Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Islamic Revolution is still alive


by Tony Badran


The recent tension in South Lebanon, choreographed by Hezbollah against UNIFIL under the guise of spontaneous protests by villagers, has been used by the party to reassert its equation of “the Resistance, the people, and the army”— the three mutually-reinforcing pillars which, Hezbollah maintains, are alone responsible for safeguarding the country’s security. The core premise of this mantra, however, has its origins in Iran’s Islamic revolutionary doctrine.
After its military assault in May 2008 against western Beirut and the Druze-controlled mountains, followed by the Doha Accord, Hezbollah imposed this line on public discourse and the current government’s policy statement. The party has, since, elevated the formula to the status of sole acceptable blueprint for Lebanon’s so-called “defense strategy.” In a May 25 speech, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah held that this equation was the basis of Lebanon’s strength, and he accused anyone who undermined it of “working intentionally to expose Lebanon to Israeli aggression.”
During the 1990s, the Lebanese political class robotically regurgitated Syrian-imposed slogans, and Hezbollah is reproducing the same phenomenon today with the “Resistance, people, army” mantra, thereby aborting any domestic debate about its armed status. As such, Nasrallah pointed to Michel Sleiman’s endorsement of the formulation, which the president offered on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV no less. The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has also performed the required ritualistic profession of this mandatory article of faith.
The absence of any reference to the “state” in this formula, and its substitution with the category of “people” is not accidental. It is useful in this regard to recall a peculiar March 2007 encounter between Jumblatt, when he was still hostile to Hezbollah, with the correspondent of the Iranian Arabic-language Al-Alam TV in New York. In response to a question about Hezbollah’s 2006 “victory” against Israel, Jumblatt replied that he had publicly asked to whom Nasrallah would offer this alleged victory, then added that Nasrallah’s response was “to the Lebanese people and the Arabic and Islamic umma.” Jumblatt said that he would have preferred for the victory to be offered to the Lebanese “state,” as the state alone must have the right to take the decision of making war or peace. 
The correspondent then asked Jumblatt, “Is the state more important than the people?” To which Jumblatt replied emphatically, “Yes!” Jumblatt wasn’t offering a gratuitous thought about political philosophy, nor was he mounting a defense on behalf of statism. Rather, he understood the underlying premise of the question, which directly echoed a central policy of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Dissociating the peoples from their governments in the Arab world was and remains a vital aim of the Iranian revolutionary regime. The Islamic Revolution posits a leadership role for Iran as the vanguard of the “oppressed” Muslim masses against the “arrogant” Western forces of repression and local governments allied with them. As such, Tehran seeks to directly address the people over the heads of governments, to imbue them with an Iranian revolutionary ethos, and, when possible, to lend them material support or establish local organizations that promulgate or go along with Iran’s political line and undermine local political and religious elites and establishments.
Iran’s revolutionary regime established an institutional apparatus to support this enterprise of exporting the revolutionary ideal. It included offices dealing with the dissemination of Iranian cultural (not just political) influence, such as the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the Islamic Propagation Organization.
For instance, in the mid-1980s, as factional rivalries raged in Iran over controlling the exporting of the revolution, one faction inside the Iranian Foreign Ministry (backed by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) was attacked by its adversaries for abandoning the principle of establishing relations with peoples as opposed to governments.
In keeping with this doctrine, Hezbollah distinguishes between the “Arab system” or “Arab regimes” on the one hand, and the “Arab peoples” or the “region’s peoples” on the other. The former are complacent capitulationists, while the latter embrace “resistance.” It is from this vantage point that Nasrallah, for example, sought to address the people and armed forces of Egypt in 2009, calling on them to rise up against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak in the name of resistance. In other words, the armed forces should have joined the Resistance and the people against the state.
That is the essence of Hezbollah’s formula. Much like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah operates in a parallel universe; it forms a parallel military and presides over a parallel society, which “coordinate” with the armed forces and interact with the state only in order to neutralize the state’s ability to challenge the party’s autonomous, parallel existence. All of which of course makes a mockery of those in the West advocating dialogue with Hezbollah to encourage its further “integration” into the “political mainstream.”
As party official Mahmoud Qomati explained in 2009, Hezbollah seeks to integrate the state into “the axis of the army, the people, and the Resistance.” This of course merely echoed a central theme in the thinking of Hezbollah, articulated by the party’s deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, in a June 2007 article in
An-Nahar revealingly titled “How Does the Rest of Society Integrate into the Resistance?”
In also exalting the virtues of the “Resistance, people, army” concept, Hezbollah parliamentarian Mohammad Raad declared, “We are a great people … in a state that is still in the formation process.” According to Hezbollah’s vision, it’s a process that prepares the foundations of the state in order to create a parallel structure that can better control the state’s actions – the IRGC model.
Whoever said Hezbollah gave up its long-term objective and its longtime slogan of Islamic revolution in Lebanon?


Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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