Hezbollah Sleeper Cells on Stand By?

Posted: July 24, 2006 in Foreign Policy, National Security

The Counterterrorism Blog offers some insight into a disturbing potential development in the current violence in the Middle East, attributed to news first reported by the Jerusalem Post: that Hezbollah sleeper cells set up outside of Lebanon with backing from Iran have been placed on standby to possibly carry out terror attacks against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world.

I’m copying and pasting their analysis here, but if you want to read the relevant excerpts of the original Jerusalem Post story, head over to their site.

A word of caution: At this point, there’s no source for the claim that Hizballah cells have been put on standby. The first paragraph states that the Jerusalem Post learned this today, but leaves out any mention of who the Post learned this from. Although the second paragraph cites Shin Bet as a source, this is only for confirmation that it “instructed embassies, consulates and Jewish institutions it was responsible for abroad to raise their level of awareness” — it doesn’t state that Shin Bet told the Post that Hizballah cells were put on standby. Putting these institutions on alert seems a wise move even if there were no evidence that Hizballah cells were on standby.

Counterterrorism consultant Dan Darling comments in an e-mail to me: “I expect that Hezbollah cells, sleeper or otherwise, were put on notice that they might be called upon to carry out attacks in the event that things started to get nasty. If you’re running an international terrorist organization, this would seem to me to be a prudent move before you engage in an unprovoked cross-border raid and kidnapping that seems almost certain to spark a regional conflict. I’ve been operating under the assumption that they had cells in place to carry off attacks at least in Europe should they desire to utilize them since the conflict first started . . . .”

This story is worth following, as Hizballah’s activation of sleeper cells would substantially raise what are already large stakes.

This is not the plot to an episode of 24. This is a very real and disturbing possibility which if true, could escalate the violence even further in the hornet’s nest that is now the Middle East. Given their background and track record (see pages 8-9 of the file), and more info available here, I would not take this lightly if I were involved in any counterterrorism, intelligence, or diplomatic circles working on a solution to this crisis.


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