On Saturday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated that, ” today, the resistance in Lebanon is fully equipped. We have everything we need here in Lebanon and we don’t need to transport anything from Syria and Iran. ”
Is this a bluff? The primary source of Hezbollah’s funding is Iran, something that Hezbollah’s leaders in the past have not been ashamed of publicly disclosing, as Nasrallah said in back 2000, “Iran’s financial involvement in the bulk of our development and social service services is not a secret.”
Iran funds Hezbollah for two opportunistic reasons: firstly, in an ideological attempt to export their revolutionary Shi’ite rhetoric; and secondly, for the strategic purpose of destroying the Jewish State of Israel. There are no exact figures on Iran’s funding of Hezbollah’s projects, but it is estimated that the annual fund stands at one billion dollars. Allegedly, this number does not include Iran’s spending on Hezbollah’s military apparatus and the Islamic Resistance activities, which is said to be higher than spending on developmental and social programs.
While it was rumored that under Rafsanjani’s and Khatami’s administrations Iran cut its financial support to Hezbollah by almost seventy percent, in reality, Iran’s funds and support have never been effectively cut off. It is important to note that Iran’s funding of Hezbollah’s social and military activities does not require the approval of Iran’s president or government, as most of the funds come from foundations and charitable organizations under the direct control of the wali al-fiqh, Ali Khameini, and those funds fall outside the books of Iran’s Ministry of Finance, and the power of Iran’s president. Additional funds originate from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian intelligence services.
The creation of Hezbollah was a realization of the new Iranian state’s fervent campaign to export the Islamic revolution. Shi’ites in Lebanon were inspired by Iran’s successful revolution, motivated by the religious mobilization and establishment of Islamic rule. It was encouraging to witness Iranian leaders being replaced by conservative fundamentalists, religious scholars, and teachers; no longer allowing politicians, businesspeople, royalty, or military men to rule. This became a platform for instigating the formation of Hezbollah.
The atmosphere surrounding the emergence of Hezbollah explains how and why Iranian interests were linked to the organizations formation. Ideologically, Iran was linked to the creation of Hezbollah in the post-revolutionary phase; whereas strategically, Iran sought to contribute to defending southern Lebanon against Israeli forces, an enemy they previously declared had no right to exist. Khomeini cantilevered the success of the Iranian revolution into the region, calling for the uprising of all minority Shi’ites.
The creation of Hezbollah became the tangible proof of success of Iranians attempts to export their revolution. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon gave Iran an opportunity to mobilize their own forces in support of a cause they already believed in. Sending elite Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon to help the militants against the Israeli invasion served as a tactical vehicle to accomplish their goal of destroying Israel. In both instances, Iran encouraged Hezbollah, with frameworks and with military assistance, to carry out their own political agenda. From this, we can see that Iran used their successful revolution and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to project their own ideological and strategic motives onto the emerging Hezbollah.
Nasrallah has now said that Israel considers the capabilities of Hezbollah, preventing an offensive strike.
“I tell this enemy with certainty that, yes, you should think a thousand, a hundred thousand and a million times before waging a war [against Lebanon],” Nasrallah said.
The embedded repression of Shi’ites in Lebanon’s confessional system was similar to the feelings of animosity towards the governmental structure that Iranians felt prior to the Islamic Revolution under the Shah, providing the ideological explanation for Iran’s continual funding of Hezbollah. Social services have played a major role in Hezbollah’s political platform, with about half of their budget being allocated towards humanitarian work. This helps provide a significant degree of legitimacy for their existence. However, these massive resources hinge on the broader implications of Iranian support.
Perhaps Nashrallah is not bluffing, and Hezbollah is equipped to fight Israel without the assistance of Iran, but it seems unlikely that it would be a sustainable effort. Their legitimacy in Lebanon is derived from the significant benefits they have brought to the Lebanese people – without funding from Iran this might eventually diminish, along with the resistance organization.
– Danielle Morland
(Featured photo: looking4poetry, Creative Commons, Flickr
photo 1: delayed gratification, Creative Commons, Flickr)