Hamas and Hizbullah: Rogue "States" or Non-State Armed Groups?

The current crisis in Lebanon and Gaza has been described both as a conventional war against rogue states and as a guerilla warfare of armed groups. Each of these two paradimgs entails a different military, political and international policy.

In analyzing the current crisis in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, at least two diverging paradigms can be identified:

Non-State Armed Groups

An article in Lebanese newspaper as-Safir identifies the emergence of non-state groups as prominent political actors in the current regional crisis.

The analysis piece argues that Hizbullah and Hamas have filled the vacuum created by the "Arab regimes' impotence" and became the leading forces in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The lead role assumed by these groups is creating a new balance of power, which will impose new rules of engagement.

According to the article, Israel seeks to give sovereignty and official attributes to both Hamas and Hezbollah, but this might reveal a flawed understanding of the reality.

These groups' strength derives precisely from their ability to operate outside the institutional framework of the governments of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel's main dilemma, according to this analysis, will be to "fill the vacuum that extends between the Arab governments' failure to bear responsibility for the resistance and the resistance itself."

Alliance of Rogue States

Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, proposes a different interpretation, arguing that Israel is now fully engaged against a number of states, identified as the "Rogue Regimes."

The new "Quartet," composed of two states (Iran and Syria), a quasi-state (Hamas), and one state-within-a-state (Hezbollah), conform a cohesive unit whose objective could be to "regionalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thereby alter the strategic balance."

This new regional structure constitutes a different challenge for the State of Israel, and a qualitative shift from the Palestinian non-state armed groups.

Ramifications for Israeli Policy

The Reut Institute contends that each of these paradigms holds different ramifications for Israel's policy in three clusters of considerations:

  • Military: while the first paradigm requires military action against non-governmental terrorist targets in Lebanon and Gaza, the second paradigm may induce military action against Syria and Iran.
  • Political: these considerations mainly relate to the question who should Israel talk to? Is the Lebanese government a relevant political address? Should Israel attempt to reach an arrangement with Iran?
  • International: the nature of cooperation and legitimacy required from the international community when dealing with military insurgent of non-governmental terror organizations is different from those required in a scenario of a regional inter-state war.

In order to design an effective and long term strategy and develop an adequate response to the present threats, it is crucial to understand the security environment and to identify the nature of the enemy.


  • Hussam 'Itani, as-Safir, 17/07/06 (Service of Mideast Mirror)