Analysis: Hizbullah's struggle to change the regime

The goal - the establishment of an Islamic state and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.

lebanese elections 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
lebanese elections 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The recent publication of Hizbullah's subversive plans against Egypt and the exposure of a Shi'ite group headed by a Hizbullah activist that was preparing to act against Egyptian targets diverted attention from the challenge Hizbullah is posing to the very foundations of Lebanese governmental authority. On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of Sunday's Lebanese parliamentary elections. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in the country. In this manner, Hizbullah seeks to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 and preserved by the Lebanese state ever since. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state and a complete Iranian takeover of the country. The scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated? The responses to these questions may be found in the framework of relations between revolutionary Iran and its protégé in Lebanon, and between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his loyal and obedient representative Hassan Nasrallah. The essence of the tie between them is not simply religious, but has far-reaching political implications for the range of Hizbullah behavior in the Lebanese arena and beyond, and symbolizes the growing influence of Iran in the Arab world. One can safely assume that Hizbullah activity in Egypt was undertaken with the full knowledge of Iran. The weapons shipment that departed Iran for Gaza was dispatched with Teheran's blessing. Iran was undoubtedly aware that the Egyptian security authorities could uncover Hizbullah's subversive activity, but believed that the Egyptians would prefer to turn a blind eye and allow the passage of the weapons inventory to Gaza. Even if this was not the case, the Iranians posited military assistance to Hamas as a supreme interest of the Islamic Revolution and were prepared to pay the price of a deterioration in relations between the countries. The attacks by Hassan Nasrallah against Egypt, including a call to the Egyptian army to overthrow the Mubarak regime during Israel's Gaza operation, would not have been made had Nasrallah not understood that in this fashion he was serving the wishes of his masters in Teheran. Ever since the disclosures of the activity in Egypt, the media in the Arab world and in the West has been preoccupied with the dispute that has erupted between Hizbullah and Cairo, and have almost totally ignored the struggle that Hizbullah has initiated to change the face of the Lebanese regime. While Britain took the questionable decision to open a dialogue with the "political wing" of Hizbullah, and in practice recognized Hizbullah as a legitimate movement, it would appear that the artificial distinction drawn by the UK between the political and the military wings of Hizbullah has totally collapsed with the discovery of Hizbullah's subversive activities in Egypt, which merely compounds what was previously discovered in Morocco. In that Sunni Arab kingdom, King Muhammad VI severed ties with Iran in March 2009, accusing it of supporting Shi'ite missionary activity. The unequivocal call to abolish sectarian politics and the enactment of a new election law were placed at the very top of Hizbullah's 2009 election platform in order to emphasize the group's priorities. In its electoral platform of 2000, Hizbullah had called for establishing a national body for the abolishment of political sectarianism, but only in the fourth section of the document. It is assumed that in this manner Hizbullah seeks to advance its aspiration to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in 1943 that has been preserved ever since, despite repeated crises. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state that provides political expression to the Shi'ite majority and a complete Iranian takeover. What is missing in the new Hizbullah platform? There is no reference to its militia and weapons, or to the call from inside Lebanon to dismantle Hizbullah's military capability and to integrate it into the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hizbullah ignores this aspect and insists on keeping its independent military wing as a "resistance" force against Israel. However, it is clear that the preservation of Hizbullah's military strength is intended primarily to allow the movement to translate its martial power and demographic weight into a fundamental change of the Lebanese political system. In addition, and no less important, Hizbullah's military power serves as the cutting edge of Iran on Israel's northern border, enabling the Islamic republic to employ the armed force that it built in Lebanon to serve its strategic interests. In recent years, and in the course of the severe political crises that have struck Lebanon since the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in March 2005, Hizbullah has not concealed its intentions to realize the mission entrusted to it by the Iranian revolutionary regime. The movement is to seize power in Lebanon and thus create another stable and trustworthy link in the Shi'ite axis of evil under Iranian leadership. In the Lebanese political realm, Hizbullah has labored to reinforce "the (Shi'ite) opposition camp" by aligning with powerful factions beyond the Shi'ite community against the Sunni-Shi'ite coalition headed by Sa'ad Hariri. Hizbullah scored a major success by attracting to its side the Christian Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gen. Michel Aoun, and has strengthened its alliance with extremist Salafist Sunni groups. In a show of force, Hizbullah undertook an unprecedented brutal action when it effectively took over Beirut on May 7, 2008, in response to a government attempt to bring about the dismantling of Hizbullah's independent communications infrastructure within Lebanon. Hizbullah's call for ending political sectarianism, coupled with the enactment of a new election law, came after this demonstration of power and self-confidence, and constitutes the apogee of its indefatigable efforts to attain power in the country. The formulation of an electoral program in a manner that awards Hizbullah the deceptive image of an authentic Lebanese party operating on the basis of Lebanese interests was calculated to attract maximal representation and perhaps even a majority in parliament. However, its political rivals at home will seek to exploit Hizbullah's recent entanglements in subversion against Egypt to expose Hizbullah as a disruptive force operating in the service of Iran and Syria. Reprinted with permission of Middle East Strategic Information, a project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is the author of Hizballah: Between Iran and Lebanon, 4th ed. (Tel Aviv: Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 2006). He is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Yair Minzili is a senior researcher in economics, political policy, and Islam in the Middle East.