Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:42 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:42 | SYDNEY

Did Mugniyah matter?


Sam Roggeveen


14 February 2008 11:13

The answer depends partly on how much damage we think he and his terrorist group could inflict on his enemies. As Anthony pointed out in his post, Mugniyah was close to Iran and might have been used as a proxy to retaliate for any US military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. But has Hizballah's global terrorist capability been overstated?

Mugniyah was head of Hizballah's External Security Organisation, which is basically its terrorist wing. To be clear, Hizballah also has a paramilitary arm, which was responsible for the 2006 rocket attacks on Israel and for fighting the Israeli Army in southern Lebanon. The ESO conducts more 'traditional' terrorist operations — kidnappings, hijacking, bombings and the like — and has global reach. As Anthony said, Mugniyah and the ESO have committed major terrorist atrocities as far away as Argentina.

But not lately. In fact, it has been over a decade since any such operation has been attributed to Hizballah. So what has happened to Hizballah's global terrorist capability, and do we still have to worry about it?

One of the foremost authorities on the group, Swedish academic Magnus Ranstorp, believes the ESO is very much active, but its activities seem to be confined to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Ranstorp says Mugniyah's 'primary mission over the last decade has been to forge qualitative "military" guidance to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives inside Gaza and the West Bank.' Ranstorp also says the ESO kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon in 2006, which triggered the war. Another interesting post on the same blog claims Mugniyah was heavily involved in the African 'blood diamond' trade.

Maybe Hizballah still has a global terrorist capability. Mugniyah might have kept ESO cells going in locations around the world all this time, just waiting to go into action when called upon. But even if this is true, it's been a long time between operations, so you have to wonder how good this capability is, particularly after Mugniyah's death.