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April 09, 1993 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-09

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Moment Of Truth

Beset by internal conflicts, the Lebanon-based
extremist group may attack Israeli targets even more.



he extremist Islamic
Hezbollah movement —
which shot to interna-
tional prominence dur-
ing the 1980s through a
succession of suicide car-
bombings, airline hijackings
and kidnappings of Western
hostages in Lebanon — is fac-
ing a moment of truth.
Ironically, Hezbollah is one
of the earliest and most suc-
cessful creatures of the Is-
lamic Revolutionary Republic
of Iran and its apparent dis-
integration comes at a mo-
ment when Iran's political
stock is rising faster than ever
in the region.
Ironically, too, the threat to
Hezbollah's survival comes


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Hezbollah's losses
are Hamas' gains.

not from its hated foes, Israel
and the United States, but
from internal divisions that
are tearing at ii s fabric and
threatening to push it into a
spiral of self-destructive in-
ternecine strife.
Moreover, the pending im-
plosion is likely to increase
the threat of a fresh on-
slaught of Hezbollah violence
against Israel and its Leba-
nese ally, the South Lebanese
Army, at least in the short
"Hezbollah is like a wound-
ed animal," said a senior Mid-
dle East source, "and nothing
is more dangerous than a
wounded animal in such an
environment. "I would calcu-
late that Hezbollah's main
chance for survival in the im-
mediate future will require it
to re-focus the attention of its
various components on the
common enemy, Israel, and
on the common cause, wreck-
ing the peace process."
Even if such campaigns are
successful, they are unlikely
to staunch the hemorrhage
and halt the slide in Hezbol-
lah's fortunes, with the reju-
venated Palestinian Hamas
movement poised to pick up
the fundamentalist mantle.
The prospect of the Hezbol-
lah National Congress in
Lebanon and the election of
Ue7hollql, officials next

month have served to height-
en the festering internal ten-
sions, sharpen the disputes
and accelerate the process of
One split exists between
Hezbollah supporters based
close to the Israeli frontier in
South Lebanon and their
counterparts at Hezbollah's
military bases in the Bekaa
Valley of East Lebanon.
Another deep fault line has
developed between those who
support the local Lebanese
leadership and those who ad-
here to a strictly Iranian
line.Within the pro-Iranian
group, there are schisms be-
tween supporters of Iranian
President Hashemi Rafsan-
jani and his rival, Ayatollah
Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the
former Iranian interior min-
ister who was recently re-
ported to have been arrested.
At grass-roots level, there
are rifts between rival cliques
which are competing for in-
fluence in Lebanese villages,
where they are seeking to
impose their fundamentalist
ideology. Within the wider
Lebanese Shi'ite community,
a bruising triangular power
struggle is under way for spir-
itual dominance between
Iraqi-trained clerics (includ-
ing Hezbollah spiritual leader
Sheikh Hossein Fadlallah),
Iranian-trained clerics and
Amal's Sheikh Ali Amin, an
anti-Hezbollah, anti-Iranian
cleric who runs a seminary in
the Lebanese coastal town of
Yet another source of ten-
sion inside Hezbollah are the
direct contacts that have been
established between Iran and
the Palestinian fundamen-
talists leaders of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad for Palestine.
Until last October, all Iran-
ian-Palestinian contacts were
conducted via Hezbollah, but
Hezbollah was abruptly side-
lined when a Hamas delega-
tion was invited to Teheran
last October for a series of di-
rect talks with senior Iranian -\
Those encounters resulted
in a $30 million Iranian
down-payment to Hamas and
an Iranian declaration that
Hamas, rather than the sec-
ular PLO, was the "sole legit-
imate representative of the


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