The movement first emerged in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Beirut during the bloody Lebanese civil war. The Israelis have completed their task of expelling Palestinian militants from the country, but have created a more formidable enemy in the form of Hezbollah as a result. The new Iranian regime found the group a suitable ally both because of their shared Shiite ideology and because of Hezbollah’s position at the heart of the Arab world. He began providing funding and training to the group shortly after its inception.
Arabs once considered Nasrallah a hero for standing up to Israel, but Shibli Telami, a University of Maryland professor who conducted an extensive survey of the Arab world, says: “Arab public attitudes toward Hezbollah may have been influenced by the Arab Spring uprisings. , the Syrian war, sectarian tensions in Lebanon and the Iranian-Arab rivalry”.
“At the official level, Hezbollah is a resistance movement, but its role has gone beyond [Lebanon] as it has become a regional player,” said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “Calling Hezbollah a resistance movement is wrong.”
Hezbollah has become a major player on the Lebanese political scene. Opponents call him a shadow state within a state, led by Hassan Nasrallah since his ascension to the post of general secretary in 1992. A fiery and charismatic leader, Nasrallah has rarely appeared in public since the 2006 war with Israel, apparently out of fear of being killed. At the band’s anniversary rally this week, he delivered his memorial speech via video.
“Hezbollah has always been interested in the weak and obedient Lebanese armed forces. The question of whether Lebanon has become safer because of Hezbollah’s actions is highly debatable,” Emile Hokaem, senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN. “On the one hand, Hezbollah has set the level of containment for Israel. On the other hand, Lebanon is objectively weaker, isolated, economically depressed, politically in disarray.”
For Israel, the advanced weaponry of the Shiite group poses a greater threat than the weapons of other Iranian-backed Palestinian groups operating in Gaza.
Over the past decade, Hezbollah has played an increasingly active role in the region, including Iraq and Yemen. The group’s most significant foreign military activity has been in Syria, where thousands of fighters have been deployed to protect the Assad regime.
Hezbollah has played a central role in the Syrian conflict as it has engaged in direct action and has reversed the opposition’s gains,” Ali said. “However, their intervention in Iraq and Yemen is more about the political and logistical side, in particular with training and political assistance.”
Nasrallah regularly uses inflammatory language against the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, especially against Saudi Arabia.
“Hezbollah has poisoned Lebanese relations with the Gulf states, which were vital economic lifelines for the Lebanese diaspora and the state,” Hokim said. “In Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere, Lebanon is seen as a threat too weak to keep its main political party from threatening their security.”
But now the group appears to be softening its tone on the Persian Gulf. Nasrallah, in his recent 40th anniversary speech, said: “We have no problem with Lebanon’s relations with the Arab countries and especially with the Gulf countries, and with the fact that these relations develop and strengthen.”
“Now that Iran is about to return to [nuclear deal] and resume diplomatic relations with the Gulf states, Hezbollah should logically follow suit and de-escalate its rhetoric,” Ali said.
Iranian women attend national league football match for the first time in over 40 years
For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian women attended a national premier league match between Esteghlal and Mes Kerman at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, according to the semi-official state news agency Fars. However, only 500 tickets were allocated for the 78,000 seat Azadi Stadium for women.
- Background: Thousands of women were allowed to attend the 2019 Iran-Cambodia World Cup qualifier under pressure from human rights groups and the world governing body FIFA. This was the first time since the revolution that women were able to attend international football competitions in Iran.
- Why is it important: FIFA has come under increasing pressure to force Iran to lift its ban on women entering sports stadiums, in particular after the death of Sahar Khodayari. female fan set yourself on fire after she was denied access to a football stadium in Tehran in 2019. video from the stadium on Thursday, blue-clad women were shown waving Esteghlal flags and chanting “blue girl” from the stands, referring to Khodayari.
France’s Macron calls for a future with Algeria beyond ‘painful’ history
French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that his country and Algeria should look beyond their “painful” shared history and look ahead on Thursday at the start of a three-day visit to the North African country, Reuters reported.
- Background: The trauma of French colonial rule in Algeria and the war of independence that ended in 1962 hampered relations between the two countries for decades. Macron was quoted last year as suggesting that an Algerian national identity did not exist before French rule and accused Algerian leaders of rewriting the history of the struggle for independence based on hatred of France. Algeria withdrew its ambassador and closed its airspace to French aircraft.
- Why is it important: Ties with Algeria have become more important to France because the war in Ukraine has increased European demand for North African gas, and also because of the growing migration across the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Algeria is looking to capitalize on higher energy prices to lock in European investment.
Biden says US hit Iranian-linked targets in Syria to prevent attacks
The US strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria this week were carried out to deter Iran and Iranian-backed militia groups “from conducting or supporting further attacks on United States personnel and facilities,” President Joe Biden said in a letter to Congress on Thursday.
- Background: The United States conducted additional air strikes on enemy positions and rocket launchers near Deir ez-Zor in northeast Syria on Thursday following a rocket attack on coalition bases in the region that wounded three U.S. troops on Wednesday, according to a U.S. official.
- Why is it important: Iranian militias have a strong presence in the city and have long targeted the nearby Al Omar oil field on the east bank of the Euphrates, where the US coalition has its largest base in Syria. The outbreak comes amid diplomatic efforts between Tehran and the West to salvage Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
This week marks 120 years since the first privately owned Arabic daily Al-Khoda (The Guide) began publication in New York. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1898.
“The importance of this paper cannot be underestimated,” said Akram Hater, director of the center. “It became a guide on how to be an Arab in America.”
Founded in 1898 by Naum Mokarzal, a Lebanese with “an outstanding personality,” Hater said, the paper covered a range of topics from politics to social etiquette. It served as a means of uniting the Arab diaspora in the United States. “Suddenly you [were] connected” through the newspaper, he told CNN.
When Al-Hoda was discontinued in 1971, he had about 5,000 subscribers, according to the New York Times.