Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah turned political party, claimed that the organization had 100,000 active militiamen – a statistic which, if true, would make the group larger than the Lebanese army itself.
Nasrallah made the announcement during a speech after seven Lebanese were killed in a shooting in Beirut, the country’s tumultuous capital. The confrontation has reportedly erupted over disagreements over the ongoing investigation into the August 2020 ammonium nitrate explosion that razed the city’s port.
The various Lebanese factions, which have been vying for power since the end of the fifteen-year civil war in the country from 1975 to 1990, have sometimes accused each other of being responsible for the explosion, which has led to clashes. The motivation behind Nasrallah’s speech appears to have been calculated as a threat to other factions in the country, implicitly warning them to avoid confronting Hezbollah.
In the same speech, Nasrallah attacked Samir Geagea, the leader of the right-wing Christian group âLebanese Forcesâ, accusing him of fomenting divisions and attempting to bring the country back to civil war. Geagea is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which opposes Hezbollah boss Iran.
Hezbollah is one of the most powerful non-state actors in the Middle East. The group emerged among disgruntled Shiites in Lebanon during the civil war and, with Iranian support, became the country’s largest and most powerful militia. By the end of the war, it was the only armed group that refused to give up violence, and it continued to launch terrorist attacks against Israel, leading to a military confrontation in 2006 in which Israel invaded Lebanon but did not failed to destroy the group. The group maintains permanent ties with Iran and many of its members gained military experience fighting for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Precise details on the number of Hezbollah members are not available as the group remains under wraps.
Lebanon is one of the most multi-ethnic and multi-religious regions in the Middle East, home to Sunni and Shia Muslims, Maronite and Orthodox Christians, and Druze, an unusual Abrahamic faith widely clustered with Muslims but considered heretical by the most of the mainstream. Islamic thinkers. The country’s government, whose responsibilities are divided along sectarian lines, is widely seen as corrupt and ineffective and has been the subject of mass protests since October 2019.
Nasrallah has led Hezbollah since his predecessor, Abbas al-Moussaoui, was assassinated by Israeli agents in 1992.
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.