The ideational and material factors of Hezbollah’s foreign policy
: the case studies of Syria and Iraq 2003-2017

  • Mohamad-Mehdi Berjaoui

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores the foreign policy motivations of Hezbollah, an armed political movement (APM), with a particular focus on its interventions in Syria and Iraq. The central question of this study is: What are Hezbollah’s foreign policy motivations? To answer this question, the thesis employs a two-layered conception of security, encompassing both physical and ontological dimensions, and examines the interplay between material and ideational factors. Physical security refers to the survival of the actor, whether it is a state or a movement, and considers the physical dangers faced by the actor. Ontological security, on the other hand, pertains to the distinctiveness of the actor's identity in relation to an "Other." By analyzing these dimensions, the thesis aims to shed light on Hezbollah's foreign policy motivations. The study utilizes two case studies: Hezbollah's military intervention in Syria following the 2011 uprising, and its undisclosed involvement in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, as well as its more overt military intervention in 2014. The thesis argues that the Syrian Uprising threatened Hezbollah's physical security, leading the party to engage in a large-scale military intervention. Additionally, Hezbollah's ontological security required reinforcement, which was achieved through emphasizing the distinctiveness of its identity while demonizing the “Other’s” identity. Following the US invasion of Iraq, Hezbollah's ontological security, centered around its narrative of supporting the "oppressed" and defending holy shrines, was at stake. A stable US occupation of Iraq posed a strategic physical threat to Hezbollah and its allies in the "Axis of Resistance." Furthermore, the Arab Uprisings and the subsequent ISIS takeover of Mosul posed a direct physical threat to Hezbollah's security, prompting it to publicly acknowledge its military involvement in Iraq. In addition to its theoretical contribution, the thesis presents original information based on unpublished data, providing insights into the motives behind Hezbollah's military interventions in Syria and Iraq.
Date of Award11 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAdham Saouli (Supervisor) & Raymond Hinnebusch (Supervisor)


  • Hezbollah
  • Foreign policy
  • Armed political movement
  • Identity
  • Ideology
  • Ontological security
  • Physical security
  • Threat perception
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Middle East

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 13 December 2028

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