According to the most commonly accepted version of its history, Hezbollah is a resistance movement. Yet that description fails to capture the true nature of this militant group. Hezbollah, in fact, wears three hats today. First, in its own words, it is a resistance movement. Second, it is also an Islamist political movement that engages in rounds of political bickering with rival non-Shiite parties within Lebanon. And third, it is a revolutionary movement formed around a special Shiite school of thought that seeks to establish an Islamic state based on the radical ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Wilayat al-Faqih or “rule of the jurist.”
Since its inception in 1982, Hezbollah has undergone several changes, metamorphosing from an Islamic resistance movement to a “state within a state” in Lebanon, committed to “liberation.” After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, the now-irrelevant resistance movement struggled to maintain its self-identity and ideological agenda. It did so by launching random attacks within a disputed sliver of land along the Lebanese-Israeli border, as well as by abducting Israeli soldiers for prisoner swap deals. But after the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, Hezbollah lost a vital political sponsor and was forced to deal with domestic politics in order to maintain both its regional agenda and its autonomy within Lebanon. Most important of all, Hezbollah still struggles to spread and impose an Islamic state based on the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih (or vilayat-e-faqih in Persian).