All posts by aeldredge

You say “Hezbollah,” I say “Nasrallah.”

Donning his black turban, a subtle reminder that he is a descendant of Muhammad, Hassan Nasrallah reassures the Lebanese people after political events through televised speeches. Upon first glance you would assume Nasrallah is the President or Prime Minister of Lebanon; in actuality however, he is the Secretary General of Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel. Nasrallah holds official veto power in the government, as well as control of a powerful Shia militia, Hezbollah has substantial representation in Parliament, and he has an incredible 97% approval rating among Shiites. His ability, as a semi-authoritarian terrorist leader, to gain so much political leverage in the Lebanese government is partially attributed to his history of making military and political decisions that benefit Lebanon, as well as his social reforms and regular communication with the people, creating a extremely loyal following.
Nasrallah has a history of taking action, he was able to build a militia stronger than the Lebanese army by training grass-root fighters and inspiring them with religion. In 2000, he was credited with Israel leaving southern Lebanon and gained even more popularity after negotiating a prisoner exchange that released 400 Lebanese prisoners from Israel. In 2006, he was viewed as the leader of the war with Israel which became a matter of pride among the Lebanese, especially their refusal to surrender arms. Nasrallah’s popularity also increased as he personally oversaw to rebuilding of destroyed homes. In 2008, Nasrallah was even able to stage a takeover of rival party headquarters in Beirut further demonstrating his power.
Another aspect that has greatly contributed to his popularity is his welfare programs, many of which the Lebanese government has failed to provide. Nasrallah has set up successful schools, hospitals, and even sports groups. These facilitates are usually only open to Shiites or members of Hezbollah, which works to create strong bonds of loyalty. If people are not able to receive education or healthcare anywhere else they are unlikely to turn against Nasrallah.
Nasrallah also is known for regularly communicating with his people through televised speeches. The delivery of the speeches themselves are confident yet sincere sometimes even incorporating humor which is rare among religious figures but makes him more approachable. Nasrallah gives his speeches in Classical Arabic with a Lebanese dialect so he can reach more people. He has recently given a range of speeches including one after Saad Hariri’s resignation, where he in a very paternal nature promised to try to keep Lebanon safe and stable, skillfully trying to limit fear but alerting the people to the possibility of Saudi Arabian meddling. He also made a speech in October defending Hezbollah after US sanctions and criticism over their strong ties with Iran, and current fighting in Syria but he made sure to focus on the sacrifice especially parents are making allowing their children to go to war. Nasrallah himself lost a son to Israeli forces, and this personal sacrifice is viewed very favorably among Lebanese citizens, as is a rule he has set in place among his Shia militia that parents with only one child have a choice to send them to war. Through these speeches Nasrallah has created a possible illusion of transparency, but also of trust as he has a tendency to not make promises he cannot keep which has helped him in the long run.