Q: In the Shiite parts of Baghdad, we keep seeing these huge posters of this mean-looking pudgy dude in a black turban. At first I thought it was Muqtada al-Sadr, but someone told me it was the leader of Palestine. What’s he doing in Iraq? What’s up with that?
A: That would be Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanese political group Hezbollah, which means, in Arabic, “the party of God.” Nasrallah, who is Lebanese, pursued religious studies in the 1970s in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, considered a holy city by Shiites. It was there that he grew close to Mohammed al-Sadr, the father of Shiite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the face of today’s Shiite resistance in Iraq.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State, which credits the group with the suicide attacks on American targets in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, as well as several kidnappings in Lebanon.
In Iraq, Hezbollah originally began as an anti-Saddam underground party that had no affiliation with the main Hezbollah. These days, however, the original Hezbollah has made its presence felt in Iraq, setting up offices in southern Iraq and coordinating with the resistance.
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