Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iran and Lebanon: Between the Imam and Nasrallah - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

There is a lot of talk these days concerning the increasing role of Iran in the Middle East in general and in Lebanon in particular. The most common example to identify this phenomenon is the “extraordinary” relationship that currently exists between Hezbollah and Iran. However, there are interesting origins behind of the depth of the relationship between Iran and Lebanon.

In the 1970’s, in Lebanon, a prevailing and engaging character emerged by the name of Imam Musa al Sadr from Iran characterized by vitality, strong viewpoints and dignified black clothes. Sheikh Musa adopted a number of Shiaa causes in Lebanon and launched the Movement of the Disinherited to advocate the rights of the Shiaa in South Lebanon after years of neglect by successive governments. Sheikh Musa then established the armed wing of the movement that was known as Amal for political and military purposes within Lebanon’s tense conditions.

As time passed, the status of the Iranian guest grew, his significance increased and his charisma enhanced. Throughout this period, his relationship with prominent religious figures of Iran also developed, especially as he belonged to a family of traditional and well-known theologians. However, suddenly, during an unexpected trip to Libya, Imam Musa disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. His legend however remained and dominated the Shiaa community in Lebanon. Many felt his absence and the Shiaa remained without a religious symbol and without the black turbans. Eventually, from within the Amal movement, an “Islamic” party had emerged wearing the same cloak and headed by Hussein Moussawi. At this stage, the movement separated from Syria that had long sponsored Amal and turned to Iran. It was then possible to see the pictures of Hafez al Assad and his sons and to read the slogans and statements of the Baath party and its leader and compare them to Khomeini and Khamenei, the secretaries of Hezbollah, the words of Khomeini and others. Tests were carried out to determine the level of centrality and impact of the party upon the south. A stamp was brought out that carried the words “The Islamic Republic of Lebanon,” and the Iranian revolution was celebrated. Therefore, the role of the Iranian embassy in Lebanon had grown and the actions of its officials were suspected.

Now, in light of the deliberate “distance” by Hezbollah and its senior officials concerning the content of the Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s speech, which has provoked much controversy and upheaval, it seems that this is a new confirmation that the “party” (Hezbollah) has committed itself to a fundamental notion of endorsing loyalty and support to the Iranian ally even at the expense of an old ally, namely, Syria. Iran’s interests in Lebanon are completely different to those of Syria.

Today, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah plays a role of which no Iranian had ever dreamed. He has presented new pretexts for the “revolution” and its “objectives.” Yes, Hezbollah is a Lebanese party but the Iranian hand is more than visible and its goals are not always innocent.