In this book, Shimon Shapira explores the evolution of Hizballah, addressing key questions about the organization’s mission and influence: How did it take control of Lebanon’s Shi‘ite community and, indirectly, of the Lebanese political system and state? How does Iran control and use the organization? Is it still a pure instrument of Iranian policy or is it also a self-standing Lebanese movement and party? What explains Hassan Nasrallah’s unique style of leadership? Those who thought that the story of Hizballah begins in 1982 will discover its roots in Iranian policy and investment in the Shi’a of Lebanon in the days of the Shah. This early history and more contemporary events shed light on a question that preoccupies students of Iran: to what extent is Iranian policy in the Middle East an ideological policy of a revolutionary Islamist regime and to what extent is it a new incarnation of Persian imperial policy? Whatever the answer to this question, Iran’s ambition and activism in the Middle East after 1979 have served to transform the Middle Eastern political arena.
Shimon Shapira is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.