Hezbollah's Role in World Events

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Hezbollah turned to kidnapping in 1984 to provide Iran, during its long war with Iraq, much needed money, arms, and to secure the release of Iranian fighters from foreign jails. The most spectacular example of the success of these operations was the French repayment of $330 million in back debt to Iran in return for two hostages. This tactic did not always pay off, as the seven year ordeal of Terry Anderson illustrated.258 Hezbollah changed tactics again in June 1985 when the group hijacked TWA Flight 847 from Athens and eventually diverted it to Lebanon. The ordeal ended seventeen days later when Israel released 31 jailed Shi'ite prisoners. Ultimately this hijacking was a success for Hezbollah; the group received enormous press coverage, and appeared to force both Israel and the U.S. to capitulate to its demands.

As the Lebanese civil war drew to a close and civil society began to rebuild Hezbollah was at a crossroads.

It was a group with an impressive terrorist pedigree and a natural constituency. It was also a group that faced increasing isolation from both its constituency and the society at large. Hezbollah developed a pragmatic and flexible strategy that employed terrorism to affect the behavior of both Western and Israeli governments. When this strategy became counterproductive, the group deliberately limited its attacks and increased participation in legitimate institutions.260 Hezbollah demonstrated a value maximizing rational actor style that has positive implications. It may be possible to negotiate a resolution to the issues that motivate emerging militant groups before they reach a point compromise is no longer possible. Interests were critical in this equation. Israel's vital interest was border security; the nation invaded Lebanon to stop Palestinian attacks on Jewish settlements. The conflict with Hezbollah developed as a result of actions during this invasion. Hezbollah's vital...