Hezbollah boss Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose organization has more American blood on its hands than any terrorist group except al Qaeda, delivered a chilling threat after Friday prayers 10 days ago. Speaking to 10,000 gun-waving Hezbollah operatives and several hundred "suicide commandos" in southern Lebanon, he suggested that, if violence erupted near Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Muslims should "act everywhere around the world" in order to take revenge against their foes. And, just a few days earlier, he issued an even more explicit threat, saying that "Martyrdom operations — suicide bombings — should be exported outside Palestine," he stated. "I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don't be shy about it." Given the Iranian-funded group's history of violence, it would be folly to dismiss or ignore Sheikh Nasrallah's comments.
Hezbollah, for example, claimed responsibility for the April 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (which killed 63 persons), the October 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon (241 Americans died) and the 1984 bombing of the annex to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon (killing 14 Americans). In 1985, Hezbollah staged the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, during the course of which U.S. Navy SEAL Robert Stethem was tortured and killed. The CIA's Beirut station chief, William Buckley, was kidnapped and murdered by Hezbollah, as was William Higgins, an American serving with U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon.
Hezbollah is also believed to be responsible for the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which more than 100 people altogether were killed. U.S. investigators believe that an offshoot known as Saudi Hezbollah was behind the June 1996 bombing of a military housing complex, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials believe that virtually all of these attacks are the handiwork of Imad Mugniyeh, Hezbollah's former security boss, who continues to maintain a relationship with the group and is most likely hiding out in Iran.
While popular wisdom has it that Islamic doctrinal differences prevent Hezbollah from cooperating with al Qaeda, the reality is that, when it comes to targeting the United States and Israel, the terrorist groups have managed to put these differences aside. For example, the U.S. government's 1998 indictment of Osama bin Laden for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania states that "al Qaeda also forged alliances with the government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States." Early last year, representatives of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups held meetings in Tehran and Beirut, where they vowed to wage a jihad against Israel and denounced the United States as "a second Israel."
Given Hezbollah's history of anti-American violence and ties with al Qaeda, Sheikh Nasrallah's threats must be taken very seriously indeed.