Over the past week, the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group, Hizballah, has been making public assurances every few hours across the country that the results of its semi-secret ballot for the Shura Council would be announced soon.
The quasi-governmental nine-member council is the supreme body that sets and administers Hizballah’s political, religious, military (terror) and intelligence affairs. The council also elects one of its members as general secretary, its top leader. In the past, election results were announced just hours after the end of balloting, a rolling process which takes between five and six weeks across Lebanon.
The delay this time, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources, arises from the difficulties faced by Hizballah to agree on the election results, which in turn points to a leadership crisis and the weakened position of incumbent general secretary, Hassan Nasrallah.
Another sign he may be on the skids is his insistence on bringing in his cousin Hashem Safi al–Adin as his deputy. Al-Adin, 45, from the village of Breital in the Beqaa, had served in Hizballah’s political-organizational wing, but steered clear of any role in setting overall policy. His appointment is seen clearly as an attempt to bolster Nasrallah and undermine his current deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassam. It also appears al-Adin was picked to help silence the wave of harsh criticism sweeping the Shiite organization against Nasrallah’s leadership style and public appearances. The critics make four main points:
His performance as operations chiefs is found wanting. The latest attacks Nasrallah approved against Israel were sporadic and ineffectual, far short of a planned military campaign against Israeli targets. Whenever Nasrallah comes under fire from within his organization, he orders a one-off military strike that leads nowhere and only causes frustration among the group’s fighters.
Hizballah got the short end of its prisoner exchange with Israel early this year. Nasrallah failed to complete the second part of the deal, and did not obtain the release of more Lebanese prisoners, such as the longest-held inmate, Samir Quntar, or of the thousands of jailed Palestinians as he promised.
Hizballah’s intelligence and security apparatus, its operational backbone, is furious at Nasrallah for publicly revealing on July 19 the clandestine function of one of its own, Ghaleb Awali (See “Mughniyeh’s Organization Finally Penetrated”, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 166, July 23), who was assassinated in Beirut, as Hizballah’s liaison with Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In the interests of compartmentalization and secrecy, the movement’s special operations officers – who answer only to its notorious security chief Imad Mughniyeh – never reveal its agents names or positions – not even to high-ranking officials within the organization. Nasrallah is held guilty of violating that most serious security rule, a breach that could draw surveillance sufficiently pinpointed to ultimately lead the enemy to Mughniyeh himself. Anyone less senior than Nasrallah would have been punished by execution.
There has been talk in Beirut accusing Nasrallah of responsibility for the capture by the Americans last week of Munah al-Abdallah, an operations man within Mughniyeh’s tight inner circle (Se “Important Terrorist Captured in Iraq”, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 169, August 13). Critics say a number of Hizballah missteps over its participation in the war in Iraq led indirectly to Abdallah’s capture. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources believe that, even if the Hizballah election results are announced soon, criticism of Nasrallah is far from over.