Do Targeted Assassinations Alter History?

This week in Lebanon marks the day of the deaths of leaders on both sides of the barricade: Prime Minister Hariri, who was assassinated by Hezbollah 16 years ago, Imad Mughniyeh, who was Hezbollah’s military commander and was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, and Abbas al-Musawi, who was assassinated by Israel in 1992.

In various intelligence organizations, the question arises as to whether the elimination of the leader changes the course of history. If Hariri, known as the father of the Lebanese nation, were still alive, would there be hope for Lebanon? Has the assassination of Hezbollah leaders harmed and changed the organization’s behavior? Unfortunately in both cases, the answer is no.

The assassination of Abbas al-Musawi led to the rise of Nasrallah, whose leadership turned Hezbollah from a local militia into a significant political force within Lebanon, with influence and involvement at the regional level. The assassination of Mughniyeh did damage the chain of command within Hezbollah, and it is clear that the organization had difficulty finding a replacement at its level.
At the end of the day, however, Iranian aid flights to Hezbollah continue, not only through Damascus but also to Lebanon directly. Hezbollah’s military force continues to spread across Israel’s northern border from Syria as well and the Lebanese population is still held captive by the organization that uses it as a human shield.

It will be interesting to see the colors of Lebanon this week. Given the rise in Hezbollah’s power – who is commemorated on the street and in which streets – Hariri or Hezbollah leaders?

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Sarit Zehavi

Sarit Zehavi

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