Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah

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Leader of Hezbollah


"Hezbollah’s an Islamic resistance that is respected by the Christians as well. It is mostly a Shi'ite resistance that is respected by the Sunni world, too. It is a Lebanese resistance that is respected by the Arabs and all non-Arab Muslims. It is a resistance that is viewed by all the oppressed and persecuted people in the third world and throughout the world as a model, example, and hope.”

“We will not lift our weapons in the face of anyone. We don't need weapons to defeat you—our weapons are only for the Israelis. We will defeat you with our voices."

"There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel."

"I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called 'Israel.' I consider its presence both unjust and unlawful. That is why if Lebanon concludes a peace agreement with Israel and brings that accord to the Parliament our deputies will reject it; Hezbollah refuses any conciliation with Israel in principle."


You were born on August 31, 1960 in East Beirut, the oldest of nine children. Your family wasn’t very religious but you became interested in religious studies and attended the Al Najah school and later public school in Sin el-Feel, Beirut.

In 1975, the civil war in Lebanon forced your family to move to their ancestral home in Bassouriyeh, Lebanon. You stopped your secondary education at this time and joined the Amal Movement, a political group representing Lebanon’s neglected Shiites. You then moved studied Shiite theology for three years in Iraq before returning to Lebanon in 1978, where you studied under Amal’s leader Sheikh Abbas al-Musawi. A few years later, Amal elected you as its political delegate in Bikaa, making you a member of the central political office.

You are married to Fatima Yassin and live in South Beirut with your four remaining children; your eldest son was killed by Israeli forces in Southern Lebanon in September 1997.

Public Life:

After the 1982 Israeli invasion, you joined Hezbollah and dedicated yourself to the liberation of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah was born to resist the Israeli occupation and has its ideological foundations in the Iranian Revolution, drawing funding, training, and support from both Iran and Syria. It is considered a terrorist group by many nations (especially the West) because of its guerrilla tactics and status as a military entity separate from the LAF. During the height of the Israeli occupation and Lebanese civil war, Hezbollah was responsible for attacks on Western and Israeli targets, including car bombings and abductions.

That year, despite your commitment to Hezbollah, you were determined to resume your religious education to become a religious jurisprudent. In 1989, you moved to the sacred Iranian city of Qum to continue your studies. In February 1992, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Musawi was ambushed and killed by the Israelis. Although Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem was next in the line of succession, you were appointed Musawi’s successor at the insistence of Ayatollah Khamenei.

Under your leadership, Hezbollah’s resistance was one of the main factors that led to the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000, ending 22 years of occupation. While you cannot claim full credit for Hezbollah's performance on the battlefield, you were largely responsible for its sophisticated use of psychological warfare. Although the Israeli pullout earned you acclaim throughout the Arab world, your most enduring accomplishment of the 1990s was the transformation of Hezbollah from a secretive revolutionary group despised by most non-Shiites, into a major social and political force in southern Lebanon. During this time, Hezbollah poured enormous sums of money into building and consolidating an extensive social welfare network in Shiite regions, including schools, clinics, and subsidized housing in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Owing to the fact that you have thus provided services to the Shiite community which the Lebanese government has not, you command the primary political allegiance of almost 40% of Lebanon; combined with your paramilitary wing, this makes you the ruler of a virtual state within a state, flush with money from your patrons, the governments of Syria and Iran. Across sectarian lines, you have gained respect, if not love, for your famous incorruptibility, which stands in stark contrast to the venality of Lebanon’s traditional Maronite and Sunni rulers.

In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the first since Syria ended its occupation of Lebanon, Hezbollah won two cabinet seats in the Lebanese government. This victory solidified Hezbollah's move from paramilitary organization to a legitimate political party.

The July War of 2006

In July 2006, under your orders Hezbollah special forces infiltrated northern Israel, abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, with the intention of conducting a prisoner exchange for Hezbollah loyalists imprisoned in Israel. The Israeli response stymied your plans: from July 13 until August 14, Israel launched a punishing air and ground offensive across the entirety of Lebanon, with the declared goal of liberating their soldiers and destroying Hezbollah as a military organization. It was a war which both sides had been long in preparing: while Israel had clearly been looking for a good excuse to legitimize the destruction of Hezbollah, you had been equally busy, and the invading Israeli troops soon realized that under your leadership Hezbollah had become one of the world's most deadly irregular militias, supplied with the latest Russian and Iranian military equipment, and protected by a complex system of bunkers and tunnels. By the second week of the war, Israelis felt that they had been lured into a Hezbollah trap, and your units' continued success at guerilla warfare against the Israeli army quickly made Hezbollah the most popular Islamic movement in the Middle East, amongst Sunnis as well as Shiites. During the war you rained Katyusha rockets down on the Israeli port of Haifa, and used still-unidentified weapons to attack Israeli ships in the Mediterranean. While your organization was seriously weakened during the course of the fighting, mounting Israeli public pressure brought the war to a close on August 14. While supporters of Israel trumpeted Israel's victory, much of the world disagreed: Hezbollah, an irregular military force, had survived after 32 days of fighting one of the world's best militaries, all the while firing missiles into Israel with impunity. UN Resolution 1701, which brought an official end to the conflict, called for the establishment of a strengthened international force on the Lebanese-Israeli border, but this force has declared that they will not disarm you: you remained the leader of Lebanon's sole surviving sectarian militia, completely rearmed by Iran after the war. Now, however, you also possessed a new respectability that has enabled you to challenge the Lebanese government directly.

Parliamentary Crisis:

You emerged from the July War with a private army and more credibility than any other single political figure in Lebanon. Likewise, since February 2006, you had the political support of the legendary Maronite leader Michel Aoun, who supported your stance against corruption in the government. In December 2006 you finally flexed your political muscle, and withdrew all Shiite ministers from the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. You demanded greater representation for Shiites in the Lebanese government, in keeping with unacknowledged demographic realities and the simple fact that you already virtually rule southern Lebanon as a Hezbollah fiefdom. Siniora and his allies, including the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, resisted your demands and accused you of trying to start a new civil war. You responded with a series of protests that brought one million of your supporters into Beirut and paralyzed the Siniora government. Aoun’s Christians joined these protests, and promised to march on parliament itself if your demands were not met. Attempts at mediation failed, and this political stalemate persisted for 17 months, culminating in Hezbollah's seizure of West Beirut in May 2008. Sparked by the declaration by Saad Hariri's Future Movement that Hezbollah's telecommunications network was illegal and the removal of Beirut Airport's security chief over alleged ties to Hezbollah, the speedy takeover resulted in violent clashes between Future Movement militiamen and those of Hezbollah. The Lebanese Army stepped in to prevent further violence, but the crisis was not resolved until the army ruled to preserve Hezbollah's telecommunications network, and reinstated the airport security chief. In the Doha Agreement, reached on May 21, 2008, a national unity cabinet was approved and a revised census (that acknowledged the growth of the Shi'a population) allowed Hezbollah to secure governmental veto power with eleven out of thirty cabinet seats.  The June 2009 elections were essentially a proxy battle for regional political influence, fought between your Iran/Syria-backed opposition and the US-backed "pro-Western" March 14 coalition. Although the Hezbollah-led opposition failed to win a majority, an agreement with Prime Minister Saad Hariri allowed them to retain veto power, and in December 2009, the national unity government adopted a bill to allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons, counter to UN Resolution 1701 that called for Hezbollah's disarmament. 

Hariri’s government was often deadlocked, however, and the situation was not helped when the Prime Minister personally informed you of impending indictments of Hezbollah members in the case of his father’s assassination, then being investigated by the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon.In 2010, the (relative) calm that has prevailed over the Levant since 2006 seems more precarious than ever. First, the impending indictments of members of Hezbollah for involvement in Rafik Hariri's assassination have increased fears of renewed sectarian violence in Lebanon, while you call for an investigation of possible Israeli involvement. Initially, Syria was blamed for the murder, but after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) declared evidence against several suspects to be insufficient, blame shifted in May 2010 when PM Saad Hariri personally informed you of impending indictments of Hezbollah members and made some conciliatory moves, assuring you that the accused would be treated as rogue elements of Hezbollah. However, you rejected the evidence against Hezbollah members and offered some of your own countering the assertions against Hezbollah members and affiliates. It is uncertain how you, the government, and the Lebanese public will react to the official accusations. In August, you claimed to have "proof" of Israeli involvement, in the form of video footage from Israeli surveillance drones that included images of routes frequented by the late Prime Minister, including the site of his death. In a news conference, you also aired the confessions of an Israeli agent who claimed he was tasked with convincing Hariri's men of Hezbollah's role in the assassination. You yourself consider this evidence inconclusive, and you urged Hariri to reject the STL results, stating that you will reject its findings on the basis of bias. However, at the urging of Western backers to his Sunni-led government, particularly the US and France, Hariri resisted, prompting the resignations of 11 Hezbollah-allied government ministers. While many feared that Lebanon could go for years without a new government, as had already happened from 2006-8 following a similar Shiite-led walk-out, a new cabinet was announced five months later under a March 8th-supported PM, Najib Mikati.

In 2013, Mikati resigned. At the time of his resignation, the Syrian civil war had begun to take its toll on Lebanon, with armed conflict flaring up Tripoli – the capital of Mikati’s home district – resulting in more than 12 dead and 100 injured. Mikati had wanted to hold new parliamentary elections, which would probably have given the anti-Assad March 14th Coalition another majority. However, this would not have sat well with you, as you were then and you continue working to support Assad, both politically and militarily. You therefore used your members’ position in the March 8th Coalition to hijack the elections, in part by refusing to appoint members to the Supervisory Commission for Election Campaigns. After Mikati’s resignation, the parliamentary election was cancelled, and in 2014 President Michel Suleiman’s term expired. These two factors meant that from 2014 to the end of 2016, Prime Minister Tamam Salam served as both Prime Minister and President. Meanwhile the members of Parliament, having last been elected in 2009, continued to extend their own terms of office. Hezbollah has been a major beneficiary of this dysfunction, particularly since October 31, 2016, when after 43 rounds of voting in parliament and 29 month of deadlock, your ally Michel Aoun was elected president. The deciding factor in his election was Saad Hariri’s support, which he had announced earlier in October. To some extent, this change of heart reflected Saudi Arabia’s decreased presence in Lebanese internal politics, partially due to their ongoing war in Yemen, and partially due to their dissatisfaction with the growing influence of Hezbollah. Without their traditional backing, Hariri felt the need to throw his support behind a compromise candidate, and was rewarded himself when Aoun, in his capacity as president, asked him to form a new government on November 3rd, and appointed him Prime Minister on December 18th.

Goals and Concerns:

Your traditional goals changed drastically as a result of the July 2006 War, and your new priorities are more pragmatic than your previous desire to create a Shiite theocracy in Lebanon. Simply put, as a result of the Israeli onslaught, much of Lebanon has been leveled, and almost 30% of its population has been internally displaced. You skillfully managed public opinion during the war, and most Lebanese grudgingly praised you as the defender of the country (including Siniora and Jumblatt). All the same, the Lebanese have not forgotten that you bear direct responsibility for the war in the first place. In August 2006 you publicly apologized for abducting Israel’s soldiers, claiming that you never predicted the severity of the Israeli response. To keep the greater public from turning against you, including your own Shiites who suffered terribly in the war, you have begun rebuilding Lebanon’s infrastructure on a massive scale, spending so much Iranian money that Shiites have begun calling Hezbollah’s rebuilding effort “The Flood of Green.” As of February 2010, according to a Pew Research Center poll, 97 percent of Lebanese Shi'a have a favorable view of Hezbollah.  A secondary result of the war was the installment of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Should the Lebanese government ask for it, this force could be empowered to disarm your organization, pursuant to UN Resolution 1701. Your successful acquisition of cabinet seats and veto power have safeguarded Hezbollah from this fate. You do not want, or need, total control of the Lebanese government—you know the other sects would never tolerate that in any case. You do not want to overthrow the parliamentary system, but are content to make sure that it cannot threaten your interests, which during this period of rebuilding amount to simple survival for Hezbollah. 

Your foreign backers, Iran and Syria, have become a complicating factor for Hezbollah’s political agenda. Many sources observe that you are a Lebanese nationalist first, and a Shiite revolutionary group second. It has been years since you truly agitated for an Islamic regime in Lebanon, and though you publicly call for the destruction of Israel, it isn’t at the top of your agenda by any means. Unfortunately, your organization still thrives on Iranian money and weapons smuggled through Syria, and this means you are obligated to pursue Iran’s agenda vis-à-vis Israel and the United States. , an agenda which since 2013 has included military support to the Assad regime in Syria. As Iran and the US move closer to military engagement, the Iranian regime has decided to use Hezbollah as a forward weapon against America’s closest regional ally, Israel. The July War was essentially a proxy war between America and Iran: Israel invaded Lebanon with American weaponry, and Hezbollah fought back with Iranian missiles, while Lebanon paid the price. Though you remain loyal to the Iranian clergy, this is a sore point for you, which your opponents have been quick to exploit. Even though you have a proven track record of providing for your community, you are still in bed with two foreign governments that do not care about the welfare of the Lebanese people, and one of these is Syria, which occupied Lebanon for nearly 20 years. Your overt loyalties to Iran and Syria will be tolerated so long as you continue to use their patronage to support the Lebanese Shiites, but the carnage of the July War has brought home the point that you may not be able to serve two masters. 

Your relationship with other Islamic political movements is nuanced. While many Western nations label Hezbollah a "terrorist organization," you do not see it as such, nor do you endorse many other "terrorist" groups, such as the Taliban or al-Qaida or ISIS. Indeed, in reference to these groups' attacks on Americans, you have said that "it is unacceptable, it is forbidden, to harm the innocent." You have even accused America and Saudi Arabia of supporting ISIS, for the purpose of doing harm to Islam, and have used Donald Trump’s 2016 accusation that Obama was the “founder” of ISIS to support your claim. However, you have a different view of Hamas and its operations. Of car bombings in Israel, you say that "There [are] no other means for the Palestinians to defend themselves." Hence, you have met with Khaled Meshaal as recently as July 2010, and Hezbollah is rumored to provide military and financial backing to Hamas, which considers Hezbollah a paradigm for its movement. 

Role-Playing Notes:

You are the most respected Islamist leader in the Middle East, commander of the world’s preeminent guerilla organization, and virtual master of southern Lebanon. You have been called the most dangerous leader in the Arab world, and the rising power of your Iranian backers has only increased your influence. All the same, you are not a megalomaniac, and your goals are pragmatic: you despise the US and Israel, but you do not condone groups like al-Qaida that indiscriminately slaughter civilians, and you would rather control events in Lebanon than seek the destruction of Israel. You are a revolutionary figure, and this means that you have to keep up a tough public persona, but on a practical level your goals are directed squarely at protecting and empowering Lebanon’s Shiite community.

The Shiites are Lebanon’s poorest, most neglected sect, and it has been your lifework to empower them by any means necessary. In the process you have become a paramilitary commander (some would say terrorist mastermind) but you pursue revolutionary change within the framework of Lebanese society, with the goal of empowering your community first and foremost. This is why you have created a militia and press for more influence in government; while you dream of a world without Israel, you are not about to sacrifice your power, or the well-being of your community, by vainly attacking Israel. You will hurt Israel whenever you can get away with it, as this increases your own credibility and guarantees the support of your backers, but after the July War you are unlikely to risk arousing Israel’s ire in the near future. For now, you have more immediate goals: gain a controlling interest in the Lebanese cabinet, rebuild your community’s infrastructure, and ensure the survival of Hezbollah as a military organization. Israel can be destroyed later.


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