Hizballah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has taken advantage of the death of its military commander Imad Mughniyeh on Feb. 12 to reshuffle the military and intelligence wings which he controlled.
Most strikingly, Nasrallah has reserved the top posts for himself. But to still dissent within the ranks of the Lebanese Shiite extremist group, he has kept Mughniyeh’s aides close to the center of power.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s experts on Islamist terror rate this reorganization as the most sweeping performed by any Islamist terrorist group since Osama bin Laden raised a new generation to al Qaeda’s command in 2004.
Our experts report that Nasrallah’s appointments were governed by the following considerations:
1. Never again to let one man control as much of Hizballah’s military and intelligence resources as did Mughniyeh. The dead terrorist officiated as head of Hizballah’s Jihad Council – the movement’s general staff which command the troops, terrorist organs and intelligence; he also bore the title of deputy secretary general of Hizballah.
Nasrallah did not think twice before stepping into Mughniyeh's shoes himself. As new head of the Jihad Council, he becomes supreme commander of Hizballah’s armed wings and the director of its intelligence and terrorist arms.
Furthermore, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources disclose, Nasrallah has also taken charge of Hizballah’s military and intelligence ties with Iran, the command of Hizballah’s operational branch in Syria and its campaign against US forces in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
2. Nasrallah has thus drawn a line against direct Iranian interference in Hizballah’s military operations, which in the past was conducted through Mughniyeh.
He had a reckoning to settle with his movement’s protector, Iran.
Nasrallah draws a line against Tehran
In the middle of the 2006 conflict he waged against Israel – and subsequently – Iranian officials harshly though secretly criticized him for provoking the conflict and the way it was managed. They forced him out of the management of Hizballah’s military and intelligence affairs and relegated him to jockeying for position in internal Lebanese politics.
With the passing of Mughniyeh, their man in Hizballah, the Iranians have lost much of their clout with their Lebanese surrogate.
His replacement by Nasrallah is of momentous consequence for Iran’s strategic set-up in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Tehran can no longer count on Hizballah’s automatic obedience to its directives. Furthermore, the various military and intelligence agencies operating in these regions will have to take two Shiite extremist voices into account, one in Tehran and another in Beirut.
3. The Hizballah leader’s new appointments have blocked power plays by rivals who sought to displace him by cozying up to Tehran. The most prominent was his deputy, Sheik Qassam Naim.
The new appointees, DEBKA-Net-Weekly learns, are:
Ibrahim Akil, who has been given the title of deputy, which makes him effectively deputy chief of staff under Nasrallah and puts him in charge of military forces, reserves and the rocket unit.
Talal Hamaya, who was Imad Mughniyeh’s deputy, has been made director of the Special Tasks branch of the Jihad Council. This gives him command of Hizballah’s Special Security apparatus, which is responsible for guarding the organization’s various bodies. He will also be responsible for special overseas terror operations and Hizballah’s intelligence outfit.
Mustafa Bader a-Din, another of Nasrallah’s deputies will act as liaison with Iran.
Both cousin and brother-in-law of Mughniyeh, his sister, Amana, was the dead terrorist’s No. 1 wife.
In the 1980s, he was a top terror operative who took part in his kinsman’s operations, including the kidnapping of Westerners and acts of terror against Persian Gulf emirates. He served a long sentence for these crimes in Kuwait and when he was released in the 1990s he stayed out of action.
Haj Khalil Khrab will be in charge of Hizballah’s operational links with Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Jihad Islami, West Bank groups and dissident Israeli Arabs.