Report - November 14, 2018
Iran has long held substantial influence over Lebanese affairs through its proxy militia and political force, Hezbollah, which was founded in 1982 with the assistance of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has sought to export its radical ideology and through Hezbollah, Iran “bought and subverted their way into the vulnerable country [of Lebanon].” Hezbollah, the Shi’a “Party of God,” effectively operates as a “state within a state” and Iran directly funds the group with approximately $100 to $200 million annually. In 2012, the IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani stated “Southern Lebanon is under [the] influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ‘performance’ and ‘thought.’”
Through Hezbollah, Iran has gained a launch pad for attacks against its avowed enemy Israel and allowed it to expand its influence in the region at the expense of the U.S. When necessary, Hezbollah has assassinated prominent political opponents that sought to disarm it and remove Syrian and Iranian influence from Lebanese politics, like Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and former Finance Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. Mohamad Chatah in 2013. One week before his murder, Chatah publicly wrote to Iranian President Rouhani: “It is an undisputed fact that Iran's Revolutionary Guard continues to maintain a strategic military relationship with Hezbollah” and “maintains an independent and heavily armed military force outside the authority of the state.”
Iran has significant economic influence in Lebanon. In 2010 Iranian President Ahmadinejad toured Lebanon, boasting of the Iranian money and arms sent to rejuvenate Hezbollah after the 2006 war with Israel, including “up to $1.1 billion in aid from Iran” to rebuilding damaged areas damaged. The southern Beirut suburb and Hezbollah stronghold of al-Dahiyeh received $400 million alone for reconstruction projects, half of which came from Iran. Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghadanfar Rokon Abadi, stated that the reconstruction projects are “instrumental to our support to the resistance against Israel in Lebanon.”
Iran provides critical military support to Hezbollah in Lebanon in the form of armaments and training, which enables it pose a significant military threat to the Israeli home front like in the 2006 Lebanon War. At that time, Hezbollah had approximately 13,000 short and medium-range rockets which could directly threaten northern Israel. Since then, however, Iran has exponentially increased its military aidto Hezbollah. As of 2015, Hezbollah now has an expanded arsenal of “over 100,000 rockets and missiles,” including “long-range systems” which threaten all of Israel.
According to a 2013 Pew survey the majority of Lebanese (58%) view Iran unfavorably. 85% of Lebanese believe “Iran has either a fair amount or great deal of influence in [Lebanon’s] domestic affairs.”