Hezbollah Is The Most Powerful Islamist Group Operating In The Middle East Today, And No Other Western Journalist Has Penetrated As Deeply Inside This Secretive Organization As Nicholas Blanford Now Blanford Has Written The First Comprehensive Inside Account Of Hezbollah And Its Enduring Struggle Against Israel Based On Than A Decade And A Half Of Reporting In Lebanon And Conversations With Hezbollah S Determined Fighters, Blanford Reveals Their Ideology, Motivations, And Training, As Well As New Information On Military Tactics, Weapons, And Sophisticated Electronic Warfare And Communications SystemsUsing Exclusive Sources And His Own Dogged Investigative Skills, Blanford Traces Hezbollah S Extraordinary Evolution From A Zealous Group Of Raw Fighters Motivated By Iran S Islamic Revolution Into The Most Formidable Non State Military Organization In The World, Whose Charismatic Leader Vows To Hasten Israel S Destruction With Dramatic Eyewitness Accounts, Including Blanford S Own Experiences Of The Battles, Massacres, Triumphs, And Tragedies That Have Marked The Conflict, The Story Follows The Increasingly Successful Campaign Of Resistance That Led To Israel S Historic Withdrawal From Lebanon In Warriors Of God Shows How Hezbollah Won Hearts And Minds With Exhaustive Social Welfare Programs And Sophisticated Propaganda Skills Blanford Traces The Group S Secret Military Build Up Since And Reveals The Stunning Scope Of Its Underground Network Of Tunnels And Bunkers, Becoming The Only Journalist To Independently Discover And Explore Them With The Middle East Fearful Of Another, Even Destructive War Between Lebanon And Israel, Blanford Tenaciously Pursues Hezbollah S Post Battle Plans In The Lebanese Mountains, Earning Him Newspaper Scoops As Well As A Terrifying Interrogation And A Night In JailFeaturing Sixteen Years Of Probing Interviews With Hezbollah S Leaders And Fighters, Warriors Of God Is Essential To Understanding A Key Player In A Region Rocked By Change And Uncertainty THE MOST DANGEROUS VACATION OF MY LIFEA couple months before I was slated to visit a childhood friend in Beirut, I got in the weekly habit of Googling Lebanon news The results were petrifying Bomb kills an ex politician and five others in downtown Beirut Twin suicide bombings target the Iranian Cultural Centre Car bombing killed eight in 2012 and rattled the Singapore consulate building 1 kilometre away, where my friend was at the time I needed Warriors of God to help me with two goals 1 To exorcise the terrifying mysteries of the daily news Who wanted the former finance minister dead, and why Who were the key players behind these faceless reports, and how could I know which Lebanese neighbourhoods to avoid 2 I had recently read a dry academic book that had loaded my blank slate with disconnected names and summit dates I needed to put some dialogue and colour to the politicians, to understand Shimon Peres s story and Rafik Hariri s story PHYSICS 101 OF THE LEBANESE ISRAELI CONFLICTIf you ve repeatedly Wikipedia ed Sunni and Shia Muslims and their definitions refused to stick, then this book may be worth your while Mr Blanford takes you back in history, explaining how Shias took to martyrdom, and how religious Shiite leaders such as the gentle Musa Sadr, who aided the downtrodden Lebanese, linked their fates to Iran.Scenes of beloved Hezbollah cleric Abbas Mussawi praying and weeping for each fighter prime us well for the pivotal moment when the action reaction equilibrium was established when Israeli helicopters blew up the car containing Mussawi and his wife and 5 year old In retaliation, Hezbollah bombed an Israeli embassy in Argentina and fired rockets into northern Israel, which they would continue attacking whenever Israel killed Lebanese civilians This gave me the logic I craved to calculate my safety odds If Israel isn t currently occupying southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah didn t recently attack Israel, and no other conflict is occurring in the area, then it s probably safe to visit Sidon and Tyre I GOT WHAT I WANTED, PART 2 UNFORGETTABLE STORIES Warriors of God holds a trove of anecdotes about Hezbollah leaders, regional politicians, and a collection of outrages perpetrated by the IDF that give some insight to why Hezbollah demands Israel s destruction in the occupation zone the IDF smashed down doors, bulldozed at least 49 houses of suspects , and restricted movement with curfews and landmines I will never forget that Shimon Peres had a reputation for peace that inadvertently spawned the disastrous Grapes of Wrath campaign, or that Hezbollah s Nasrallah and Rafik Hariri bonded over their mutual losses of a child The name Ansariyah will forever be associated with Hezbollah s brutal slaughter of Israeli commandos, and Mr Blanford immortalizes a likeable, chatty taxi driver who happened to be in the wrong place with the Israelis at the wrong time. On Feb 17, Israeli and SLA forces marched into Arnoun and annexed the unoccupied half of the village The few dozen residents awoke the next morning to find themselves separated from the rest of Lebanon by new barricades of bulldozed earth and coils of barbed wire Dangling from the wire were yellow metal signs warning of land mines, helpfully inscribed in Arabic, English, and Hebrew THE DEVIL IS IN THE ICINGAnd then this book went on to give me far than I d asked of it.As a bonus I expanded my encyclopaedia of guerrilla arms and tactics I learnt about all types of explosives homemade bombs, cluster bombs, landmines, shaped charge IEDs triggered by remote timer trip wire and how Hezbollah became the unstoppable force that penetrated the immovable Merkava tanks I realized how much trivia I had absorbed when I toured the Resistance Museum in Mleeta and could finish our guide s sentences at most artillery exhibits.The life of a Hezbollah recruit is another fascinating detour Why they join, can they have families, the importance of jihad as it is taught by Hezbollah , and how they develop the frightening discipline to lay in ambush for a month with the wild animalsWe study each of the recruits strengths, physically and mentally If he s good at physics, then he will study trajectories for artillery If he s good at chemistry, then he will study explosives sector commander in the Islamic Resistance THOUGHTS ON MR BLANFORDA couple words on what this book is not It is not an expos of humanitarian outrages from a brash young outsider flexing sensational literary gymnastics to draw awareness to shadowy conspiracies Neither is it an academic treatise of the conflict scrupulously balanced between both Lebanese and Israeli perspectives Mr Blanford makes an effort not to betray much personal judgement, but overwhelmingly depicts the triumphs and pathos of Hezbollah men and they are all men , the tragedies of Lebanese commoners, the awed humiliation of miscalculating Israeli officers, but includes no humanizing accounts from Israeli civilians. Warriors of God is for the reader who is willing to slog through a painstaking almanac Mr Blanford has crafted from years of staid journalism to appreciate the mundane affection he feels for his second home He wants us to understand the resistance Shias as humans, the way that many Westerners don t, yet also to admire them as something greater than individuals fighting for a comfortable life as forces that assumed superhuman discipline and sophistication fighting for the right to existence in their bucolic hills And yet, after their purpose has been served in expelling Israel from their country, they remain tacky has beens in the present, mired in political scandal as they cling to the weapons and relevance of their glory days. Scary beyond belief Hezbollah became so powerful and sophisticated and all they want besides domineering Lebanon s politics is to destroy the state of Israel Nicholas Blanford writes a very detailed and apparently well researched book and this makes it scarier. One of my favorites and too damn proud to be a Lebanese Labayka ya Nasrallah Initial thoughts before a summary of the book The writing, as one reviewer noted, is pacy In many places it reads like a novel The author s 1st person narrative adds flavor It is slanted towards Hezbollah, though not uncritically.Key argument Syria is the vital geo strategic lynchpin connecting Iran to Hezbollah It grants Hezbollah strategic depth and political backing, and serves as a conduit for the transfer of heavy weapons across the rugged border with Lebanon Blanford xvi.Unlike other paramilitary terrorist groups, or at least how they are perceived, Hezbollah provided for the people s welfare If the Israelis bulldozed your home, they would build you a new one If your husband was killed, Hezbollah would see you are taken care of.Hezbollah s EvolutionThe Taif Agreement coming at the tail end of the Lebanese civil war In some ways it redefine how Hezbollah would operate 93ff 1 It established Syria as the dominant Arab power 2 There was new leadership in Iran Hezbollah now had to accommodate itself to moderate allies.One of the things that makes Hezbollah so dangerous is it routinely adapted its strategies over 20 years against a superior force As a result IDF knew it faced a full fledged insurgency by an enemy trained and armed by Iran, politically protected by Syria, and implementing ever effective and deadly tactics 146 Israel s problem its initial purpose in occupying Lebanon was to protect its northern border Hezbollah quickly negated that If provoked, Hezbollah could rain Katyusha rockets on Israel Therefore, Israel had to find a way to strike and neutralize Hezbollah without Lebanese casualties As Blanford notes, Artillery and air power were too clumsy for the challenge it Israel faced It was like trying to swat a mosquito with a baseball bat in a china shop 146.The Qana MassacreInitially, it appeared that Hezbollah fired mortar rounds from the vicinity of the Fijian UNIFIL compound where hundreds of civilians were staying Thus, Israel s shelling of the compound was simply a response to Hezbollah.Except that Israel shelled the base in two phases during a 17 minute time frame Israel switched from targeting the cemetery where Hezbollah had been to the base itself.Transitions and Developments With the help of its state sponsors, principally Iran, but also to an extent Syria, Hezbollah was transformed in the six years between the Israeli withdrawal of 2000 and the outbreak of the thirty four day war into what military analysts today describe as a hybrid force a nonstate militant group employing both irregular and conventional weapons and tactics in a single battlespace 409 410.The last chapters discuss weapons and future developments Around 2010 Hezbollah hinted at a coming, final war with Israel We know from hindsight that the rise of ISIS prevented this. I took an opportunity to do some reading up on Hezbollah which has been featured in a series of headlines over the last year One comprehensive source on the terror group s regional operations is the book Warriors or God Inside Hezbollah s Thirty Year Struggle Against Israel by Nicholas Blanchard Some of my comments below have been supplemented by other reading, but Blanchard s book was interesting enough to warrant individual comment Without going native or taking sides, Blanchard wrote an excellent book about Hezbollah s operations exploits from its inception through the book s 2011 release Like any long term investigative journalist 17 years Blanchard used his various contacts to conduct numerous interviews to produce an inside view of Hezbollah from the perspective of its members, senior leaders, and others I really did enjoy the book overall Blanchard had a sappy ode to the futility of war section as I call it at the end of the book, but I did not mind the liberty of it too much In the final analysis, I think Hezbollah has a psychological need for Israel as its enemy that can never be quenched short of the country and its people s destruction As unreasonable as that is, the group is very good at what they do for a multitude of reasons resulting in a terror group that demands and receives due respect from supporters and detractors alike If you have any interest in what makes Hezbollah tick as a well organized terror group, I highly recommend this book The totality of my comments follow Hezbollah is of a threat to the United States and its interests than al Qaeda In fact, prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for the deaths of Americans than any other transnational terror group The Global War on Terror has concentrated on al Qaeda and allowed Hezbollah a sophisticated, patient, adaptive, globalized, and potentially lethal group of transnational terrorists to fade into the background of concern During this same transitional period, Hezbollah opted to remain most active in its primary theater of operation southern Lebanon despite its renewed penchant for transnational adventurism.An examination of Hezbollah s conflict with Israel reveals five major reasons why the regional conflict has dominated the group s actions despite its transnational capabilities and interests Resistance to Israel is its primary, unaltered, and doctrinal raison d tre Resistance to Israel serves the popular political purposes of the Lebanese people and the Iranian government The bulk of Hezbollah s forces are based in Lebanon with easy access to the Israelis as the near enemy where it has had the most success The bulk of Hezbollah s funds are raised outside of the region for use inside the region Iran s leadership has not asked the organization to shift its focus to the United States though the U.S., as the far enemy, is now much closer via Latin America.Hezbollah s single weakest link is its need for funding Buying arms, training its personnel, operating its media empire, and continually securing the support of the Lebanese people are expensive endeavors The U.S and other nations should increase efforts to reduce Hezbollah s funding as a primary non combative means of keeping the organization at bayand, yes, this is a task much easier said than done. Ok first not everything in this book was entirely accurate And some facts were half the truth Most importantly in the last few chapters of the book when Blanfords tries to show that Hezbollah has been weakened and lost some support Which is completely wrong in my opinion Hezbollah is stronger than ever now and is getting stronger everyday Always looking to improve themselves and ready themselves for the next war It saddens me to say it but the next war is surely inevitable Also Hezbollah is gaining supporters everyday true it lost most of its Arab supporters but what good did they ever do It s not like Hezbollah was getting anything from their support and due to its protection of Shia and Christians in Syria it is getting and support from those two sects around the world Ofcourse from those who do know the truth about the FSA So anyway Hezbollah is not getting weaker but stronger And EU it s not a terrorist organization. A sympathetic but not too sympathetic look at the world s premier militarized NGO, or army cum social services provider if you prefer I ve got a tremendous deal respect for Hezbollah than I did before reading this book, and a good deal understanding of their aims and methods I m also even happier that I don t live anywhere near the Middle East.My only gripe Blanford should ve spent time discussing Hezbollah s weaknesses and internal tensions Hezbollah owes much to the Shia of southern and central Lebanon, the Iranians, and the Syrians, and they need to be able to placate the Lebanese government and military, and the various other sectarian groups in Lebanon Druze, Allawites, Maronites, Sunni That s a lot to juggle while trying to erase the Israelis in apocalyptic orgies of tactically superb martyrdom Hezbollah might stumble or even unravel for all sorts of reasons, and those reasons are worth investigating in greater depth than Blanford does in his book After all, much of the story of Hezbollah is the story of Israeli overconfidence, bungling, and misteps.I think I ll read about this conflict, which I hope Blanford will take as a compliment. .