Hezbollah’s Existential Calculus
Although some in Lebanon hail members of the militant group as national heroes, others call them outright terrorists who are dragging the country into an unwinnable war. The future of Hezbollah–and perhaps its imitators and spawn across the Middle East–would seem to hang in the balance over this conflict.
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BEIRUT, July 13 — The radical Shiite movement Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, hold an effective veto in Lebanese politics, and the group’s military prowess has heartened its supporters at home and abroad in the Arab world. But that same force of arms has begun to endanger Hezbollah’s long-term standing in a country where critics accuse it of dragging Lebanon into an unwinnable conflict the government neither chose nor wants to fight.
“To a certain Arab audience and Arab elite, Nasrallah is a champion, but the price is high,” said Walid Jumblatt, a member of parliament and leader of Lebanon’s Druze community. “We are paying a high price.”
The conflict will likely prove a turning point in the history of the movement, which was created with Iranian patronage in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It has since evolved from a terrorist organization blamed for two attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 Marines, into a sprawling movement with a member and supporter in Lebanon’s cabinet, a militia that effectively controls southern Lebanon, and an infrastructure that delivers welfare to its Shiite constituency, Lebanon’s largest community.
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