Hezbollah

Hezbollah is a Shia Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s paramilitary wing is the Jihad Council, and its political wing is Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc party in the Lebanese parliament. Since the death of Abbas al-Musawi in 1992, the group has been headed by Hassan Nasrallah, its Secretary-General. The group, along with its military wing is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Argentina, Paraguay, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, and Venezuela (Guaidó government). Germany and the European Union outlawed only Hezbollah’s military wing, and work with Hezbollah’s political wing and allow it to raise funds in Europe.

Hezbollah was founded in the early 1980s as part of an Iranian effort to aggregate a variety of militant Lebanese Shia groups into a unified organization. Hezbollah acts as a proxy for Iran in the ongoing Iran–Israel proxy conflict. Hezbollah was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran primarily to harass Israel. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government, which was in occupation of Lebanon at the time. Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its objectives as the expulsion of “the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land”, submission of the Christian Phalangists to “just power” and bringing them to justice “for the crimes they have perpetrated against Muslims and Christians”, and permitting “all the sons of our people” to choose the form of government they want, while calling on them to “pick the option of Islamic government”.

Hezbollah waged a guerilla campaign in South Lebanon and, as a result, Israel withdrew from Lebanon on 24 May 2000 and the SLA collapsed and surrendered. Hezbollah organised volunteers who fought on the Bosnian side during the Bosnian War. Hezbollah’s military strength has grown so significantly that its paramilitary wing is considered more powerful than the Lebanese Army. Hezbollah has been described as a “state within a state”, and has grown into an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite TV station, social services and large-scale military deployment of fighters beyond Lebanon’s borders. Hezbollah is part of the March 8 Alliance within Lebanon, in opposition to the March 14 Alliance. Hezbollah maintains strong support among Lebanon’s Shi’a population, while Sunnis have disagreed with the group’s agenda. Hezbollah also finds support from within some Christian areas of Lebanon that are Hezbollah strongholds. Hezbollah receives military training, weapons, and financial support from Iran, and political support from Syria. Hezbollah and Israel fought each other in the 2006 Lebanon War.

After the 2006–08 Lebanese protests and clashes, a national unity government was formed in 2008, with Hezbollah and its opposition allies’ obtaining eleven of thirty cabinets seats, enough to give them veto power. In August 2008, Lebanon’s new Cabinet unanimously approved a draft policy statement which recognized Hezbollah’s existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to “liberate or recover occupied lands” (such as the Shebaa Farms). Since 2012, Hezbollah has helped the Syrian government during the Syrian civil war in its fight against the Syrian opposition, which Hezbollah has described as a Zionist plot and a “Wahhabi-Zionist conspiracy” to destroy its alliance with Assad against Israel. It has deployed its militia in both Syria and Iraq to fight or train local forces to fight against ISIL. The group’s legitimacy has been severely damaged due to the sectarian nature of the Syrian Civil War in which it has become embroiled.

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