Lee Smith: “Automated Meaning-Extraction” System Confirms Iranian Control Over Hezbollah

Despite the growing list of voices supporting the concept of linkage—the notion, accepted at the highest levels of the U.S. military, that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will help promote U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East—neoconservatives continue to push the narrative that pressuring Israel to make necessary concessions for peace with its neighbors is a futile effort. Instead, they argue, the U.S. should focus on removing Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.

On Tuesday the list of voices endorsing the linkage argument grew longer. Former President Bill Clinton, as reported by the Associated Press, told an audience of Egyptian businessmen that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would “take about half the impetus in the whole world – not just the region, the whole world – for terror away” and “It would have more impact by far than anything else that could be done.”

But the long and growing list of politicians and military leaders who have endorsed the linkage concept doesn’t deter neoconservative pundits from continuing their pre-Iraq war era “reverse linkage” argument which claims that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the stalled peace process have little role in shaping the regional dynamics.

The Hudson Institute’s Lee Smith wrote today in Tablet Magazine that Iranian support for Hezbollah plays a far greater role in the group’s rise to power than Israel’s 18-year occupation of Southern Lebanon.

Smith wrote:

In other words, what seems like Hezbollah’s war with Israel is in reality the Iranian Republican Guard’s 30-year war against almost everyone else. The Zionist entity in this contrived scenario is a little like the Washington Generals to Hezbollah’s Harlem Globetrotters—except that here it’s the eternal rival who sets the tempo and the Globetrotters who can’t get a break.

The majority of Smith’s argument is based on allegations that captured Hezbollah documents show that the militant Shi’a organization was receiving its marching orders from Tehran.

Smith wrote:

“During the 2006 war, we captured a number of Hezbollah documents, dealing with everything from religious ideology to military doctrine, the lion’s share of the important texts was clearly written by and for the IRGC and then translated into Arabic,” Shmuel Bar, a former Israeli intelligence officer, told me. “In human influence operations, Hezbollah’s modus operandi is the same as Iran’s.”

Smith omits the information that Shmuel Bar is a colleague of his at Hudson and simply mentions him as a “former Israeli intelligence officer” and “the founder of IntuView an Israeli tech firm that does automated meaning-extraction from terrorist-related documents.”

While Shmuel and his “automated meaning-extraction” system appear to offer enough evidence for Smith to conclude that, “…what seems like Hezbollah’s war with Israel is in reality the Iranian Republican Guard’s 30-year war against almost everyone else,” even he has to admit that Israeli leadership doesn’t necessarily agree with this analysis.

Smith wrote:

Even Israel’s current defense minister, Ehud Barak, argues that, “It was our presence [in southern Lebanon] that created Hizbullah”—a rationalization for his decision as prime minister to withdraw from Lebanon that dovetails perfectly with this Hezbollah info op.

The reverse-linkage argument that Israel is the victim of external, existential threats and that Israeli actions have little impact on the regional dynamics is finding fewer and fewer supporters. Smith is forced to dig deep into the Hudson bullpen to find voices that support this argument while Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak are clearly placing themselves in the realist camp.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. This argument is to serious analysis what the Harlem Globetrotters are to serious basketball. Both are fronts for charity groups.

  2. Dear Mr. Clifton
    I found your comment on Lee Smith’s article and was somewhat bemused by the ad hominem argument against the article. For the record. I had been an adjunct fellow at Hudson but am not directly affiliated with Hudson today, have never personally met Lee Smith (he called me and interviewed me, referred to me by someone else – not from Hudson). Even if I had known Mr. Smith before, I do not think that such a prior acquaintance should disqualify my research.
    To the actual point – the fact that a large number of left wing pundits embrace the linkage theory (without any actual proof to its validity) is no more proof of it than its rejection by right-wing pundits. The fact is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict features only marginally in ideological canons of the Jihadi-Salafi movement which I have been following closely since the mid 1980’s should be noticed. I also find it hard to believe that peace between Israel an the PA would solve the Sunni-Shiite and Iranian-Arab animosities which go back for centuries. That does not mean that it would not have a positive effect – but let us not exaggerate its centrality.
    Regarding Hizballah – the project we performed for over a year on tens of thousands of Hizballah documents should not be so belittled. Neither does the fact that Israel is the main target of Hizballah disqualify Israeli research. The fact that the organization itself declares itself bound to the decisions of Iran, that the Shura Council (the leading body of Hizballah) includes three Iranian officials (from the IRGC) and Nassrallah is committed to the Supreme Leader of Iran, according to his own declaration on all issues political and military cannot be just ignored for the sake of fitting reality into an imaginary world that some people in Washington are trying to create.The body of proof that Hizballah is a purely Iranian arm totally subordinate to the IRGC is immense, it is widely accepted as such by most Lebanese and Arab scholars of the region. By the way, I do not understand why the factual claim that Hizballah is really, as it declares itself, a strategic arm of Iran has anything to do with the linkage argument. I do not know Mr. Clifton but it seems he sounds like old Cato for whom every issue ended with the call that Carthago delenda est (Carthage must be destroyed). That was an obsession.

    Shmuel Bar

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