Hezbollah 101: Who is the militant group, and what does it want?

Is Hezbollah a Lebanese political party or a proxy of Iran and Syria?

It is a bit of both. Since overturning its objection to Lebanon's political system at the end of the civil war, it has become an important player in Lebanese politics. Its future depends greatly on its ability to retain support among Lebanon's Shiite community, irrespective of foreign backing.

At the same time, Hez­bol­lah answers to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the group's ultimate source of religious authority and guidance.  "[Hezbollah] fluctuates between both being an indigenous Lebanese party and, when needed, a proxy militia of Iran," Mr. Ranstorp told the Monitor in 2009.

Hezbollah is also committed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which has supplied it with arms and support over the years.  The group has stood by Mr. Assad during Damascus' violent uprising over the past year that has left more than 7,000 dead. 

Iran has also played an instrumental role in building up Hezbollah's military capabilities over the years, which enabled the group's impressive military wing to oust Israel from south Lebanon in 2000. It also fought the Israeli army to a standstill in the summer of 2006 – a war sparked by Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers.

For Iran, Hezbollah's military strength serves as an important deterrent to any potential US or Israeli plan to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. If they strike Iran, the thinking goes, Iran could turn to Hezbollah to attack northern Israel.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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