Saturday, April 28, 2012


Barry Rubin

Since the 1990s, Hizballah has defined itself along a number of parallel lines, each of which prior to 2011 appeared to support the other. The movement was simultaneously a sectarian representative of the Lebanese Shi’a, a regional ally of Iran and Syria, a defender of the Lebanese against the supposed aggressive intentions of Israel, and a leader of a more generically defined Arab and Muslim “resistance” against Israel and the West.  As a result of the events of 2011, most important the revolt against the Asad regime in Syria, these various lines, which seemed mutually supportive, began to contradict one another. This has diminished Hizballah’s position, though it remains physically unassailable for as long as the Asad regime in Syria survives.

The year 2011 witnessed a series of upheavals and revolutions, which launched a long-awaited process of change in some of the stagnant polities of the Arab-speaking world.  It is too soon to draw any definitive conclusions regarding where these changes may lead or what the Arab world will look like when the storm has passed.  Nevertheless, the transformations that have already taken place are presenting established political players across the Middle East with new and unfamiliar questions and dilemmas.

Prominent among those existing political forces facing new challenges as a result of regional changes is the Lebanese Shi’i Islamist Hizballah movement. Since the early 2000s, the Middle East has been dominated by a competition between the U.S.-led regional dispensation and a challenge to this hegemony undertaken by Iran and its allies.[1] Hizballah was and remains a key component of the Iran-led alliance, also constituting a central sectarian player in the Lebanese context and a champion of the idea of “resistance” against Israel and the United States. The emerging nature of the regional upheavals are posing difficulties for Hizballah on all three levels of its identity–as an Iran-aligned force, a Shi’i political player in the Lebanese context, and as the self-proclaimed champion of regional “resistance.”   This article will consider the origin and emergence of these difficulties and their likely implications for Hizballah’s future.

The most urgent and central issues facing Hizballah of course relate to the uprising in Syria.  Prior to the outbreak of the revolt against the Bashar al-Asad regime, Hizballah was able to adopt a stance of vociferous support for the uprisings.  This was because in their initial phase, the revolts all took place in states aligned with the United States and the West–Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen And here is the rest of it.

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