Lebanon Table of Contents
The importance of Iran to Lebanon's foreign relations increased in the 1980s. Following the success of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini was anxious to spread its message to other Shias. This message found an audience in Lebanon's chronically downtrodden Shia community. Iran provided financial and inspirational support to several Lebanese Shia organizations in the early 1980s. Then, in 1982, as a show of solidarity against the Israeli invasion, a contingent of the Pasdaran arrived and established a base near Baalbek in the Biqa Valley. These units not only operated as a defense force but also set up medical facilities to serve the local populace.
In the late 1980s, Iranian-sponsored groups stepped up efforts to gain support among Lebanese Shias by providing sorely needed economic relief and social services. These groups (in particular Hizballah, which was reported to be receiving substantial financial aid from Iran) were able to use Iranian resources to run hospitals, pay families' school fees, remove refuse, and participate in housing reconstruction. These actions frequently drew supporters away from Amal, which for the most part was allied to Syria; Amal simply was unable to distribute the same level of aid as was Hizballah (see Sectarian Groups , this ch.).
For Western nations, the most significant aspect of Iran's influence in Lebanon has been the acceptance of the Islamic Republic's "antiforeign" rhetoric. In accordance with this principle, some extremist Shias, many acting under the name of the Islamic Jihad Organization, have carried out violent acts against the foreign community (see Internal Security and Terrorism , ch. 5).
Data as of December 1987