Nasrallah Brag of 100,000-Strong Force Seen Aimed at Foes at Home


A boast by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that he commands 100,000 fighters came as a surprise to many Lebanese, not least because it was addressed to a domestic audience rather than the group's archenemy Israel.

Experts say the figure, which exceeds the size of Lebanon's army by about 15,000 troops, is an exaggeration. But Nasrallah's brag is likely to further ratchet up anxiety about a return to sectarian fighting in the small country roiled by a series of devastating crises.

"This is more about flexing Hizbullah's muscles to demonstrate its power against other opposing political parties that want to undermine it," said Dina Arakji, a researcher at Control Risks, a Dubai-based global risk consultancy group.

Nasrallah made the declaration Monday as part of the growing confrontation over a judicial investigation into last year's massive Beirut port explosion that killed more than 215 people and devastated parts of the city. Hizbullah and its allies from the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri want the lead judge removed, accusing him of bias.

Deadly gunbattles broke out last week on Beirut's edge during a demonstration organized by the two Shiite parties. Clashes with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, reminiscent of the 1975-90 civil war, played out for several hours along a former front line separating the Muslim and Christian sectors of the city.

Hizbullah accused the Lebanese Forces party of starting the fighting in which seven were killed, mainly Hizbullah and Amal supporters. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea denied his group was the aggressor, but said residents of Christian areas could not be blamed for defending themselves against hoards of Hizbullah and Amal supporters marching violently through their neighborhoods.

In Monday's speech, Nasrallah accused Geagea of seeking to reignite a civil war and said he was forced to announce the number of Hizbullah fighters "not to threaten a civil war, but to prevent one."

Hizbullah is a largely secretive organization and it is difficult to independently verify Nasrallah's claim about the size of the force. The group rarely comments on its military structure, weapons or number of fighters.

Most estimates for the number of fighters, however, range between 25,000 and 50,000, including 10,000 elite troops known as the Radwan Force and a separate reserve force. Hizbullah is known to have stepped up recruitment in the years after the 2006 war with Israel. In the past decade, however, it lost nearly 2,000 members while fighting in Syria alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in that country's civil war.

Nasrallah said in his speech that those troops were armed and trained for warfare against Israel, not for an internal armed conflict. Arakji, the analyst, said it was significant that he chose a speech about the Lebanese Forces and last week's Tayyouneh violence to reveal the figure.

Hizbullah's claim about a 100,000-strong fighting force was particularly jarring because Lebanon's army only has about 85,000 troops. The country's financial crisis and currency collapse have severely impacted the military as an institution, and affected troop morale.

Last week's fighting was a rare instance of members of Hizbullah clashing with internal rivals, something the group has repeatedly pledged to avoid.

The group's reputation took a major hit in 2008, after its fighters overran predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhoods in Beirut. It was considered the first time Hizbullah used its weapons internally since the end of the civil war in 1990. It came in response to the then-government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's decision to dismantle Hizbullah's crucial secret telecommunication network.

Some observers say Nasrallah's implicit threats reveal a degree of vulnerability of Hizbullah, even though it is the most dominant political and military force in Lebanon.

Hizbullah's Shiite constituency, like other Lebanese communities, has been thrown into poverty by the country's severe financial crisis. More Lebanese regard the group, which once had popular support across religious sects for its resistance to Israel, as being part of a corrupt ruling class that drove the country to bankruptcy.

The group's recent campaign against Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the port blast investigation, is further pitting the group against many Lebanese who support him and seek justice and accountability.

Civil strife pitting Hizbullah fighters against rival Lebanese groups would be disastrous for the group, which already lost popularity for its involvement in Syria's civil war. Hizbullah officials have repeatedly said the group will not be pulled into an internal war -- a weak point its opponents like the Lebanese Forces might be looking to exploit as a way to gain popularity ahead of general elections expected next spring.

Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research, said Hizbullah will avoid civil war at all costs.

Hizbullah could easily take control of most of Lebanon militarily within a week, but this would hurt the group in the long term, Jaber said. "Whenever they storm and control areas it will be the countdown for its (Hizbullah's) existence, because their presence in Lebanon is a resistance movement and not a force to fight in a civil war," he said.

Sarit Zehavi, a former Israeli military intelligence officer who runs the Alma research institute in northern Israel, said Nasrallah greatly exaggerated his group's military capabilities with the aim of intimidating his domestic rivals.

"His message is 'I'm the strongest player in Lebanon'," Zehavi said.

She said it could backfire against Nasrallah and draw further criticism in Lebanon. "What he's actually saying is 'I've built up great power not only to fight Israel but to fight Lebanese'," she said.

Comments 27
Thumb warrior 20 October 2021, 12:59

The terrorist brags about his 100,000 men, yet he has not liberated an inch of Shebaa Farms.

Thumb justice 20 October 2021, 15:06

Hezbollah's arms were never about liberating anything. Instead they serve Iranian agenda in Lebanon and the region. These weapons are solely aimed at the Lebanese people and institutions. Every one of the political mafia from Hariri to Junblat to Aoun , etc. enabled Hezbollah in exchange for being enabled themselves by Hezbollah to rob the people blind.

Thumb lebanon_first 20 October 2021, 18:38

Exactly. Hezbollah doesnt give a hoot about Israel. Its agenda is to reinforce shia power in Lebanon vs other communities plus serve the farsi master.

Thumb 20 October 2021, 17:52

Justice is spot on, the Iranian arsenal exists to serve Iran and its interests and for eliminating anyone who stands in its way, not for freeing Palestine.

Thumb _citizen_ 21 October 2021, 11:41

Excellent comment as usual albeit under a different alias @lebgender. Please keep your contributions coming.

Default-user-icon Phil (Guest) 20 October 2021, 13:16

He can’t because that is his official reason for Hizbullahs existence

Missing ashrafcaptagon 20 October 2021, 13:34

Never did he disclose the number to the Israelis. Instead openly threaten Lebanese with unleashing 100.000 stray iranians against citizens whose aim is to have a functional country and education for their kin generations to come. They don't want prosperity with access to electricity, internet and water because they are "zionist invention". No emphasis on development what so ever. Instead they offer you what iranian culture brings, showers once in 2,3 weeks, bonfire instead of electricity, only destination allowed is Qom - against the "grand plan" and you are per auto a zionist, only other option given on the table is resort to violence facing us 100.000 shia shia shia.

Thumb thepatriot 20 October 2021, 13:44

Was Nassy talking about the force that will never turn against his fellow Lebanese? Was he talking about the non-resisting resistance? Was he talking about his army in Syria fighting to liberate Jerusalem? Or was he talking about his forces in Yemen fighting along side the Houthis??

Thumb thepatriot 20 October 2021, 13:58

And by the way... they are only 99.996 now.

Thumb thepatriot 21 October 2021, 19:02

lol idiot.
So... explain me something... aam I supposed to be either with Ebola, or with Israel? Are you THAT stupid?? lool
You have quite a binary limited and dysfunctional micro brain my friend.
Can i please suggest that you join your non-resisting "resistance", go liberate Jerusalem, and die a martyr. You will be missed... or not.

Thumb gebran_sons 20 October 2021, 14:45

An important question after Nasrallah threats. Why are we still supporting our army if they can't put this criminal in prison after threatening 2/3 of Lebanese and disarming his basij thugs spreading lawlessness and terror throughout Lebanon. Hizb with Aoun complicity is responsible for our woes. If our politicians are rats we expect some courage from our army. The army silence is a sign of capitulation to the thugs. This is unacceptable. Freedom and democracy require courage! Defending honor and justice require sacrifices. Hope our army wake up for its duty before it is too late to save Lebanon! The entire country, the silent majority and the international community are solidly behind our army. Time to liberate Lebanon from these thugs and foreign agents.

Default-user-icon just a friend (Guest) 20 October 2021, 15:34

gebran_sons, actually the 100,000 figure mentioned by Nasrallah included a not negligible quota from Lebanese armed forces active members....

Thumb gebran_sons 21 October 2021, 15:56

This is irrelevant. Hizb is a curse on Shia before being a curse on Lebanon. Nassralah made Shia strangers to their own culture and traditions, and despised worldwide openly or behind the scene. We said it since 2006, Hizb support is a mirage a mile wide but an inch deep, only sustained by threat and intimidation and creation of external threat. The same Saddam and Kadafi 99% support that disappeared one day after their fall. HizbIran is not stronger than the Syrian army that also used stooges to justify occupying us. Hizb rockets are useless, best use for the basij to sit on. Perfect example what happened in South with Druze. Unfortunately Jumblatt and Hariri are pathetic when it comes to sovereignty and courage.

Missing ashrafcaptagon 20 October 2021, 15:39

The answer is very simple, we are Lebanese under a complete besiege. Without even knowing you, I'm assured that the emphasis on education with good moral and values had a key function in your upbringing as for Lebanese in general. No elements of violence etc. But how to deal with a cult that still commemorates the death of a figure 2000 years back by slashing themselves bloody open and using it politically against you when needed? Understand the result of such nurturing - its poison is what we are dealing with. A cultdoctrinal horde of 100.000 ready for whatever, just waiting on Khomeinis orders. The followers of this cult have no critical thinking. If he next week will say that Geagea has behind 9/11 they will believe him! This is the level of creation we are dealing with.

Thumb _citizen_ 22 October 2021, 17:30

Excellent comment as usual albeit under yet a different alias @trpolita. Please keep your contributions coming. You add value...

Thumb SheikYerbouti 20 October 2021, 17:31

If Nasrallah's elite 100.000 fighting force are anything like this guys I am worried for the people of Dahier LOL

Maybe Hassan should have Putin's personal phone number on speed dial. Everyone knows he can't go there himself, like Soleimani and Rouhani did, on account that he's hiding in the sewers.

Thumb 20 October 2021, 17:55

I had a good laugh watching this terrorist apprentice. Israel is peeing itself watching this “100 000 men army”.

Thumb SheikYerbouti 20 October 2021, 17:34

Another elite member of Nasrallah's 100.000

Thumb thepatriot 20 October 2021, 18:06

Too bad this one didn't get a splash..

Thumb farsical.resistance 21 October 2021, 05:24

If those were kill shots rather than warning shot there would have been eight "innocent unarmed demonstrators martyred" instead of the seven

Missing phillipo 21 October 2021, 13:07

Does anyone really believe that should Hizballah "recover" the Shabaa Farms which they claim as Lebanese, and also for a long time as their sole reason for continued existance, they will then admit that all Lebanese lands have been freed and therefore their task has been completed and they will disband their organisation.
I very much doubt that you will find 100 people in the whole of Lebanon who believe that they will live up to their long-time promise.

Thumb thepatriot 21 October 2021, 17:57

lebgend ya genius!
Do you know how many territorial disputes between two countries or more exist today in our world? 377
Do you think that they all imply wars ya ahbal?
Shebaa is a very small territory and the issue could easily be solved diplomatically. But the Syrians prevent this by claiming that the territories are Syrian but refuse to supply the UN with the maps.
Chebaa is just a pathetic excuse. As for the Palestinians... please, be my guest and go liberate Jerusalem if you care so much. I don't. But you will MOST certainly be remembered as a martyr by your pairs.

Thumb doodle-dude 22 October 2021, 17:28

lol @triogender

Default-user-icon FA (Guest) 21 October 2021, 21:12

At least one thing is crystal clear the criminal Geagea and his forces have spilled Lebanese blood.

Missing phillipo 22 October 2021, 10:49

the patriot "Shebaa is a very small territory and the issue could easily be solved diplomatically. But the Syrians prevent this by claiming that the territories are Syrian but refuse to supply the UN with the maps."
So what you admit is :
Hizballah is just using Shebaa as an excuse not to disband.
It is not Israel that is preventing a political situation to this matter, or for the lack of peace with Lebanon

Missing 1948 22 October 2021, 11:26

phillipo stop your ignorant comments, just be quit in your Kibbutz. if Israel wants peace it should have left Shebaa long ago.. you and your warped comments

Missing phillipo 22 October 2021, 18:40

It seems that you are the ignorant one. Jordan and Egypt made peace with Israel a long time before Hizballah "woke up" with the Shebaa excuse.
Remember one thing, it is Syria that time after time produces maps to "prove" to the UN that Shebaa is NOT Lebanese.
In the late 1980's Lebanon and Israel agreed on a draft for a peace treaty, it is not Israels' fault that when the Lebanese brought this draft back to Beirut, your then Syrian occupiers tore it up, but when the Syrians finally left, Lebanon took no steps whatsoever to restart the process.
By the way, as has been told to you time after time, but you don't seem to understand, I do not live on a kibbutz.