tv Discussion Focuses on Hezbollahs Involvement in Syria CSPAN August 15, 2016 4:41am-5:58am EDT
festivals across the country. on saturday book tv will be live at the mississippi book festival for their second annual literary lawn party at the state capital. other features focus on civil rights, state policy, mississippi state history and the 2016 election. 3 >> now a discussion on .ezbollah's involvement a shiite militant group and political party based in lebanon. this is a little over an hour.
>> good afternoon. welcome. it's a pleasure to see so many people today. we're also joined today by elevision audience via c-span. so let's please take a moment now to silence your mobile devices. there has been a series of events in washington in recent weeks commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the 2006 war between israel and hezbollah. but really, the occasion for today's event is so well timed it could have been because hezbollah this week deployed
hundreds of its forces its elite forces to alepo where battles are raging. by all standards, 2006 was a costly war both in terms of casualty from property damage especially for lebanon, 120 dead israelis, and nearly $6 billion in destruction in lebanon. ever since there's been tension but quiet along the border if large part this roletive straint exercise suggests an understanding -- israel and hezbollah, suggests an understanding among the parties just how damaging the next round would be. by an icy formed today enterprising scholar, focus on
hezbollah's capability largely gained during its deployment in syria. these will make the next war even more ferocious and devastating. hezbollah's deployment in lebanon, in syria, has been costly and controversial. but as we hear about the military dimensions it's important to keep in mind the constance. i just returned from lebanon where things are not good. there is is a modicum of security, a collaboration between the state and armed forces and internal security forces and hezbollah. but on the political front it's a real mess. you have two years with no president, no chance at a new electoral law to bring a new parliament, a failed three-day national dialogue, political paralysis that goes well beyond the garbage crisis, and the news just last week that the leader of the pro-west sunni
future nt movement in lebanon has lost his company and facing an acute financial crisis. the former head of isf, former meb of the future movement and elections victory in triply running on a highly sectarian platform. complicating matters the splint rg of the establishment. lebanon faces ongoing challenge of posting 1.5 million mostly sunni muslim refugees. the children among are by and large not attending schools and may be susceptible to radicalization or at a minimum the kind of sectarian. it's nothing short in my view of a ticking time bomb. so to discuss hezbollah's new and improved capabilities as well as the dynamic in lebanon, , we have the former fellow
at the washington institute and the author of this newly released institute publicication. he recently joined the anti-defamation league as a terrorism analyst. the freeman visiting fellow in washington specializing in speite politics. she arrived from lebanon and started on monday. we're honored to have her. she previously served as the managing editor of the premier online news site. those familiar with her reporting recognize her as a journalist of profound courage and insight. we're pleased to welcome her to her first event as a fellow. now, we'll start. > thank you. >> thanks for the introduction and thank you all for coming. in my first trip to israel
starting this research i talked to a friend of mine from the state when i served in the idf. in 2006 we would have said hezbollah will send thousands of fighters to syria, with drones, alongside the russians, people will probably call us crazy. here we are in 2016 and hezbollah has done all of this. so there was aff bunch of analysis about hezbollah's involvement and the regime, military experience, the losses of many fighters, and injured. but when i read this i sort of felt that it didn't go too much in depth. what is the military experience? what is happening in lebanon at the same time? so that was the starting point of my research. now, let's take a step back for a minute. when you talk in israel about hezbollah and the president of syria people will call it their eastern command.
hezbollah is in lebanon. so their contingency is the eastern command. we have between 5,000 and 8,000 fighters at any given time in syria. they are fighting on many fronts. they're also training a lot of shia militias. they're also securing important sights. important, they have establishments in syria, weapons storgeses, training camps. they're doing that. now we have various types of fighters. people talk like it's all the same fighters, they have the same capability but that's not true. we have the special forces. that's a unit established after the 2006 war. we're talking about a special forces. their training takes around a year-and-a-half. snipers, ied's, the elite forces. then the standing forces, a
crucial point to make. when we talk about hezbollah fighters in syria, we're talking about all of hezbollah fighters in syria. every fighter was in syria at some point during the last five or six years because they're rotating in and out. then we have part-time fighters. which we're talking about on a day to day people affiliated, they're not fighters but 15 ys of the year they're serving on the battlefront. then we have more fighters. they need more and more fighters. so they fast tracked a lot of the training many fighters are just trained 60 to 90 days and then shipped into syria. and it's important to know that we have their commission are committed but some are rotating in and out. this is from a piece from one of the hezbollah fighters. it sort of enin passes what
they're doing in syria. they lead military operations. do the bulk of the battle. they tell us about the area, topography and people that live there. they also follow hezbollah's orders. hezbollah is by no mean the father in syria. they are the commanders leading battles. sometimes they lead syrian soldiers, militia, hezbollah are the elite force. so how has this changed hezbollah. let's look first at the strategy. if you're going to talk to a lot of ideas folks in israel, the strategy they used was not losing. why? because hezbollah knows that it can't defeat the idea in one battle. hezbollah has very significant capability bus we're talking about the idea, which is advanced capabilities and if there's going to be an all-out
war. so hezbollah just wanted to show that they can endure a war against the ideas. so what were the pillars of this strategy of not losing? prolong the fight as much as possible to show. then we have maintaining home front attrition. and the maneuvers in south lebanon. that was in 2006. hezbollah worked on the strategy after the second lebanon war. piece was written that said, i'm not so sure that the strategy of not losing remains in hezbollah today. why not? prolonging the fight doesn't work any more. they're knee deep in syria. they don't want to divide the forces. they have greater accountability to the lebanese people. and they don't want to waste
ll of their strategic weapons. 100,000, 150,000. this is an iranian project. they put a lot of effort to put these weapons in lebanon. they just want to have a deterrent against a strike in iran or any other operations. after the 2006 war they were a little annoyed, you just wasted all these missiles that didn't relate to us. so they want to ensure they don't use all the arsenal. what is the bottom line? hezbollah should want to shorten the war. how? you go on the offensive. you have units that go into the north of israel, take ahold of different villages in the north. use a lot of rockets to interrupt with the idea of movement and try to influence decision makers to stop the war as soon as possible. so the first one is more defensive and the second is
more offensive. i tried to look how the experience pushes them one way or tortsdze. what has changed in syria? not losing strategy. if i'm a fighter what is my role? i'm defending my village. hezbollah used small teams between 10-15 people using anti-tank missiles, ieds. but the purpose was to defend their own villages. and in syria, they see a village, way i don't need to defend, i need to conquer. t means they need to seige it, using tactics. not teams of 10-15. we're talking about hundreds of fighters. if i'm a hezbollah fighter, some this was the first time they did an operation. if i'm not used to deevensding my village, you change the paradigm of how do i see the battle. the second thing is the russian factor. in september 2015, russia
became a big part of the syrian civil war and it started with different lements on the grouped. russia had presence on the ground but most of their soldier are hezbollah, syrian militia and syrian regime. so you had different battles. right now in alepo, other villages that hezbollah was on the ground in the back there was russian artillery, russian air force. when we talk about that kind of operation you need close coordination between the different parties. that means that hezbollah was exposed, one of its partners, to russian immigrantry planning. so talking about an event they have capability soss it was the first time hezbollah saw how to design a military content. but what is russia doing today in syria? the other thing is sort of a reality check. hezbollah is very has advanced capability bus they also saw
how russia operates in syria. they saw their warfare, intelligence capabilities. and suddenly i see, if they have that, the idea they have the same if not better. we're in a problem right now. so maybe we should stick to our defensive strategy. on the other hand, they also saw how the russians still don't have a decisive victory. russia still didn't take all the leadership of the rebels, they didn't target all the weapons storges they have there. so hezbollah is able to witness there are some blind spots. and they can use it for their advantage afterwards in the fight against israel. regardless of which side hezbollah is going to choose, if it's defensive or offensive, which i believe it will take time to implement because hezbollah is still in syria. in order to develop a strategy will take a lot of time. but there are military tactics that got a lot better. first increase effectiveness on
its drone fleet. we know in the early 2000 that hezbollah has drones. we saw them in 2004 reconsense drones we saw in 2006 hezbollah used drones to target israel. then we saw in 2012 and 2015 sending ents reconsense drones. they use it for conson sans. we saw footage that hezbollah put on line they're using a drone with cluster munition to target the rebels. this is the first time they're doing it in syria. now they're not only watching their own drone operations. they're watching the iranian drone operations, the syrian drone operations. if i'm a drone operater i'm thinking, now i know the systems better, the optics better, the communications better. this sort of makes them think about different missions being more effective against israel.
and hezbollah has a lot of investment in their drone fleet recently. the second thing i want to touch on is the short range rocket threats. we talk a lot about hezbollah's rocket arsenal, long range, very accurate. but there's one thing that the conversation misses from time to time and that's the short-range rocket. in syria we saw them using a short range rocket with a very heavy pay load between 500 kilos to one ton which can overwhelm enemy defenses, it can terrorize the population. and it doesn't cost that much. even if the rocket is not that accurate, if you use it in a certain amount it can overwhelm syria's north, folks on the border. they say we're really concerned about that. the second thing to help is the fact that they saw what happened in protective edge in the summer of 2014. most of the casualties hamas inflicted on israel using mortars and rockets were not
the long range one. the long range one iron dome can take. but they thought maybe we should focus on this. so that's something to keep in mind. want to talk about for a lack of time we will move to hezbollah's regiment vis-a-vis israel. i heard a lot of people in israel that say, hezbollah right now is focused on syria we don't need to worry too much. which is true. hezbollah on the basic level doesn't want a war right now. but it doesn't mean that they can't manage one. when we talk about the number of fighters, hezbollah still has thousands of fighters in south lebanon. most assessments talk about hezbollah's fighters. if you take into account the number of deaths, the number of injured men, the number of fighters in syria, even if all
of them are sending forces, hezbollah still has a little bit more than 6,000 fighters very capable in south lebanon. when a war starts, they will be able to stop maybe the first wave then all the fighters from syria are going to come to lebanon to fight against israel. the other is training to examine the readiness. before the involvement they trained in lebanon. then they went to iran. why? because there are things, if you want to fire a rocket or missile, you can't do it in lebanon because lebanon is going to say what are you doing, second, israel will be able to see it better let's say. so that stopped after the involvement in syria but they kept training in lebanon. every time they wanted to fire something they go to syria to fire on the rebels or other organizations. syria's experiment lab of
hezbollah. you have attacks you want to examine? go to syria. if you want to fire or test weapons go to syria. no one would mind, no one knows what hezbollah is doing there. and then the idea of reinforcement question mark one of the most important things that i think is happening right now in syria is the fact that the shia acts as one force. hezbollah before the involvement trained different missions in iraq. but right now when you fight together, when you bleed together, there's a relationship that can't be broken. so i'm thinking if i'm a hezbollah nighter and i have a friend from shia militia in iraq and my friend sees me getting hammered thinking wait why are we helping hezbollah? so there is a chance they get reinforcement from different shia militias. if they're going to say just
secure our side in syria that will allow us to send more fighters. that's something else to keep in mind. so that was sorted of the military lesson, the military offensive. now i want to talk about the shia community supporting lebanon. talk about communities supporting lebanon. i talked to many lebanese about that aspect. no doubt that the shia community in lebanon to support the hezbollah which was after 2006 war, if you would have asked people mostly if you're shia of course look at them they enjoy the fight. but something happened with syrian involvement. we're talking about significant losses among the shia community. 1600 casualties, 5,000 injured, and i heard one time only 60% of the losses are actually from south lebanon which south lebanon is one of the most
important strongholds of hezbollah. that means that most of the people in south lebanon you know someone who died, who was injured in the war. that creates a lot of agony for the community. suddenly people lose their providers, they lose their father figure, brothers. it creates a lot of pressure inside the community. also some financial constraints. the salary cost and reduction of social services for a lot of shia that is important. and when they see hezbollah spend so much money, wait a minute, we're still here. why are you not helping us? but hezbollah was able to maintain significant support. how did they do it? rst, to frame a war as necessary. every time they speak he hammers this message. we night to fight al-nusra. if we don't do it lebanon is going to be flush with terrorists. a lot of people believe, i
think in 2015 and 2016 that talked about the fact that they're going to ask lebanese, most would say the number one threat to the country are the extremism. so hezbollah is able to sort of do that. second, hezbollah still takes care of its core base of support. when i'm talking about that i'm talking about the fighters, their families. they still get their salaries, social services. maybe there are other people but if you are a fighter of hezbollah you can count on hezbollah to take care of you. the third is there's just no alternative. you are a shia in lebanon today, beyond hezbollah there are smaller organizations that claim to represent the community but they don't pay salaries, don't get social services. if you are a shia in lebanon today, even if partially still does it is hezbollah. talking about a country that the economic situation doesn't allow you to quit your job and
look for another one. so you are going to fight and support the organization. after all that when we talk about important take aways from all the syrian involvement beyond the tactics and the strategic military achievements you need to remember hezbollah remains willing and able to fight in syria. you saw in 2012, 2013, 2014, they're in a quagmire. are they going to retreat? they lost 20, 30, 40 fighters in that battle. this is an existential battle. -- they have military bases. for them to lose a lot of their military capabilities and their resisance. second, hezbollah places have been strengthened. if you would have asked before the syrian involvement, iraq,
iran, syria, hezbollah, other organizations in the region part of this, but soaria was very powerful back then -- syria was very powerful back then. they supported hezbollah, gives them weapons. today i would put hezbollah above syria. one day when the syrian civil war is going to be over, hopefully very soon but probably not, iran and the syrian regime is going to remember that hezbollah brought their fighters to syria. they're going to remember that hezbollah didn't put their neck on the line for them. iran at first didn't send fighters. they would tell hezbollah to send a few more. hezbollah is the only one who putt their neck on the line. so both are going to remember that. third, many other organizations in the middle east will receive better training. even before the involvement, hezbollah has been a great trainer for many terrorist
organizations in the region, for militias in iraq, the hutesdzies, they see what they're doing. jihad islamist a lot of organizations. they get training. so both israel and the u.s. to see what hezbollah is learning in syria, it's a great lesson for the future because we'll probably see in a few years them doing the same thing or hamas or other terrorist organizations. thank you. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you for this very interesting present yafplgtse and david thank you for your kind welcome. i'm
just the resistance that made hezbollah so powerful. hezbollah is based on three main pillars. if one is broken a lot is broken. one is social services and its independent economy, which is independent from the lebanese state economy. social services that include education, health services, all sorts of service that is the government should provide and they don't. the liberation of the occupying land, it was very clear for everyone that of course they want something called the national resistance before hezbollah started but this was eliminated. a lot of its leaders were killed by hezbollah because they realized it was important to the south, so to hijack and make it its own is important to lobby them around it. three, the collective memory of the shiites. linked to the battle. this collective memory was very
important for hezbollah to link it both to iran and the resistance. so the slogan of hezbollah, which is every day, is very important in the sense that it's today our battle, our resistance against israel. so these three pillars were linked together in a very organic prourling way and not only organized but gave the shiites access to lebanon's state institutions, economy, and political establishment because they were victorious many times they managed to organize themselves this worked well for them. now, let's look at these three pillars and see what has changed. when hezbollah started its involvement in the syrian crisis it has to change its priorities and also its strategies. and the narrative, this narrative that is built on these three pillars has also changed. one, services. a bigger budget has been
allocated since their involvement in syria to the military including social service tots military. more to the military family to the fighters family. and last to the shiites who are not involved in the army. the resistance. despite all the attacks of israel against hezbollah's armed convoys, assassination of some of its leaders, always hezbollah reacts with we will retaliate at the right time the right place. the words right time right place has become joke material in lebanon now. this everybody understands that this means that israel is not a priority. our focus is on hezbollah and we don't want to start a war in israel right now because it is too much of a headache. i'm not saying that they're not ready to start and they will not be capable of doing that but they don't want to. this is not their priority. the third one, which is the
collective memory of the shiites and the divine victory. everything is divine. everything has to be twine in order to maintain the link between these three pillars. hezbollah for the shiite community, we've always seen hezbollah as the victors. they always win and they win fast. all the time. for the first time hezbollah goes to syria, spends years in syria. and not only they do not come back with victory they scom back with a lot of dead bodies and defeat. aleppo is the recent example which is a big blow for hezbollah and the shiite community in lebanon. hezbollah is no longer the defecter because their defeat, even though they don't call it defeat, of course it was never mentioned they were defeated. it's -- t basically, a setback. of course they send 3,000 soldiers and now they're planning to get back aleppo.
it will be back and forth but it is not the divine victory they're used to. hezbollah has become a regional shiite militia no longer a resistance force. this has led to the isolation of the shiite community. for the first time two years ago described hezbollah as the shy united states faction. so not only they became a regional militia. they're also now a shiite army. and this posed a lot of -- because of the rhetoric, the shy yeet community now is isolated. if you -- it's almost impossible for shiite to get hired by a sunni-owned institution or to go and get hired in the government. it's almost impossible. they have to look at hezbollah s the only source of income. what also -- this also leads to
a very, very important in my opinion change within the idea of the resistance. i grew up in the south until i s 18 and during the year since 82 until 2006 a lot of people young men growing up around me, they looked at hezbollah as of course like a dream. everybody wanted to volunteer, everybody wanted to join the resistance, everybody wanted to be part of this. they did not ask for money. they did not want anything. hezbollah made sure they all got paid to structure the army and make sure that no one is a volunteer. but of course things have changed completely since then. and i would like to call this phenomenon like the resistance goes corporate. everything -- every one i interviewed they describe their
mission in syria as a job. i have to go to my job. i have to go to work. at the beginning i didn't understand. i thought they had another job other than fighting in syria. but then i understood that this is a job for them. t's no more the resistance that used to be when before 2006 or during 2006. there was no more devotion, no eagerness. they were anxious, they were very tired, they were extremely exhausted, and they did not like what they were doing. and it was definitely a job for them. they all -- why is it a job? why do they have to do it? it is a job they don't like, not that they're proud of. they have to sign a two-year contract. salaries range between 500 and 1200. no more compensation for the martyr families. they used to pay around 40,000
and then dropped down to 32, 20, now it has stopped. it's a job. they don't have to pay any compensation. they all come from poor families. you look, it's a southern suburb and divided in three, our, five major areas or neighborhoods. if you go to the poor nabed this, you see the martors. in rich neighborhoods, you see kids in their fancy brand new cars. the poor people, they are not educated, they have no skills whatsoever, they have families to support and nothing to lose. these are the people who are going to fight in syria. they come back and their families that they're leaving behind, they see the sons of officials, hezbollah officials going to private schools outside, and driving brand new
cars and not even thinking about -- they don't need the money to go to syria. basically, if it wasn't for this job, a lot of these people have nothing and basically if it wasn't for the war in syria these people would not have any jobs. it's a vicious circle they're stuck in. that's why they call it a job. another thing that has changed is the attitude of these fighters, especially the fighters. if you look at the shiite community it's surprising how you see that the hezbollah fighters, who are going to syria and interacting with iranians in the syrian army, the iraqis, et cetera, are much more disillusioned than hezbollah supporters sitting in lebanon and looking at tv and listening to hezbollah reltric. the fighters now understand a lot of things the people not involved understand. when they look at the iranians, they told me many of the fighters told me that they were
really disappointed with the iranians. they had a very different ideas of the iranians that they learned from hezbollah's narrative. not only their fighting skills and expertise are disappointing but they also treat hezbollah fighters with arrogance and disdain. they also abandon hezbollah behind in most deadly battles. alepo is a big example. i don't know if you've heard about it but they leaked audio saying they were abandoned by the syrian army. this time we had an audio. the syrian army are corrupt and fight without provocation. that's how they see them. also every time they lib rat an area or town they used to give it to the syrian army and the syrian army would sell it to the highest bidder. so they can't do that any more. which means they have to leave hezbollah officials behind meaning they are more stretched out. the russians.
this is another story. the priorities are different with the russian priorities and iranian and syrian are competing different. so while they're fighting to death, they know that russia will sell hezbollah short if it serves their interests in syria. and the russians, when they started its involvement in syria, all the shiite community and lebanon means, like the strong guy, the good guy. he's our guy, our strong guy. now, no more. and if you look at the way hezbollah is fighting in syria and it's linking syria to lebanon. if you look at syria which stretches from the coast up to hamas, and to part of damascus on the border of lebanon, and the link between the south and you see how along this corridor
hezbollah is also working a lot with the iranians to change demographics, which means that they are basically pushing sunni syrians out of the corridor and moving shiite and alloits into this corridor. so they're also basically creating a shiite state kind of that stretches from the south of lebanon up to the coast of seer so we have an isolated
community that cannot be accepted by the majority of the arabs in the region, which are sunnis. have a deeply injured party that is lebanon, as far as institutions, and the shyite community. it's ready to do whatever it takes to maintain control and win in syria. they're not going to stop. not only in syria, wherever they are asked to. they are ready in iraq, yemen, everywhere. the majority of the shiite community is suffocating, yes financially and socially. but until now we don't have an alternative. small independent groups as long as they're not united and powerful enough they do not substitute an alternative. but the real alternative for the shy yeet now doesn't have to be at this point a political narrative or alternative.
i think an economic alternative that would help them become citizens of the lebanese state is very important. at this point even an economic alternative is important because the lebanese government is incapable of giving one and hezbollah is not interested in giving them an alternative because they're still needed. also, they no longer believe. thank you. >> thank you. [applause] >> these are two i think excellent presentations and a lot of food for thought. if i might, ask each one of you a question. we heard on the panel that particular diminished support or change of priorities for hezbollah and social services on the decline. boost or en any
increase after the iran deal, after the release of u.s. funds for hezbollah? nd on an unrelated question. you talk about hezbollah. have you looked into what israel is doing to sort of counter this new iranian -- new hezbollah capability? nd for you, all the body bags. you know, sectarianism in lebanon i think in a way has perhaps fueled support for this sectarianism, the clinging to hezbollah because you're under threat as a community perhaps, but we have had at the same videos se videos, these that have appeared of hezbollah's captured in syria and saying terrible things about what hezbollah is doing
there. telling a different story. you spoke about quiet grumblings. has there been, aside from yourself, like out there writing really critical pieces about the war? can you talk about that and how hezbollah responds to them? >> of course. so the question about money from iran to hezbollah after the nuclear deal. i think beyond what we're hearing from officials saying yeah they're paying more, i don't think someone has really an accurate measurement to sort of show how much money iran gives hezbollah because right now more than what they've given before. i do think that it's easier for iran because they got sanction relief. we saw before they didn't pay hezbollah that much. but i'm sure today it's much easier. there are a lot of actions by the u.s. treasury. we saw in testimony i think a couple months back that they
said hezbollah is in the worst financial situation ever. i don't know. i didn't see any numbers. i can't tell you if he was correct or not. but when he said the worst financial situation ever, what do you compare it to? to compare it to the 80s or 90s i would say hezbollah has much more money than back then. two or three years, maybe it's a question. i don't have the answer. i'm sure hezbollah's place becomes much more important, iran will keep giving them money as long as they can sustain their presence in syria. they're going to lower the salaries. but again, if i'm a hezbollah fighter i don't have an alternative. or i'm going to get a salary cut by 100 or something. the idea is preparing for that. since the 2006 war until today, all the or most of the focus tort north and front, they've been trained for years.
they know the different scenarios. the different threat scenarios. about infiltration for example. the idea has changed a little bit of the terrain in israel's north. they cut a lot of bushes. so that in order for them to be able to put more observation points. because if you haven't been to the border, ush bushes in different hilingts. if you're a hezbollah fighter, as happened in 2006, they can infiltrate if they want to. people talk about tunls. maybe there are tunls but they don't really need the tunnels. there is a lot of topography that they can use in their advantage. that's why the idea has changed. also, jaust lot of training. the next it will be a much bigger war. we need to train our soldiers, reservists train a lot. that's the situation. >> thanks.
>> you're asking about in general the lebnies community if they believe that hezbollah is protecting the border. they still believe that hezbollah is protecting the border. but they're starting to realize that it's not just about the borders. they're starting to realize that this is hurting lebanon instead of -- isolating also lebanon. about the voices, talking about eople criticizing hezbollah. it's, if you look at established media you have a lot of people criticizing hezbollah. not like the usual. but what's interesting really is -- >> among the shiite. >> but what's interesting is that on social media there are a lot of like more younger voices that are criticizing hezbollah voices not just from the shiite community, from the shiite controlled hezbollah controlled areas. these are not -- these people are not only expressing
themselves on social media. they're also, this is leading to small grassroot initiatives within the community that it's not really leading anywhere but it's interesting to follow. >> did you notice anything from the municipal elections that showed the diminished support? >> to tell you the truth that was not really different from the 2010 elections. there were a lot of people running against hezbollah. and this also happened in 2010. before hezbollah was involved in syria. but this is the dynamics of the south, of the shiite community. i think what was different really is like more -- it went viral. people talked about it a lot. and the interesting really part of the shiite -- of the the hard-core hezbollah controlled, like the
capital. it's a big shiite city. and it's always hezbollah controlled municipality. this year, hezbollah and another shiite movement that is affiliated with hezbollah, like aligned, they ran together and there's another list that nobody knows we've heard only of one name, not the usual independent shiites. they ran against hezbollah and they got 48% of the votes. that was like the really interesting aspect of it. >> thank you. let's open it up for questions. if you could say your name and who you are with. speak loudly because the microphones are in the ceiling. thank you. i have two questions. thank you for a fantastic presentation, by the way. so as the military i'm very
much interested in the military cooperation between hezbollah, iran, and russia, and if you could say what are the prospects. and the second question is what the dynamics described by you, in ow reflected in the -- syria? what would be your recommendation? >> of course. first, the relationship between hezbollah and iran. so we need to talk about the leadership level and the fighters on the ground. talking about the fighters on the ground, part of hezbollah are in battle and the rebels are coming and they subbedly see the iranian militia run ago way. so i don't think there's trust. but in different battle fronts they just felt like they left them alone on the battle. on the leadership level i would say hezbollah and iran are in
very good coordination. i think until the sunni involvement he was never involved too much in the military aspect. you had the chief of staff of hezbollah and reportedly the guy was involved in every military aspect of the organization. after he died, they need to step up to divide some of the roles in different commanders but we know that when the war started in syria, and he came so the ekly meetings, coordination and cooperation between the leadership i would say is very close. both iran and hezbollah see as one of their best partners, especially right now. and i would say also that the personal issues between them, which i heard repeatedly in israel, they were strong even before, which is very different than what was when he was the
president of syria. when assad came to power, because of weapons and other factors, but the relationship today is very close. i don't see them suddenly waking up and say we don't need assad any more. >> so nobody here wants to take the policy angle on them. i think the u.s. government has a robust military assistance program to the lebanese armed forces. that is basically the cornerstone of u.s. policy toward lebanon. that and the desire that lebanon elect a president, any president. the funding was something like 130 million a year this year it's going to be 0 million but the real -- 80 million. but the real issue. while washington is imposing or working with lebanon to try and
curtail the financing, working with the central bank of lebanon to limit to close accounts to do all sorts of things like that, at the same time we are cooperating in a robust fashion with the lebanese armed forces, with the isf, with the general security. and these forces are with no reservation cooperating collaborating with hezbollah passing information on that the united states passes to lebanese military intelligence to the internal security forces. there's no question about that. and the united states, this administration doesn't really appear to have a problem with that. yes. two-part question somewhat dove tailing on david's opening question. recognizing the improvement that is the organization has made since 2006, leadership
training and arms and so on. as they say on the battlefield the enemy gets a vote. and obviously the idea that was prepared. but fighting deash and fighting nussra is not the same as fighting the idf. so how much do you think the experience that hezbollah would mean if indeed there was another conflict with israel? and also, again, as noted expensive losses and disillusionment in hezbollah, how much does that offset would you say if hezbollah has made? and then, the flip side of the same coin. if the organization is so disillusioned with the current conflict, if there was to be a third lebanon war, however, would that miraculously transform and would the fighting in syria suddenly
become energized and passionate about fighting the israelis? or would the degradation they have undergone in syria over the last five years also show fighting israelis? >> great question. so talking about it's going to be relevant to the idf. the tactic i focused on, the drones or short-ranged rockets. i don't think it matters which strategy. whether it will be a defensive or offensive one to change or shorten the war. thattled say doesn't matter that much. i would say that i think for a lot of veterans for hezbollah fighters, they fought the army. they know, they remember what happened in 2006. in 93 and 96 and a lot of those veterans today are in syria. they remember how the idf fight. they can fight isis or al nussra but they know that both
don't have very accurate missiles. they don't have an air force. so i think that resonates in their mind but i would say after 2006 lrp a lot of fighters that were not experienced that joined the organization. now, these young fighters sort of cut their teeth the first time in the battle in syria. for them, they don't remember how -- they might be taught in different classes but a lot of military men know the best education is what you gain on the battle and not in the classroom. so even if they were told the idf was like this in 2006 they see what another 20 or 30 young fighters were able to take over this village, maybe we should try again against israel. but again, even if they don't infiltrate the northern front, what happened in 2006, the idf maneuvered in south lebanon, took control. if in the past hezbollah would just retreat, go to their place and sort of wait for the next
wave, there is a chance right now hezbollah can actually excute an operation that will take that. if you take companies, if you take different incorporate with the drones and art tillry they know how to do it right now. so they learn in battle. you know. that was the point. >> all right. short answer. yes. it will definitely bring back the motivation. because resisting is real or fighting for your own land is always straightforward than fighting in another land. short answer yes. longer answer. would hezbollah be capable of doing while syria is happening? maybe. do they have the arms? yes, they do have the arms. but they've lost a lot of their main field commanders. like out of four field commanders in the south in 2006 they have lost three. which is a lot. and these people need like to
replace them it needs more than hree years of training and leadership. so it's not an easy answer. it's not a straightforward yes or no. but in terms of strengthening, bringing back the shiite community to support hezbollah, definitely another war with israel will do that. > thank you. my question is, large sunni refugee population now in lebanon, is that a concern of hezbollah? and do you think that they can olerate it for the long run? there are ebanon
probably 4 million lebanese residing in lebanon. we have almost between 1-1/2 to 2 million refugees. these are refugees. they're not in lebanon to fight rezz blah. definitely if when you ask about what they think about hezbollah of course they don't like hezbollah. hezbollah is killing their people in syria. they're the reason, when you look at these refugees they didn't flee isis. they came from hamas and areas where hezbollah is mainly -- where hezbollah pushed them out. so they don't have -- but they know that it's not their battle in lebanon. they're there as refugees. but i have to say, like if you at the borders of lebanon, there are a lot of of course nussra-i will filt
rated among the refugees and it only takes a bunch to cause problems. but also, the hezbollah and the lebanese army and the entire military intelligence are making a lot of effort in order to control that. i don't see this as happening at this point. >> it was wildly suspected that these bombers were going to go down and target shiites. >> yes, definitely. >> the speakers have convinced me that hezbollah does not want a war with israel now. is the converse true that israel does wants a wash with hezbollah now rather than later? >> well, i heard the question i think two or three different conferences in israel. every time someone said israel will never go to a war when the sword is not on our neck, you need the legitimacy and support of the public in order to excute a war anywhere.
especially in israel. if they want a war against hezbollah, you need for the public to support it. if today the government decides to start a war against hezbollah, which i don't think they're going to do it, i don't think the public will support it because the amount of destruction that's going to come as part of this war. the amount of loss to the economy. in 2006 most of the israel public supported the war because what happened, hezbollah kidnapped two of our soldiers. it was a month-and-a-half after the kidnap on the front and they said we can't just sit on this one. we need to go and strengthen our deterrence again. i don't think that israel today would want a war. i would -- i can see three different scenarios why a war can happen. one of them is someone takes another and by mistake killing two or three high commanders. or maybe hezbollah will retaliate. much has happened.
in january 2015 when hezbollah retaliated, hezbollah fired i think a round of six, seven tank missiles. if they were actually hidden a big convoy of the idf, talking between 10-20 soldiers dead, for that israel would need to do something. the second scenario is if hezbollah tries something on the front, they tried it before maybe they'll try it again. and third, which people -- i never heard someone actually said as a scenario. but you need to remember people said that deterrent is still strong in the lebanese front but i'm not sure if it's strong abroad. remember in 2012, hezbollah -- after an attack in bulgaria, we had an incident in 2015 when a he is blahen was arrested in cyprus with two ton nite traits. and if hezbollah thinks they
can target israelis abroad, it's also an escalation of dynamics. >> if israel would respond to attacks. my question was what does israel want? they don't want a war right now. league about the arab and do you see the organization. now precludes an economic alternative or if it creates more desire for one? >> of course it creates a desire for one. because this is of course based on like hezbollah's has been attacking saudi and gulf states and leadersureship for a long time now. and also, if you look from the other perspective, lebanon has been a main priority. but now they're looking at the
region as a whole. is this affecting lebanon's economy? of course. because it's not just about stopping the aid for the eamplet it's also about investments in lebanon. a lot of gulf people are moving their businesses. so it's not only the -- it creates a desire for economic alternative for the shiites. it's like for lebanon. so far hezbollah has not influenced by this measure because as i said they have their own independent economy. but also because of the decrease of funding recently and decreased budget hezbollah has always been very good at taking advantage of the lebanese economy and the lebanese institutions, especially for their own sake. so this indirectly influences hezbollah's economy. but in general, lebanon is absolutely looking for a need support.onomic
>> yes. questions. what is the contribution of the groups to hezbollah? lebanon and possibly -- the other groups, south america, europe, north africa? so if you know. what are the contributions? and the second would be in my experience on syria, is it a ible that hezbollah, successful contribution, to become more -- in light? >> i'll take the first part. because of also like sanctions and measures against these groups who are, if you are talking about money landering and drug trafficking in africa
and latin america basically, yes it has been affected by sanctions. they're losing a lot of these networks. a lot of these networks have been exposed. and because of the sanctions because the money comes through lebanese banks and now there are certain measures, asking the lebanese banks to close certain accounts and be careful of that. so yes this is negatively influencing hezbollah's economy. nd when these sanctions were first put in place, it was at the time when he was killed in syria and i remember they spoke on that occasion, and he talked about it for four minutes and 21 minutes about the sanctions which gives you an idea of what is more important for them. >> about the question of hezbollah will be stronger. i think today you can't answer that because no one actually knows when the it's going to
end. i would say as long as hezbollah keeps on filling their ranks with new recruits and still maintaining the level of training that it has today they can maintain the same level. i find it hard to see that they're fighting with a thousand and becoming much, much stronger because of it. maybe one day if they're going to defeat the rebels. but they'll be able to reduce their presence there and it still goes on. maybe in that point. but today it's a hard question because no one actually knows what will be the developments on the syrian theater. thrgs a now in lebanon potential for having a presidential election. it looks like that some of lebanon have come to terms with the prospect that general alep of the prepatriotic movement, hezbollah's ally, can be
president. the only problem with that is that hezbollah has decided they don't want general allen to be president. what does hezbollah want? and what is their political goal in lebanon? do they want a total takeover? >> i don't think hezbollah wants a president now. their presidential candidate is devoid and i really believe that because they haven't really supported any president. they say publicly that he is their president but in process they're not get working to get him as president. they are much more comfortable with a weak state institution, void and state institutions like the presidency and also haven't had parliamentary releckses for a long time. this gives them more freedom and margin of maneuver in order to go to syria and do whatever they want like a strong state institution telling them what to do or asking them what they're doing. the e more -- the weaker
institutions are, also although this is not yet an issue, but a lot of people are questioning whether hezbollah is actually supporting the war in order to lead to the change of the power sharing system in lebanon which would give the shiites more power. so instead of having christian half muslims in parliament, you will have third, third, third, which gives hezbollah more power, which gives both of them more power. it's not on the table yet but you never know. maybe this might lead to this as well. so military freedom and political maneuvers as well. so the war would be perfect for hezbollah in both cases. >> along the same lines. could i ask you, there has been since he died competition in lebanon of sorts.
with hezbollah looking to basically convert the sheia community of lebanon to their pointed of reference to iran. and with sis tani, another significant figure getting on in years, how does this competition look? >> it was a competition at the beginning. but hezbollah has been comfortable with the situation now because the majority of the shiite have been following the iranians for such a lock time. they had a few followers and nadgeaff used to be a big in lebanon for the shia. the reference now is home aine's. but i have to say that recently identify been talking to a lot of people changing their reference, their religious reference. although he died his reference is till there. his institution is carrying on.
they're not really opposed to hezbollah. but when it comes to social issues and religious preferences arks lot of people are going back. it's still not a competition but it's happening. like everything else. it's a small thing here and there. but you see it heage. but still, a lot of people are still following him. >> please. , do you think any relationship between the shyite community, are they close rrks they part? how can you describe the relationship between the two communities? >> ok. they have the same political interests. some they have common interests. religiously i don't think there's anything in common between them except their adoration for the imam.
of course. but it's about common political interest now. interact? not really. no. not really. even in lebanon they don't. the alloits in lebanon are in the north and the shy united states -- there's no real interaction between them. >> one more question. he had been in russia meeting with putin four times in the last weeks. you mentioned that hezbollah fighters feel that putin would abandon them if necessary. there a skern air yo where you can see putin being motivated to act against hezbollah, perhaps after the conflict is winding down? >> i think as long as their interests are the same in syria and he needs hezbollah on the ground he's not going to operate against them. but the israel-russian relationship -- we're talking
about today all the relationships. about syria it's more -- the conflict, it's not that we have trategic convergeance. it's still important that every time a red line is being broken in syria, when i took a trip back in december and i talked to one of the people from the ministry of deans, he told me, what are you going to do if we attack hezbollah in lebanon? and what you want to do in lebanon does not concern us. we are there for syria. i don't know if he thought about hezbollah will need the reinforcement to go to lebanon. but that's what he said. >> let me ask one final uestion of both our panelists. the u.s. priority in syria is obviously deash, the war against isis. assad is -- i don't even think
is on the radar screen of the administration. we've had an article i think just a few weeks ago in the post on line suggesting that the united states should actually hit hezbollah in syria. what would be, aside from the ongoing financial pressures the u.s. is putting on hezbollah in banon, what would be -- what should the u.s. be doing right now to curtail these capabilities to limit hezbollah? >> well, so first of all i'm going to say that as an israeli i feel a little uncomfortable to recommend to the u.s. what they should do about syria. >> what would you do? >> i think first of all the u.s. is doing a lot of financial actions. they also started to do a lot of actions, in the pro curement channels of hezbollah. we saw one of the people who did the drones designate bid the u.s. treasury. i would say that every action
that can reduce the influence of iran over syria will help in order to weaken hezbollah. we're talking about a lot of cutting the stem -- cutting the flow of foreign fighters to isis. why are we not doing anything about the shia foreign fighters? where every day iraqis, afghanies, pakistanis, iran sends them by the thousands to syria which they're fighting against the syrian people. and we're acting like this is ok. why not stop those flights, the iranian to international airports in syria? why not do that? i think the focus is on isis but a lot of the fuel that is keeping moving the war is i would say much more coming from the iranian said. >> more shia foreign fighters in syria than sunni. >> i completely agree with that. i would like to add one more thing. just get rid of assad. it will solve a lot of issues.
it's that simple. >> simple enough. >> if there's no more questions, i would like everybody to give a hand to our panelists. [applause] >> it's been a great session. thank you so much. > thank you. >> it was a pleasure. >> it was great. thank you. >> hi. >> today democratic presidential candidate hillary clinton will speak at a rally in pennsylvania. accompanying her will be vice president joe biden. our live road to the white house coverage begins at 12:w45 eastern on c-span. then leave at 2:00 p.m. eastern dommed trump will discuss foreign policy in ohio. we'll have that for you on -span 2.
>> tonight the communicators visits middle east broadcasting networks. we speak with brian conic president of the middle east broadcasting network. ky meyers, and omar fika about how they share democratic values with an audience that would not otherwise be exposed to broader opinions. >> we've been on the air for 12 years now and over that period of time i think the audience has come to learn that it's not propaganda. we do strive to be balanced. but we also provide topics, we cover topics and provide information that is not readily available. >> there aren't enough people telling the stories of how
difficult it is to be a woman and a girl child. so hom stories have we done on child marriages? i can't count. so you can't do enough because really in the middle east they're not telling that story. it's too sensitive, it's too close to home. >> the campaign we luvend in september 2015 to encourage people in the middle east to engage and be part of the discussion over important issues in the region. including extremism, root causes of extremism. unemployment. human rights, womens rights. all issues important. >> watch tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2.