Even terrorists see the importance in sending out end-of-year messages.
Sheik Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, sat down in a secret and secure bunker, somewhere south of Beirut, for a four-hour interview with Al Mayaden, a Beirut media organization. Nasrallah knew that his words would have weight. He knew that people would pay attention.
He chose his words and his topics carefully. And among the many kernels of essential material this die-hard terrorist dropped, was his assessment of the final days of the Trump presidency. He called the outgoing president of the United States "angry and crazy." He cautioned that one must be extremely careful. He explained that the situation is tense and may lead to conflict.
Nasrallah clearly received talking points from his sponsors, i.e., Iranian leadership.
Most important, Nasrallah claimed that within the past year alone, Hezbollah has doubled their precision missile cache. He warned that Hezbollah now has the capacity to strike every inch of Israel and the West Bank.
There is no way to confirm this. However, he went on to say that Israel has attempted to prevent Hezbollah's acquisition of these weapons – and failed.
There is good reason to believe Nasrallah. We know that Iran has consistently attempted to airlift and then ground transport weapons to Hezbollah. And we know that Iran has consistently tried to build missile factories for Hezbollah. When we hear that Israel has bombed Lebanese and Syrian targets, we should realize that the targets they hit are, often, the arms depots and convoys Nasrallah is speaking about.
Israel cannot strike every single missile factory. Attacks first require intel to identify the targets, so inevitably, Hezbollah's missiles get through. But just imagine how many missiles Hezbollah would have if Israel were not hitting those targets.
Hezbollah has been extending their reach. They have become extremely active in Europe. Reports of Hezbollah being involved in money-laundering and illegal art sales and the illegal diamond trade have emerged. When arrests are made the trail can often be traced back to Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has been linked to drug trades.
With expansion comes a crunch. The timing for Hezbollah's growth coincides with tough times for Iran. Iran is still Hezbollah's benefactor, but they are feeling the trickle-down effect. And they are in search of new revenue sources.
And that is dangerous. Dangerous for Hezbollah, certainly. But that is not my worry. It is dangerous for us – for the Western world,
When Iran was their exclusive sponsor, Hezbollah bowed to the will of Iran. Iran had red light rights on all of Hezbollah's operations – and any operation, especially those against Israel, required Iranian clearance.
But should Hezbollah become independent they will be free to, quite literally, fire at will. Hezbollah does not have the discipline of Iran. Hezbollah has tunnel vision, they do not see nor do they care about the big picture. And that changes the paradigm and that makes for very volatile situations.
But it also appears that some in Europe and elsewhere are waking up to the Hezbollah threat.
Until now, most countries separated the terror arm of Hezbollah from the political arm. There were also the social, cultural and educational arms of Hezbollah. Those countries felt comfortable condemning Hezbollah's terror branch, but not Hezbollah in its entirety. Now, however, it appears that many parts of Europe and South America have awakened to the complete threat Hezbollah presents.
Over the past eighteen months 16 countries have announced that they consider the group in its entirety – that means all of Hezbollah's many and varied branches, to be part of the terrorist organization. Ten of the 16 countries have made a declaration to that effect in the past six months: Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia and most recently Slovenia.
In fact, Slovenia has called on all European Union countries and all of Europe to follow their decision.
Hezbollah is now an extremely well-trained and experienced fighting force. The civil war that ravaged Syria afforded Hezbollah's terrorist army the opportunity to hone their skills. They are well-armed. Each and every unit and every fighter has been battle trained and battle tested and is comfortable with modern weaponry. This is not the same Hezbollah that Israel confronted in 2006. (Neither, by the way, is Israel the same Israel)
The scariest part of Hezbollah's transformation is their unpredictability. Hezbollah is, ultimately, driven by ideology and by religion. That means that Hezbollah uses a different calculus for decision-making than do other armies. One of their criteria for engaging in conflict is anathema to Western ideal and values.
When in pursuit of their religious and ideological objective, the loss of lives is not an issue. Not the loss of innocent victim lives or not even the loss of their own fighters' lives. Even massive losses leave Hezbollah leadership unfazed.
Nasrallah may deliver an end-of-year message much as other leaders do – but that's where the similarity ends. His motive is not to soothe and send well wishes. His motive is to command respect and instill fear. Nasrallah is not hoping for a happy New Year.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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