Hezbollah, or Party of God, is an informal umbrella group of Shiite
Muslim militants in Lebanon that advocates the creation of an
Islamic republic there. Formed in about 1983, it places Islam above
Arab nationalism and has demanded that Westerners leave Lebanon and
that Christians there be tried for crimes against Muslims.
Hezbollah's more than 5,000 members, subsidized and trained by Iran,
are concentrated in the southern slums of Beirut and al - Biqa
(Bekaa) Valley; they become martyrs if they sacrifice their lives
in what is considered a holy war.|
The 1989 death of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and a Syrian brokered Lebanese peace accord led to a decline in Hezbollah's influence in the early 1990s. Hezbollah's tactics and shadowy nature frustrated conventional political, diplomatic, and military strategies and contributed to a U S foreign policy scandal, the Iran Contra Affair. After the Persian Gulf War (1991), in an effort to end its international isolation, the Iranian government persuaded Hezbollah groups to release some hostages.
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