Monday, August 28, 2006

“Al-Jihad” - Exporting the radical ideology of the Islamic revolution in Iran

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center: a translation (part one)
“Exporting” the radical ideology of the Islamic revolution in Iran : Analysis of a booklet entitled “Al-Jihad(holy war) found in the possession of Hezbollah operatives during the Second Lebanon War. The booklet, presents the Islamic teachings of Khamenei, an ideology based on jihad and shahada (martyrdom for the sake of Allah)1

Jihad (holy war): the cover of the booklet published by the Imam Khomeini Culture Center in Harat Hreik,
in Beirut 's southern suburb. Right: a photograph of Khamenei, the Iranian leader, over an image
of three fighters (most probably representing the Hezbollah fighters)


In the course of the Second Lebanon War, four copies of a 64-page booklet entitled Al-Jihad (i.e., the Muslims' holy war against infidels) were seized from Hezbollah's stronghold in Maroun al-Ras. The booklet analyzes the religious Islamic meaning of jihad on the basis of the worldview of Khamenei, the leader of the Iranian regime. The contents of this booklet, in our assessment, indicate that it was originally meant for Iran 's armed forces, mainly the Revolutionary Guards, mentioned in Khamenei's numerous citations. 3 READ MORE

The booklet, which does not contain any mention of its author or editor, was published in 2004 by the Imam Khomeini Culture Center, named after the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Lebanese main branch of this Iranian-based institution was situated, as may be seen on the back cover, in Harat Hreik, in Beirut 's southern Shi'ite suburb 4 (the Hezbollah stronghold, heavily bombed by the Israeli Air Force during the Second Lebanon War).

The fact that several copies of the booklet were found among Hezbollah's operatives on the ground on front-line outposts may testify that they use it as an authoritative Islamic ideological guidebook, especially since, in practice, Hassan Nasrallah serves as Khamenei's top representative in Lebanon, and was formerly even titled Khamenei's “representative in matters pertaining to religious law” in Lebanon. 5 The booklet contains numerous citations of Khamenei, described in the book as “wali” 6 and “Imam”, two titles used to describe the leaders of Shi'ite Muslims. The format of the booklet is that of an ideological Shi'ite Islamic philosophical text, citing verses from the Quran and Shi'ite traditions in order to provide religious backing to Khamenei's concept of jihad (holy war).

Generally, the booklet considers jihad to be a doctrine and a program of action, using which a Muslim may “sacrifice his life for the sake of Allah and attain paradise”. The highest expression of jihad is shahada, martyrdom for the sake of Allah, being a reward given to the Muslim warrior who dies on the battlefield. It should be noted that both jihad and shahada are two central components in the Islamic religious worldview of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, and that of his successor, Ali Khamenei. This radical Islamic worldview is spread and disseminated in Lebanon among Hezbollah in particular and the Shi'ite community in general, through the use of intensive indoctrination activities (da'wa). In our assessment, it comprises the Islamic religious ideological basis on which Iran 's armed forces are indoctrinated, as well as the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Lebanon . 7

The significance of this ideology is that in Hezbollah's view, its warriors are not merely Lebanese but first and foremost Shi'ite Muslims, jihad warriors performing a vital religious duty of holy war which involves self-sacrifice for the sake of Allah. In our assessment, this ideology, in which the fighters are indoctrinated, certainly increases their motivation in their struggle against the IDF and their persistent struggle against the State of Israel (which is not mentioned by name in this booklet of ideological-philosophical character).

The jihadist-Islamic (Shi'ite) identity of Hezbollah, which exists alongside its “Lebanese” identity, therefore comprises a key component in the organization's ideology. 8 Surrendering this jihadist-Islamic identity, the practical implications of which would be disarmament and cessation of fighting against Israel, are viewed by the organization as surrendering a religious Islamic principle, rather than a strictly military act that is supposed to take place under external or internal political pressure. It may be assumed, against this ideological background, that Hezbollah will remain inflexible in its adamant refusal to disarm, as required in UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701. Therefore, it will strive to “dissolve” those clauses demanding its disarmament both in north and south Lebanon , with the obvious support of Khamenei and its other Iranian sponsors.

Unique characteristics in Khamenei's view of jihad

According to Khamenei's ideology, jihad is both a doctrine and a program of action. However, traditional Sunni Islam considers jihad to be solely a modus operandi, and it does not place it at the center of its worldview (the exceptions are radical Sunni-Islamic organizations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Liberation Party, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami).

The view of jihad espoused by Imam Khomeini and his successor, Khamenei, is not based merely on classical Islamic sources. On the contrary, while classical Sunni Islam lacks, for instance, the concept of the war of Islam against the West, Khamenei's view of jihad uses modern Western terminology (as may be seen in the booklet) or coins new terms in order to incorporate practical contents into the view of Islam as a doctrine and a program of action. For example: Jihad al-Binaa' (the jihad of construction), which means establishing civilian and military infrastructures to reinforce the country or the organization (Hezbollah). 9 It should be noted that Sunni-Islamic terrorist organizations, such as Hamas or Al-Qaeda, also make use of modern terminology alongside traditional Islamic terminology.

Khamenei, preaching an ideology in which jihad takes a center stage, does not do so solely in his capacity as Shi'ite-Muslim cleric, but also as the leader of the Iranian regime and the supreme commander of Iran 's armed forces. He is therefore vested with the governmental authority to allocate significant resources to realize his worldview and turn it into reality. Conversely, in Sunni Islam it is only the caliph, the leader of the believers (a position which does not exist in modern times), who may declare jihad. So far, no Arab country has espoused jihad as an official strategy. Similarly to Khamenei's ideology, Sunni-Muslim fundamentalism also emphasizes jihad, as is exemplified by the Al-Qaeda organization.

Khamenei's worldview is “exported” to Lebanon in order to disseminate it among Shi'ite Muslims and turn Hezbollah into the spearhead of the implementation of the Iranian view of jihad, a kind of Lebanese branch of the Iranian armed forces. In the Iranian view, the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon is the prime (and only) example of the Islamic revolution in Iran being successfully “exported”, an example that also bears upon the Sunni world (in which Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has gained much popular support in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, being perceived as an Arab (rather than Iranian) leader who was able to show “steadfastness” vis-a-vis the IDF). 10

The Hezbollah organization is therefore a unique example of a terrorist organization with Islamic-jihadist ideology rooted in the Quran and Shi'ite traditions, heavily supported and assisted by Iran . The latter considers it to be an important instrument in the struggle against Israel and in the realization of its aspirations for hegemony in the Middle East . Iran also assists Sunni-Muslim Palestinian terrorist organizations (Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas); however, these do not enjoy the many resources received by the Hezbollah organization, which is clearly favored by the Iranian regime.

1 The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center would like to thank Dr. Shimon Shapira and Dr. Soli Shahvar for their comments on the document.

2 Part II will be published shortly.

3 The booklet, which bears a general ideological-philosophical character, does not explicitly mention Hezbollah, in the possession of whose operatives it was found.

4 The “ Culture Center ” has other branches in Lebanon , such as in Baalbek . Among other activities, such “Culture Centers” are engaged in disseminating radical political ideology, exported by the Islamic revolution in Iran .

5 In the mid-1990s, Iranian leader Khamenei appointed Hassan Nasrallah his religious Islamic representative (wakil shar'i) in Lebanon . In recent years, it seems that, in view of his workload as secretary-general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah was forced to give up his title, which was transferred to senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek. However, the media and the internet sometimes still assign this title to Hassan Nasrallah.

6 Wali is short for “Wali Amr al-Muslimin”, meaning the leader of all (Shi'ite) Muslims. This is the title carried by Khamenei, who, despite being Khomeini's successor, did not receive the latter's title (Wali Faqih) since his level of achievements in Islamic religious law was inferior to that of Khomeini or other senior ayatollahs. The compromise achieved was that Khamenei would be called “leader”.

7 In his interrogation, Hussein Ali Suleiman, a Hezbollah terrorist taken captive during the war, described his training in Lebanon and Iran during his activity for the organization. Among other things, he noted that the basic training also included religion classes (a summary of the findings of his interrogation can be found in our Information Bulletin entitled: “Hezbollah operative captured during the ongoing confrontation admitted … ”, published on August 8).

8 In an interview recently granted by Abdallah Safi al-Din, Hezbollah's representative in Iran , to Iranian daily Sharq, he was called to address a statement made by Mohtashemi Pour, a senior Iranian figure who played a key role in the establishment of Hezbollah, according to which Hezbollah is the spiritual product of Imam Khomeini, Iran , and Iran 's Islamic revolution. Safi al-Din replied: “Imam Khomeini had teachings, and we love those teachings and accept them. Our relations with Iran on that basis are firm, and I think that was Mohtashemi Pour's meaning” (Sharq, August 21, 2006).

9 A number of revolutionary organizations were created following the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran ; they were designed to provide an immediate solution to urgent needs. One such organization was Jihad-e Sazandegi (jihad of building/construction), whose goal was to assist anti-royalist families whose houses had been damaged under the Pahlavi (ex-Shah) rule, during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, as well as to solve the pressing housing problems of the weak and traditional sectors of society. Hezbollah's Jihad al-Binaa', currently helping rebuild the infrastructures damaged in the Second Lebanon War, is another expression of replicating/imitating the Iranian model in Lebanon .

10 Most Arab regimes, however, fear Hezbollah, considering it to be an organization that implements the policy of the Iranian regime.