Hezbollah - or the Party of God - is a powerful political and military organization in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims. It emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon. Hostility to Israel has remained the party's defining platform since May 2000, when the last Israeli troops left Lebanon due in large part to the success of Hezbollah's military arm, the Islamic Resistance. Hezbollah's popularity peaked in the 2000s, but took a massive dent among pro-Western Lebanese people when it was at the center of a huge, destructive war with Israel following the capture of two Israeli soldiers in 2006. Hezbollah is the strongest member of Lebanon's pro-Syrian opposition bloc which has been pitted against the pro-Western government led by Saad Hariri. It has several seats in parliament and has ministers in a national unity government formed in late 2009. It also blocked the election of a new president by repeatedly boycotting sessions of parliament. The stalemate ended on 21 May 2008, when the group reached a deal with the government under which its power of veto was recognized.
Washington has long branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has accused it of destabilizing Lebanon in the wake of Syria's withdrawal of its troops from the country following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The movement long operated with neighboring Syria's blessing, protecting its interests in Lebanon and serving as a card for Damascus to play in its own confrontation with Israel over the occupation of the Golan Heights. Hezbollah leaders have continued to profess its support for Syria, while stressing Lebanese unity by arguing against "Western interference" in the country. As well as a political clout, Hezbollah has wide popular appeal by providing social services and health care. It also has an influential TV station, al-Manar. Hezbollah's biggest test came in mid-2006, when its fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack, killing a number of others. The incident triggered a fierce month-long war with Israel, which ended in a ceasefire. Having survived a massive military onslaught, Hezbollah declared victory, enhancing its reputation among many in the Arab world.