Middle East — 18 June 2013
The End of Hezbollah in the New Middle East

Ali Harfouch

The End of Hezbollah in the ‘New’ Middle East[1]

This is our stance and obligation: we have tried to be people of sincerity and fidelity; we believe in truth and enunciate it. We defend it and sacrifice ourselves for it, even to the extent of martyrdom. [2]

The Priority of Principle

Any movement or political organization is defined by its principles. It’s very essence and identity is constituted by its distinct platform. Policies, and strategies employed by the movements are based primarily on these principles, and its socio-political outlook and philosophy. However, a movement ceases to exist as a distinct group of people with shared principles and goals when it gives up its principles and becomes pragmatic. Today Hezbollah faces an existential crisis after having subordinated its revolutionary principles for their pragmatic interests as they re insistent on supporting the despotic Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Hugo Assman referred to the ideology of the Iranian Revolution (from which Hezbollah emerged) as “the epistemological privilege of the poor” referring here as the Iranian scholar Amr G.E Sabet points out to the mustad’ afin (the oppressed). While revolution in Shi’i Islam has never been “utilitarian nor goal-oriented. It is an intrinsic value in and of itself” (Sabet). He goes on to quote Khomeini, whose advice to the Arab world puts to waste Hezbollah’s pragmatic power-hungry support for the regime “Do not wait until you attain power so that you can speak” but rather “speak and then you will have attained power”. Principles transcend historical realities and their socio-political configurations however temporary pragmatic alliances do not.


Hypocrisy and Betrayal

At the heart of Hezbollah’s manifesto is their claimed dedication to the principle of revolution against tyranny which at the core of Tawhid while citing the massacre of Karbala and Husayn radiyallahu anhu against Yazid. The moral of the iconic event in Karbala being; revolution and the rejection of tyranny are principles which were given priority by Husayn radiyallahu anhu who revolted with several dozen men knowing well what the material outcomes would be, but dismissing them in light of these lofty values. Ali Shariati, being a key ideologue of the Iranian Revolution remarked, in speaking of the passive and complacent Shi’ites of his time “For we all believe that it is not possible for a nation to be Muslim, to believe in Ali and his way, and yet to gain no benefit from such a belief” (Bayat 156)

Hezbollah plunged into the abyss of strategic and ideological blunder earlier this year after having openly admitted to sending its men to defend Assad’s regime against the revolution – a revolution against a secular regime, which by principal is illegitimate according to the political ideology of Hezbollah. And while Hezbollah draws its “identity” from the Husayn radiyallahu anhu revolted as a result of corruption within the framework of an existing Islamic State while Assad’s draconian rule and pan-Arabist Baathist regime is based on the complete rejection of Islam as a mode of governance and is entrenched in exclusionary secular values.


Lost Principles, Failed Strategy, and an Existential Crisis

An appraisal of Hezbollah’s policies requires that we understand the grand-strategy of “Islamic” Republic of Iran. Doing so exposes both the ulterior motives of Hezbollah (and its lack of autonomy on one hand) and the strategic short-sightedness of the “Islamic” Republic of Iran. Hezbollah betrays not only its normative principles, but also its pragmatic political “aspirations” which state;

We want Lebanon to be sovereign, free, independent, strong and competent. We want it also to be powerful, active, and present in the geopolitics of the region[3]

Hezbollah’s manifesto goes on to condemn the United States for “Supporting the systems of dictatorship and tyranny as well as subjection in the region” yet both Hezbollah and Iran continue to provide one of the region’s largest coercive security apparatuses with monetary and military support. And while condemning the United States for “Creating and embedding sedition and divisions of all types, especially sectarian ones” the Iranian-backed militia continues to polarize the Muslim world and exacerbate sectarian divisions through its incessant support for the Syrian tyrant. All of which is done under the banner of “national unity” and “freedom, security and stability”[4]


“Resistance” and Other Pragmatic Justifications

Even if one were to entertain justifications based on Assad’s “support for the resistance” and “containment of American hegemony” a critical question emerges; does material support for armed resistance legitimize a regime? And if so, does this legitimization occur independently of the regime’s ideological foundations? A war-mongering and opportunistic United States which supported the Afghan resistance against the U.S.S.R would then also have met the criteria for legitimacy, if consistency is sought of course as would Iran’s key rival; Saudi Arabia. While claiming that their policies are directed towards the containment of American hegemony in the region ignores a blatant and explicit anti-Americanism amongst the Syrian revolutionaries and a growing chasm between the Free Syrian Army and the Western-based Syrian National Council. The hesitancy of the United States to provide nothing more than nominal support and lip-service to the revolution is indicative of such as it fails to find proxies within the Syrian revolution to lead a transition to a “Civil Democratic” Syria which will not drift too far from a U.S orbit and maintain its interests in the region. As a result, a post-Assad Syria will not be shaped nor defined by an Imperialistic U.S or a pragmatic “Islamic” Republic of Iran as both powers will be excluded from the transitory process.

Hezbollah’s reactionary policies are predicated on a false dilemma or binary: neo-Colonialism led by the neo-Liberal powers v. old-colonialism as represented by the anarchic Authoritarian Syrian regime. A third-way was not considered, leaving both Hezbollah and the United States stumbling towards a bleak future. Having abandoned their ideological foundations, and forgone their pragmatic national commitments – Hezbollah’s actions have been detrimentally informed by an illusionary dilemma. The “Islamic” Republic of Iran on the other hand has isolated itself from the Muslim world. Across the Muslim world protests were held in from of the Lebanese and Iranian embassies vehemently condemning Iran and Hezbollah.

Both in principle and strategically[5], it would have been a wiser move for Hezbollah to either by the Syrian people during their revolution or to remain neutral towards a population who can be described by the Shi’ite thinker and journalist Suroosh Irfani as those “liberation person(s)” who have “refused to submit to despotism and its attempts for distorting supreme values, and preferred death to a dehumanized purposeless existence under a monstrous regime and inhuman social system, it is a response to Hussein’s call. Whenever there is struggle for liberation, Hussein is present on the battlefield”. Despite the death of Husayn and the continuation of Yazid’s regime following the Karbaba massacre, the latter has been forgotten while Husayn remains a symbol of resistance and liberation for the centuries to come for history teaches us that a nation’s population does not come and go, while regimes do.


Syrians had shown their utmost support prior to Hezbollahs betrayal while the support of the regime had always been pragmatic and the flow of weapons to the resistance in their iron-clutch which they tighten at times, and ease at others. Potentia (real power) is always located with the people, a lesson they should have learned from the Iranian revolution. More so, the Arab Spring has largely changed the dynamics of power in the Arab-Muslim world, in that, ‘the people’ as a collective body have become autonomous political actors capable of exerting their own pressure and enforcing their own will. Consequently, Hezbollah’s future in the region is bleak as it cannot strive on minorities and rural populations alone. And while the liberatory caravan of Husayn will continue to shake the thrones of tyranny across the Arab-Muslim world, Hezbollah’s caravan will find its demise in Yazid’s Damascus.


Ali Harfouch is a graduate of Political Studies at the American University of Beirut working in Islamic activism.


[1] Religion, Politics, and Social Change: A Theoretical Framework by Amr G.E Sabet is an indispensible and resourceful guide in regards to the epistemic foundations of the Husayn’s revolution and the methodological imperatives required for change.

[2] Hezbollah’s Political Manifesto 2009

[3] Hezbollah’s Political Manifesto 2009

[4] Hezbollah’s Political Manifesto 2009

[5] 7 Reasons Hezbollah Will Lose in Syria | Revolution Observer | Abu Anas

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