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Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel

Journalist Nicholas Blanford's comprehensive account of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel is well-paced and gripping.

By David Holahan / November 21, 2011

Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel By Nicholas Blanford Random House Publishing Group 544 pp

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If you have trouble keeping Hezbollah (Lebanon) and Hamas (Gaza Strip) straight and are not sure where Lebanon fits into the fractious geopolitics of the Middle East, Nicholas Blanford can lead you through the minefields – ideological, ethnic, and religious – to the Promised Land.  He has lived in, and reported on Lebanon for various media, including this newspaper, for one third of his life, since 1994.

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As the author thoroughly documents in Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel, the militant group has become the most powerful non-state army in the world, and the dominant political and military force within a deeply divided Lebanon.  It reached this point thanks to heavy subsidies from Syria and Iran. In a previous book, Blanford wrote about the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, whose murder has been linked to four members of Hezbollah – presumably acting on behalf of Syria.

For Damascus, Hezbollah is a bargaining chip in its efforts to get the Golan Heights back from Israel, while Tehran views the group, in part, as a deterrent against a possible Israeli or American attack on its nuclear facilities.  If Iran is attacked, the rockets will fly from Lebanon into Israel and the Lebanese people again will be caught in the ensuing crossfire. While it bills itself as the great defender of Lebanon (even after Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000), Hezbollah has a challenge in serving so many masters patriotically.

Blanford has covered three major battles between Hezbollah and Israel – in 1996, 2000 and 2006 – and countless raids and skirmishes.  He has watched the weapons, tactics, and strategies evolve, if that is the right word for an ever more deadly progression. He documents this in great, sometimes numbing detail: the reader will learn about many marvelous new weapons systems, such as the SA-24 Grinch missile, an alleged improvement on the SA-18 Grouse.

Mostly, however, Blanford’s narrative is well-paced and gripping. He has dodged bullets and rockets, viewed the gruesome result for those who weren’t so lucky, been interrogated and jailed, and sipped tea with men responsible for hundreds of merciless killings. He has done all of this to report on a conflict that exhibits no hope of a peaceful resolution. The cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel is as likely as the demise of hurricanes.

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