Syria and the Sons of Kerbala: Critically comparing the Syrian policies of Hezbollah and the Sadrist Movement

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Mike Clark (Darwin College, University of Cambridge)
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 13:10 to 14:00

It has often been assumed that the Iraqi Sadrist Movement is, to all intents and purposes, a replica of the Lebanese Hezbollah. This is a consequence of the assertion that the Sadrist Movement is following the so-called “Hezbollah model”. Notwithstanding that this model remains largely unexplored, the assertion is ostensibly based on the “guns and butter” strategy common to both parties, namely the provision of both social and security services where the state is weak or absent. It also alludes to a number of other shared traits and the widely noted genealogical and contemporary links.

However, with the advent of the Syrian Civil War, the weaknesses in this position have been revealed. A striking divergence can be seen between the policies of these two groups towards the conflict; whilst Hezbollah has thrown its full weight behind Assad's regime, the Sadrist Movement has been openly critical of Hezbollah and other militias for such interference and has sought to maintain a largely isolationist position.

Focusing particularly on the Syrian case study, this paper unpacks the analogy drawn between the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi Sadrist Movement and highlights its weaknesses. It advances the argument that there are a number of compelling reasons to be critical of the assertion that the Sadrist Movement is following the “Hezbollah model”, not least the striking differences in political ideology and identity.

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