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Who’s afraid of big, bad Hezbollah?

Patrick Barry noticed this very interesting passage from the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment: We judge that, unlike al-Qa’ida, Hizballah, which has not directly attacked US interests overseas over the past 13 years, is not now actively plotting to strike the Homeland. However, we cannot rule out that the group would attack if it ...

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Patrick Barry noticed this very interesting passage from the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment:

We judge that, unlike al-Qa’ida, Hizballah, which has not directly attacked US interests
overseas over the past 13 years, is not now actively plotting to strike the Homeland. However, we cannot rule out that the group would attack if it perceives that the US is threatening its core interests.

He then compares it to the Director of National Intelligence’s assessment in 2007 (Hezbollah’s "self confidence and hostility toward the US…could cause the group to increase its contingency planning against US interests"), in 2008 (Hezbollah has "expressed the desire to use cyber means to target the United States"), and 2009 (Hezbollah "continues to be a formidable terrorist adversary with an ability to attack the US Homeland").

It’s worth pointing out that Hezbollah hasn’t changed appreciably since 2007; the only thing that has shifted is the U.S. assessment of the party. And it’s a little strange to point out that Hezbollah won’t change its plans unless the United States is "threatening its core interests."  That is undoubtedly true, but of course the U.S. government is a threat to Hezbollah’s interests. The only question is how serious the U.S.-backed challenge to Hezbollah’s status as Lebanon’s preeminent armed force is; ever since the country was seized by a widespread, if largely contrived, spirit of reconciliation following May 2008, the answer is "not very." However, when the next political crisis arises, expect Hezbollah to find its way back on the list of threats to the United States.

David Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. @davidkenner

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