Hezbollah is on high alert in anticipation of attacks in Lebanon by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which according to a senior Hezbollah official is “an intelligence organization par excellence similar to fundamentalist movements that crop up in wars and benefit from chaos.”
The official refused to say whether Hezbollah would send fighters to Iraq like it did in Syria. But he said that Israel’s ongoing assault against the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, the turmoil in Iraq and the threat posed by ISIS to the entire region have pushed Hezbollah’s military operations room to be put on a maximum state of alert, especially since the party’s main battle is with Israel.
The fast-moving dramatic developments in the region have prompted Hezbollah to raise its coordination with Lebanese official security agencies to the highest level in light of the possibility of ISIS making “a dangerous security breach” in Lebanon.
“So far, there is nothing dangerous and the situation is under control. But this does not mean that we must feel assured and relaxed,” the Hezbollah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star.
“In our view, the situation has not reached the verge of collapse. Our military strength is the same and we have succeeded in dismantling most ISIS cells in coordination with the official security agencies.”
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hezbollah was still hunting for more terror cells “since the looming danger does not only target Hezbollah, but Lebanon as a whole.”
The official was commenting on whether Hezbollah was ready to face new security challenges, especially following information that ISIS made a decision two months ago to blow up the situation in Lebanon.
But following the emergence of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the alleged leader of a self-declared Muslim caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq, ISIS will try to strike Hezbollah’s targets in Lebanon because it is the leading military force that should be reckoned with in the Middle East.
Baghdadi, according to the Hezbollah official, was arrested by American forces in 2004 as an activist of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and was jailed in Abu Ghraib prison as such before becoming the ISIS leader and later a caliph of Muslims.
“According to our assessment of the developments in the Arab region, America is seeking to expand the scope of chaos and disintegration with the aim of reaching an understanding with regional powers through which it can guarantee its political influence in the region as well as its control over the energy sources in the Gulf, but most importantly Israel’s security,” the official said.
“America has felt that the plan to bring down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has become far-fetched if not impossible following the field developments in more than one area,” the official said.
“Therefore, it [America] was left with nothing except to push matters toward chaos and give extremist groups a big leverage to exploit this chaos.”
He recalled that the U.S. recognized the Taliban regime and negotiated with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, a replica of Baghdadi, over its influence in Central Asia before it unleashed its warplanes and frigates to destroy Afghanistan. “The result was the annihilation of an entire people while Taliban survived,” he said.
In light of the fast-moving developments in Iraq, Hezbollah seems to be more worried about ISIS’ insistence to march toward Baghdad after seizing the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit, in addition to opening a fateful battle in the city of Samarra, home to key holy Shiite shrines, than the threat posed by the militant group to Lebanon.
In Hezbollah’s view, ISIS is trying with its actions to incite Sunni-Shiite strife by starting sectarian wars in the Arab world.
ISIS is seeking to reach Samarra which is home to holy Shiite shrines with the aim of destroying these shrines, a move that would spark sectarian fighting between the Iraqi people.
Asked whether Hezbollah would send fighters to Iraq to protect the Shiite shrines there, the official merely said: “Our shrines are sacred.”
Despite its preoccupation with regional conflicts, Hezbollah’s position on the southern Lebanese border and its readiness to confront Israel have not been affected.
According to the official, preliminary information indicates that the party’s logistical capabilities have not been affected at all by the military campaign it launched in Syria or by a similar campaign it might start in Iraq since its firm principle is to fight Israel.
“The decision to open fire from Lebanese territory is in the hands of Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. The Israeli enemy will not take a single step toward Lebanese territory because it knows the fate of the foot that will step into Lebanon,” the Hezbollah official said.
According to the official, Hezbollah has developed the “methods of the resistance’s action” and now has the capability to launch rockets into Israel from lands that intermingle with Syria, namely in areas near Lebanon’s eastern mountain range.