Revolution #54, July 23, 2006
Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran
The situation in the Middle East includes brutally repressive, reactionary regimes - and forces aligned with them - who are opposed for their own reasons to the U.S. and Israel, but who do not represent genuine liberation struggles. The forces described here fit into that category:
Hezbollah (which means Party of God) is a Shi’ite Islamist fundamentalist party and military organization in Lebanon that seeks an Islamic republic modeled after Iran. Its leader is Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah fought the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, when Israel was forced to withdraw. It is the main Shi’ite political party in Lebanon and receives support from both Iran and Syria.
Syria had a large military presence in Lebanon until 2005 when it was accused of involvement in the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister. Protests forced the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon, in what is known as the “Cedar Revolution.” The new Lebanese government was hailed by the United States as an example for the region. Hezbollah holds seats in the Lebanese parliament and has several cabinet positions, but it is not the main force in the Lebanese government. In fact many of the forces in the Lebanese government don’t like Hezbollah, because it receives support from Syria. The Hezbollah militia does control much of the territory in southern Lebanon, which the central Lebanese government is too weak to control.
Hezbollah is part of an Islamist movement that seeks to establish its version of Islam as the ruling ideology and reshaping power relations throughout the Middle East. This agenda has often put this movement at sharp odds with the U.S. and Israel.
In 2005, Hamas was elected to run the Palestinian Authority. Since the late 1980s Israel has at times promoted the growth of this Islamic fundamentalist group as a way of undercutting secular forces and to stoke clashes among Palestinian groups. Hamas, with its reactionary ideology, is in some ways a perfect foil for the U.S. and Israel, who try to portray themselves as modern democracies confronting obscurantist theocracies.
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