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Iran Solidifies Control Over Hizbullah By: Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post | Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Iran is consolidating its grip on Hizbullah and has instituted a number of structural changes to the Lebanese group, under which Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah no longer enjoys exclusive command over its military wing, top Israeli defense officials have revealed.

According to the officials, following the Second Lebanon War, Iran decided to step up its involvement in the Hizbullah decision-making process and has instituted a number of changes to the terror group's hierarchy, under which Nasrallah has to receive Iranian permission prior to certain operations.

"There is real Iranian command now over Hizbullah," a top IDF officer said. "This doesn't mean that Nasrallah is a puppet, but it does mean that whenever he pops his head out of his bunker he sees an Iranian official standing over him."

Reports of Iranian discontent with Nasrallah had begun to surface following the 2006 war, which Teheran reportedly was not interested in at the time. Several reports in the Arab press claimed that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ousted Nasrallah from his post as Hizbullah secretary-general and replaced him with Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's second in command. Iran has denied the reports.

"Iranian supervision grew tremendously following the war," the top officer explained. "Nasrallah is still in a decision-making position but Iran's influence has dramatically increased."

A report in a Syrian opposition paper claimed Sunday that a high-level delegation of Iranian Revolutionary Guards visited Beirut last week to coordinate the integration of some Hizbullah branches into the Guards' Al-Quds Force, which is in charge of Iran's terror activities in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

According to the Reform Party of Syria, parts of the Hizbullah operation structure will now be under the command of Brig.-Gen. Faramaz Ghasem Suleimani, commander of the Al-Quds Force. Suleimani is listed by the US as a terrorist and the Guards was declared a terror group in 2007.

The paper claimed that Iran's ultimate plan was to dilute Syrian influence over Hizbullah in case Damascus strikes a peace deal with Israel.

Iran's solidification of its control over Hizbullah is seen as an attempt to direct its military forces in the event of a conflict in the Middle East. If Iran is attacked by the US or Israel, it may now be able to order Hizbullah to retaliate on its behalf.

In the past, IDF Military Intelligence has speculated about what Nasrallah would do in such a situation, raising the possibility that Hizbullah would not immediately attack Israel if Iran was attacked.

In another development, Hizbullah's Al-Manar satellite television station has begun using an Indonesian satellite to broadcast across Asia and Australia. Hizbullah asked Indonesia for permission to use the satellite after Thailand kicked Al-Manar TV broadcasts off its satellite in January.

Israel expressed its disappointment with Indonesia's decision, since Al-Manar is full of anti-Israel and anti-US propaganda.

Indonesia's decision to allow the Al-Manar hookup undermines US and European efforts to limit the reach of Hizbullah's broadcasts, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said.




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