Hezbollah's Penance: The Shiite Militia Works to Rebuild its Tarnished Image
4:00 PM, Mar 5, 2010 • By DAVID SCHENKER
The final piece of the puzzle in Hezbollah’s effort to rehabilitate its image at home and abroad is compensation for the victims of the Ezzedin Ponzi scheme. Because Hezbollah was so close to the financier, swindled Shiites—most of whom are supporters of the resistance—are petitioning the organization for financial restitution. And it’s not only the Lebanese. According to reports in the Arab press, several leading figures in Syria’s Assad regime, including Assad’s brother Maher and Vice President Farouk Shara’a also lost their investments, and are looking to Hezbollah—which captured Ezzedin on the lam with suitcases of cash in hand—to recoup some 17 million euros.
Not surprisingly, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on February 28 that some time ago Nasrallah had contacted Supreme Leader Khamenei, requesting $300 million in funding to stave off a “crisis of confidence” among his constituents. Khamenei approved the appeal, and according to Al-Siyasa, the funds were transferred to Nasrallah by Ahmedinajad when they met in Damascus last week.
With money in hand, Hezballah will be able to placate its supporters. By threatening Israel, the militia may even be able to again generate some buzz in the Arab world. What the last two years have demonstrated, however, is that if the “resistance” isn’t resisting (i.e., actively fighting) Israel, the Arab world has little use for the militia, particularly if it is attacking Sunnis at home and subverting Arab regimes abroad.
During the dinner in Damascus for Ahmedinajad and Nasrallah last week, Assad pledged his regime’s continued backing for Hezbollah. “To support the resistance is a moral, patriotic and legal duty,” he said. Four years after the last war with Israel and a following a string of Hezbollah miscues, although the Shiite militia dominates Lebanese politics, Assad’s sentiments today appear to be shared by a minority of Middle Easterners. While the organization is making great efforts to reverse the tide, absent another war with Israel, the decline of Arab support for Hezbollah is a regional trend that’s likely to continue.
David Schenker is Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Recent Blog Posts