Dr. Shapira tells us the story of Hizballah's evolution and deciphers for us the secrets and enigmas of its career: How did it take control of Lebanon's Shi'ite community and, indirectly, of the Lebanese political system and state? How does Iran control and use the organization? Is it still a pure instrument of Iranian policy or is it also a self-standing Lebanese movement and party? What explains Hassan Nasrallah's unique style of leadership? - and so on and so forth. Those who thought that the story of Hizballah begins in 1982 will discover its roots in Iranian policy and investment in the Shi'a of Lebanon in the days of the Shah. That early history and more contemporary events shed light on a question that preoccupies students of Iranian policy in the Middle East: To what extent is it an iseological policy of a revolutionary Islamist regime and to what extent is it a new incarnation of Persian imperial policy?Whatever the answer to this question, Iran's ambition and activism in the Middle East after 1979 have served to transform the Middle Eastern political arena.
Specialists and lay leaders are preoccupied by a series of questions regarding Hizballah, Lebanon and Iran. Could the Lebanese state be revived? At a moment of decision will Hizballah obey Iranian orders, launching missiles and rockets at Israel at a terrible price for Lebanon? Will the Iranian Revolution run its course and present the Middle East and the world with a different Iranian regime and a different set of policies? Those of us who seek answers to these and other intriguing questions will be well served by reading this illuminating book.
Shimon Shapira is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He holds a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University.