The most virulent offshoot of Lebanese-Iranian relations today indelibly marks the Middle East: Hizbullah. But, Iran and Lebanon have touched each other's fortunes, on religious, political and cultural levels, for over 500 years. Beginning with the emigration of Shi'ite ulema from Jabal Amil to Safavid Persia in the 16th century, Beirut became a major destination for young Iranians aspiring to a Western education. After the Iranian revolution, in the midst of Lebanon's civil war, Iran played a highly influential role inside the increasingly large Shi'ite community, not least with its funding and support of Hizbullah. This is a study of the centuries-long contact between these countries and provides the basis for any understanding of their effect on the world today.
H.E. Chehabi is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. Hassan I. Mneimneh is co-director of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project in Cambridge, Mass. and an independent scholar and writer prominent in the US and UK media