Iranian charitable organizations are an indispensable component of the regime’s strategy to spread its revolutionary ideology to receptive societies, especially those with weak state and governmental structures. Iran has perfected this strategy in Lebanon using its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, to effectively create a state within a state. In addition to its armed militia, the terror group has woven itself into Lebanon’s social fabric, setting up charities and providing services in the southern part of the country where government authority is weaker. These social services have boosted Hezbollah’s popularity enough to allow it to become part of the Lebanese political structure.
Iran employs the “Hezbollah model” in other weak states as well, instrumentally using the distribution of social services to build patronage networks loyal to the Islamic Republic and to engender goodwill and sympathy among the recipients of its aid while educating them on core Khomeinist precepts. Iran’s alternative provision of social services also serves to further erode the legitimacy of official state structures, further weakening the states in which Iran operates.