Approaching Iran: Lebanese wishful thinking
Posted by worriedlebanese on 24/06/2009
I find this picture quite revealing of the mindset of many of my nationals who are interpreting the electoral turmoil in Iran: Hezbollah is seen as a branch of the Iranian regime. This perception has two consequences:
– If the tree is venomous (violent and repressive), so is its branch.
– If the tree is weakened, the branch will wither.
These two postulates aren’t very convincing. Its actually a very simplistic view that ignores the complexity of the situation.
Historically, one could say that Hezbollah is somewhat an offshoot of the Islamic Republic of Iran (even though it really stems from Musa Sadr’s Amal movement…). But that doesn’t mean that it is a branch of the Iranian Regime. Moreover, one could also argue that Hezbollah is bound by its spiritual obedience to Iran’s spiritual leader and its financial & military dependence on Iran’s government. But this doesn’t negate its autonomy. It certainly limits it, but doesn’t annul it. Hezbollah enjoys a massive popular backing within Lebanon’s Shiite community. Its leadership is Lebanese, its rank and file are Lebanese, its territorial site is Lebanese… Sure, a change in Iran’s regime will have an impact on Hezbollah. But that doesn’t mean that turmoil or change in Iran will weaken the party or make it disappear. Hezbollah can always adapt, choose another spiritual leadership (most Lebanese shiites supporters of Hezbollah don’t even recognise the spiritual authority of Khamanei), find other sources of financing (remember the drug trade in the Beqaa?)… and even if there was a regime change in Iran, would that mean that this budding regional power will abandon its regional ambitions? Why would it, and if it doesn’t, can it do it without Hezbollah?
As it is usually the case, the Lebanese pundits take on Iran says more about them then it does about Iran.