The Lebanese Twelver Shi'i political party and paramilitary movement (Hezbollah, Hizballah, Hizbollah), is preparing to welcome Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon during his state visit today (Oct. 13). He will meet with both Lebanon's president, Michel Sulayman (Suleiman), and prime minister, Sa'd al-Hariri, and will tour southern Lebanon, including Hizbullah strongholds such as the village of Bint Jbeil. It will be his first state visit to Lebanon since 2005.
Ahmadinejad's visit has been heavily criticized as "provocative" by members of the March 14 political bloc in parliament. His visit is largely seen as public support for the Iranian government's key regional ally in Lebanon, Hizbullah. Unsurprisingly, the United States government has also criticized the planned visit.
The party has actively been promoting its Lebanese identity though key tensions remain due to its continued adherence to the concept of wilayat al-faqih (authority of the jurisconsult) as detailed by Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni, the guide of the Islamization of Iran's 1978-1979 revolution.
Hizbullah is a product of the Lebanese historical and social milieu, despite claims by some analysts, yet it cannot be denied that the party, or more accurately its leadership, is a key ally of the Iranian government in the region. Informal data suggests that most of the party's members, however, do not follow the religious opinions and rulings of Iran's current "supreme leader," al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, who claims to be a marja' al-taqlid (reference point for emulation) despite his questionable scholarship (or lack thereof, as he essentially mimics Khumayni). Most Hizbullah members reportedly follow Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Sistani in al-Najaf, Iraq, or, before his July 4 death, Lebanon's resident Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Immediately following the latter's death, Hizbullah made a naked bid to win over followers of Fadlallah by dedicating much space to his obituary, viewing, and funeral, despite disagreements between the party's leadership, headed by al-Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, and the grand ayatullah.