enough to do this with a gleam in their eyes and a smile.

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