[Marxism] Re: Hezbollah cements victory with political "coupd'etat", rebuilding work

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at theplanet.net.au
Wed Aug 16 07:55:19 MDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jean-Christophe Helary" <fusion at mx6.tiki.ne.jp>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:46 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Re: Hezbollah cements victory with political
"coupd'etat", rebuilding work

On 16 août 06, at 20:25, Tom O'Lincoln wrote:

>> I think we should be just a bit cautious about this idea of Hezbollah
>> re-building with Iranian money. Firstly, Hezbollah's political
>> strength
>> is as a movement rooted in the Lebanese masses, not as a conduit for
>> Iranian money.

> Hezbollah's strength come from it's action against Israel as an
> occupier and as an extremely active social actor, wherever the money
> comes from, it certainly does not come from the Lebanese government.

Obviously a lot comes from Iran, but how much is another question, as
well as how much Hizbullah relies on that support, and to what extent
that support shapes Hizbullah policy. On the last question, at least,
there is good reason to think the answer is none at all. The following
article is a good summary in my opinion of the state of this support,
though I think it goes a bit overboard in trying to deny significant
Iranian support (and the article also really grates with its absurd
references to Hizbullah as a "terrorist" organisation):

Iran's control over Hezbollah has been steadily declining since
approximately 1996, during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami.
Money does continue to come "from Iran" to support Hezbollah, but not
the Iranian government. Instead, it's private religious foundations that
direct the bulk of support, primarily to Hezbollah's charitable
activities. Nor are the amounts crucial to Hezbollah's survival; even
the high estimate frequently cited in the press-$200 million per
annum-is a fraction of Hezbollah's operating funds.


Examining Iran's ties to Hezbollah
Just how much influence does the Islamic Republic wield over Hezbollah?
By William O. Beeman

Supporters of Hezbollah hold posters of Hassan Nasrallah during a
protest in Beirut on July 30.

The conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah had hardly begun
when the Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters began
blaming Iran for the conflagration. On July 25, Henry Crumpton, the
State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told a reporter
that Iran is "clearly directing a lot of Hezbollah actions. Hezbollah
asks their permission to do things, especially if it has broader
international implications." Meanwhile, in the July 24 Weekly Standard,
William Kristol called Hezbollah's fighting an "act of Iranian
aggression" and suggested "we might consider countering [it] . with a
military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities."

However, giving Iran another tongue lashing, or worse, deciding to
attack it, will do nothing to stop the violence in the region. Not only
is there no evidence that Iran had a role in instigating this round of
violence, the possibility itself is unlikely.

Iran's control over Hezbollah has been steadily declining since
approximately 1996, during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami.
Money does continue to come "from Iran" to support Hezbollah, but not
the Iranian government. Instead, it's private religious foundations that
direct the bulk of support, primarily to Hezbollah's charitable
activities. Nor are the amounts crucial to Hezbollah's survival; even
the high estimate frequently cited in the press-$200 million per
annum-is a fraction of Hezbollah's operating funds. However, the most
important reason for not targeting Iran for the continued fighting in
Lebanon is that this conflict is antithetical to Iran's interests.

Neoconservatives clearly have another agenda in attacking Iran besides
stopping Hezbollah. By blaming Iran for this latest flare-up,
neoconservatives are following their decade-long program to encourage a
military attack against the Islamic Republic.

Iran's support for Hezbollah
The broad assertion that Iran supports Hezbollah is verifiable, but it
is important to understand what the nature of this support is, and the
extent to which Iran is able to influence the actions of this Shi'ite
Lebanese group.

Since 90 percent of Iran's population is Shi'ite, its citizens had an
undeniable interest in the fate of its co-religionists in Lebanon
following the Revolution of 1978-79. Like Iranians, the Lebanese Shi'ite
community was under oppression both from Sunnis and Maronites. Moreover,
Palestinian refugees, settled in Lebanon without consultation with the
Shi'ite community, served as a drain on weak local economic resources
and drew fire from Israel. The Shi'ites felt helpless and frustrated.
The successful revolution in Iran was enormously inspirational to them.
While the Iranian central government was weak and scattered after the
Revolution, semi-independent charitable organizations, called bonyad
(literally, "foundation") sponsored by individual Shi'ite clerics began
to help the fledgling Hezbollah organization establish itself as a
defense force to protect the Shi'ite community. This was simply not
state support. Given the semi-independent corporate nature of Shi'ite
clerics, especially in the early days of Iran's revolution, when
internal power struggles were endemic, there was little the Khomeini
government could do to curtail these operations.

Now, after nearly two decades, this ad hoc export of Iranian
revolutionary ideology may have succeeded too well. Whereas today the
bulk of the Iranian population has at least some doubts about their
government, Hezbollah maintains a stronger commitment to the symbolic
legacy of the Iranian Revolution than Iranians, according to Georgetown
University professor Daniel Byman. In a 2003 Foreign Affairs article,
Byman pointed out that, "[Iran] lacks the means to force a significant
change in the [Hezbollah] movement and its goals. It has no real
presence on the ground in Lebanon and a call to disarm or cease
resistance would likely cause Hezbollah's leadership, or at least its
most militant elements, simply to sever ties with Tehran's leadership."

In short, Hezbollah has now taken on a life of its own. Even if all
Iranian financial and logistic support were cut off, Hezbollah would not
only continue, it would thrive.

Hezbollah has achieved this independence by becoming as much a social
welfare and political organization as a militant resistance
organization. In a 2004 speech, Dwight J. Simpson, a professor of
international relations at San Francisco State University, reported that
it had "12 elected parliamentary members.[and] many Hezbollah members
hold elected positions within local governments." At that time, the
group had already built five hospitals and was building more. It
operated 25 primarily secular schools, and provided subsidies to

The source for their money, Simpson reported, is zakat-the charitable
"tithe" required of all Muslims. The Shi'ites, having seen their
co-religionists in Iraq succeed in initial elections there in 2005, had
hopes that they too would assume the power in Lebanon that accorded with
their status as the nation's largest community, approximately 40 percent
of the population. The growth of Hezbollah's charitable operations
increased non-state-level financial support for the organization not
only from Iran, but from the rest of the Shi'ite world, since formalized
charity is a religious duty. As this charitable activity increased,
Hezbollah was on the road to ceasing its activities as a terrorist group
and gradually assuming the role of a political organization. Even in its
current engagement with Israel, its "terrorist" activities have been
reframed as national defense, especially as Hezbollah began to use
conventional military forces and weapons.

Many of these weapons, it is claimed, have been acquired from Iran over
the years, but even this is not fully verified. The rockets used by
Hezbollah have been tentatively identified as Katushya rockets, of the
form manufactured by Iran, and known as Fajr-3 and Fajr-5. But the
United States has not been able to identify that these rockets are
absolutely Iranian.

Moreover, although it is certainly possible that branches of Iran's
Islamic guard may be operating in Lebanon without the full knowledge of
the central government of Iran, no country has yet been able to verify
their presence in the current conflict, and rumors that they have aided
in the firing of the rockets have been vehemently denied by Hezbollah's
leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Given the loose and ambiguous nature of the
Iranian government's control over support for Hezbollah, claims by U.S.
officials that Iran has an organized state-level support system for such
activities are clearly exaggerated.

Added to all of this is the fact that the Lebanese violence does not
serve Iran's political purposes. The verbal attacks of its president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against Israel would cause it to be targeted if
Israel were ever involved in a wider conflict with the Islamic world.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has claimed that Iran
instigated this attack to draw attention away from criticism of its
nuclear development program, this scenario seems far-fetched. Indeed,
Iran's strategic situation has certainly been worsened by this fighting.
Kenneth Katzman, senior Middle East analyst at the Congressional
Research Service, recently told Voice of America: "Iran is viewed,
widely viewed, as at least complicit in what is going on, supporting
Hezbollah. And that is likely to make some of the fence-sitters, I guess
Russia and China perhaps, take a dimmer view of Iranian intentions and
perhaps be more amenable to U.S. and other arguments that Iran is
playing a destabilizing role in the region and needs to be confronted by
the [U.N. Security] Council."

Beyond state support
Why would the United States repeat such unfounded assertions with such
incessant regularity as if they were established fact? Aside from their
continuity with 27 years of ongoing attacks against Iran, such
assertions accord with a longstanding U.S. foreign policy myth that
believes terrorism cannot exist without state support. If a state is
needed to explain the continued existence of groups like Hezbollah, then
Iran is an ideal candidate. Ergo, the connection must exist. Such claims
serve to bolster the central, but fallacious, political doctrine for the
Bush administration that the Global War on Terrorism really exists.

The alternative is to understand that terrorism is fundamentally
community-based. Sub-state groups with grievances that they feel cannot
be addressed in any other way resort to terrorism as a way of increasing
attention to their plight and pressuring those whom they perceive to be
oppressing them. Though they may welcome external financial support, the
impetus and motivation for terrorist groups' actions is not dependent on
it. Indeed, the more pressure they are subjected to, the stronger their
collective will to resist increases.

When this dynamic is understood, the problems of addressing terrorism
also come into focus. Rather than looking for global fantasy structures
such as al-Qaeda and their state supporters, the international community
needs to employ methods to address the needs of sub-state groups, while
simultaneously working to curtail their activities as conditions
improve. For the Shi'ites in Lebanon, it may be far too late to employ
such a strategy.

William O. Beeman is Professor of Anthropology and Middle East Studies
at Brown University. His most recent book is The "Great Satan" vs. the
"Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.

More information about William O. Beeman

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