Hezbollah remains one of the world’s most formidable non-state actors. Since its emergence in 1982, the group has employed terrorist methods to further its political goals. Yet, despite carrying out attacks globally, against targets of a wide range of nationalities, the international community, and its individual member states have been slow to act against Hezbollah, let alone proscribe the group’s activities on their soil.
Part of this international hesitancy stems from Hezbollah’s social popularity in Lebanon and its participation in Lebanese politics as a powerful actor. Countries – like France – believe that by proscribing Hezbollah and cutting their channel of communications with the group, they risk destabilizing its host state, Lebanon. As a result, some such countries have created a fictitious compartmentalization of the group into various “wings” – a political vs. military wing, or even subdivided the latter into a domestic resistance branch vs. international terror branch – and designated only what they deemed the problematic element of the group.
Hezbollah itself rejects this artificial compartmentalization, describing itself as one symbiotic body – where the political and the military are different means to accomplish the same ends – and acting accordingly. Increasingly, countries once hesitant to fully ban Hezbollah, like the United Kingdom or Germany, have come to terms with this reality and banned the group in its entirety. Others, however, like France, Australia, and the European Union, have yet to follow suit, despite the corrosive effect on Lebanon of Hezbollah’s political participation becoming increasingly obvious.
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