In this essay I will be focusing on the formation of Hezbollah, and will begin this exploration starting in 1943 until 1982. I would like to answer the question: Was Hezbollah created for Iranian interests? Iran's contemporary involvement in Hezbollah is sometimes referred to as interchangeable with its involvement regarding Hezbollah's formation (Sullivan-Cordesman 48). There is no denying that Hezbollah serves Iranian interests, or that the nature of their relationship is one of collaboration (Norton 25).
But to give Iran full credit of Hezbollah's formation is to underestimate the significance of the Lebanese Shiite community following Lebanon's independence in 1943, or the active clerical movement in Najaf, Iraq beginning in the 1950's (Ranstorp 30). I will argue that although Iran assisted in the creation of Hezbollah, it was rather the internal political and economic factors of Lebanon, the clerical movement of Najaf, Iraq, the success of the Iranian Revolution as example, and finally the 1982 Israeli invasion that were the most significant factors that allowed for the creation of Hezbollah. By the time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the framework for Hezbollah was already created (Norton 34). Therefore, prior internal Lebanese political and socio-economic factor allowed for Iranian interests to be absorbed, which might not have been possible before.
Firstly, I will map out Iran's interests in creating such an organization, and will present arguments that place Iran as the most important factor to the creation of Hezbollah. I will then go back in time to 1943, and explore how the confessional system of Lebanon created particular socio-economic grievances for the Shiites, forcing them to search for a strong leader. I will then discuss the clerical movement occurring in Najaf, Iraq, and its influence in the political mobilization of the Shiites. I will discuss the example of the Iranian revolution's influence on this mobilization, and will explore the secularization of Amal and the significant divide it created. Finally, I will conclude that it was the political, social and economic factors prior to 1982 that were most significant in the creation of Hezbollah, even if the organization is highly involved with Iran.
[...] His disappearance held much importance in the Shiite community, as it was similar to the fate of the Twelfth Imam in the 9th century a distinct belief within Shiite theological thought (13). By the time al-Sadr disappeared, a new Shiite confidence and purpose was full fledged (Norton 14). This Shiite resurgence was only to be amplified by what was to come a year later. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution was led by Ayatullah Khomeini, a friend of al-Sadr's, which hurtled Shia Islam onto the world stage and adding to the fuel for an Islamic revolution in Lebanon (Quassem 19). [...]
[...] On the other hand, Deputy Secretary-General of Hezbollah states that this time saw the “re-invigoration of Islam's key principles.” (Qassem 26). However it is perceived, the ideas emerging within Najaf at that time became the engine of most revolutionary movements in the Muslim world, and can be directly linked with Islam's contemporary political strength (Ronstorp 26). Najaf was the place that harbored future Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatullah Khomeini for fourteen years while in exile, but was also the place where future Lebanese Shiite Imam Mussa al- Sadr studied as well (26). [...]
[...] It is a common belief that Hezbollah was created in 1982 by Iranian seminarians to assist Tehran's own power in the region to fight Israel, “Hezbollah is a tool, and it is an integral part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus” (84). As the two main objectives of Hezbollah can be appropriately situated within Iran's Islamic Revolutionary framework, the idea that Hezbollah is an Iranian creation to export its revolution to Lebanon is a popular belief (Ranstorp 25). Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian revolution of 1979, vowed to spread his Islamic ideas throughout the Arab world in order to fight the powers of Israel and the West “Hezbollah would have never emerged as a major force in Lebanon without the arms transfers, training and advice, and financial support of Iran.” (Cordesman, Sullivan 60) The claim made by Ayatollah Khomeini to spread revolutionary Islamic ideas can be seen as a desire to promote similar revolutions in other parts of the Arab world, i.e. [...]
[...] Hezbollah therefore became the sole provider for the Shiite community, while rebuilding damaged homes, and re-enforcing infrastructure was also highly significant for Hezbollah because it was the year when Israel had been forced to retreat out of Lebanon, creating a new confidence and pride in the Arab world (40). The 6 day war was a humiliating defeat for much of the Arab world, and therefore in 1985, Hezbollah acquired a new respect, especially from Iran (Norton 31). Hezbollah today is far from what it was in 1985, “Deputy Secretary- General Naim Qassem states that the 1985 open letter is obsolete and is no longer an authoritative guide to the party's positions” (36). [...]
[...] Another key factor in the Shiite dissent was the event in 1959, when Imam Mussa al-Sadr who also studied in Najaf was invited to become the leader of the Shiites in Lebanon, as he was one of three clerics at the time who became known for his strong ideological ideas and solutions to bring Shiites out of their current situation (Quassem 14). In 1967 Sadr created the Highest Islamic Shiite Council, a formal religious institution to oversee the overwhelming concerns and unease in the Shiite community (14). [...]
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