Sheikh Hasan Nasrullah is the leader of Hezbollah.
Hasan Nasrullah, born August 31, 1960, in Beirut, moved back to South Lebanon with his family in 1975 at the outbreak of civil war, where he “became a devoted Shi'ite Muslim.”
Nasrullah continued his religious studies in South Lebanon and in Najaf, Iraq, not becoming involved in military activities until 1987 in Beirut, followed by more religious studies in Qom, Iran. He returned once again to Lebanon in 1989, becoming a "member of Hezbollah's central military committee at the age of 29." While yet only thirty-one years old, and "many years younger than most clerics," he was "regarded politically and religiously inexperienced." His ultimate success is attributed in part to the fact that, "while always appealing to the Shi'ites, he never mentioned pan-Shi'ite loyalties, and always claimed to be speaking for Lebanon," gaining for him "a fairly large following among the Sunnis of Lebanon as well."
In the 1970s, "Nasrullah requested the protection of no one, claiming that Hezbollah can do well in South Lebanon without assistance from the Lebanese army" and his "attacks on Israel usually resulted in retaliatory attacks on South Lebanon." When, in 1999, Israel's new prime minister Ehud Barak bombed Beirut, it caused discontent "among non-Shi'ite civilians who did not want to pay the price for Nasrullah's war." A year later, however, on May 24, 2000, "Nasrullah liberated South Lebanon from the Israeli occupation it had been under since 1978 [and] was hailed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as a great leader, the only Arab to fight a war and emerge victorious against Israel since 1948."
In 2003, at the U.S. Institute of Peace, "then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said that Hezbollah was an 'A-team' of 'terrorists' with a 'blood debt' to the US, in reference to the bombing of a US Marine Corps base at Beirut airport in 1983, widely believed to be the doing of the Amal militias that became Hezbollah in 1985. Armitage threatened that Hezbollah's time would come, and meanwhile, think tanks, US media and neo-conservatives described the Shi'ite militias as the next al-Qaeda."
Adapted from: Sami Moubayed, "Lebanon guided by the Nasrullah factor," Asia Times, February 26, 2005.