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Will Iran's political turmoil shake Hezbollah?

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The ideology of wilayet al-faqih is seen as a temporary measure pending the return of Imam Mehdi, who disappeared 1,000 years ago and was the last of 12 successors, recognized by Shiites, to the prophet Muhammad. His return, many pious Shiites believe, will usher in an era of perfect justice and global Islamic government.

Because the wilayet al-faqih is a relatively new concept, all fresh recruits to Hezbollah pass through a preparatory stage in which they are taught the tenets of the theory along with lessons in religion, politics, cultural, and social issues, as well as military training. The idea is to maintain ideological commitment.

Key decisions directly influenced by supreme leader

An example of the influence held by the supreme leader extends back to Hezbollah's founding in 1982, which came after Khomeini declared armed resistance to Israel's occupation of Lebanon a religious duty.

At the end of the 1975-90 civil war in Lebanon, a heated debate erupted inside Hezbollah over whether to submit candidates for the 1992 parliamentary elections or to maintain its ideological rejection of Lebanon's sectarian political system. Unable to reach internal consensus, Hezbollah sought Khameini's advice and he decreed integration into Lebanese politics. Since then, Hezbollah has become an important player in the Lebanese parliament.

"To participate [in parliament] or not to participate? The decision was to participate," Sheikh Qassem says. "Accept the occupation [by Israel in 1982] or resist the occupation and liberate the land? And the decision was to liberate the land."

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