Friday, October 26, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: The Enemy in the Tent



by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

On the sixth of October, the anniversary of the Yom Kipur War,  the Saudi Arabian Internet site "Arab News" published an article by the Saudi publicist Abdulateef al-Mulhim in which he claims that Israel is not the Arabs' enemy number one; rather, it is dictators, ignorance, neglect and corruption. The article caused a wave of protest in the Arab world, but also a wave of support, and the BBC in Arabic subsequently broadcast a live discussion regarding the article.

In the article, the writer admits that the Arab-Israeli conflict has cost the Arabs dearly, and in recent years people have begun to ask difficult questions, such as: how much have the wars against Israel cost the Arabs? How much has the refusal to recognize Israel since 1948 cost? Why doesn't the Arab world utilize these huge sums to promote education, improve health services and develop the infrastructure? But the most important and difficult question that the Arabs don't even want to hear is : Is Israel the real enemy of the Arabs or perhaps there is a different enemy?


The answers that Abdulateef al-Mulhim gives to these questions are surprising, because he claims that there are worse things than Israel in the Arab world , and that Israel is not responsible for them. These penetrating questions began to disturb him when he saw the photographs of the civil war in Syria, children starving in Yemen, terror incubators in Sinai Peninsula, where development has been neglected, car bombs in Iraq and the destruction of buildings in Libya. The common thread that connects all of these disasters is that they are all the work of those very people who are supposed to be the protectors of the Arab world, who are supposed to build it and develop it, and so the obvious question is: Who is the true enemy of the Arab world.


The cost of the wars with Israel to date is hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of fatalities, and the Arab nation has paid this price because they feel that Israel is their  sworn enemy, and it is impossible to recognize it or to live in peace with it. al-Mulhim claims that the truth is that Israel is last on the list of the Arabs' enemies, because the real enemies are corruption, lack of good education, lack of respect for human life and health, lack of freedom, and dictators that have been using the Israeli-Arab conflict in order to oppress their peoples.


The disasters that the dictators have brought upon their peoples are far worse than the wars in the Israeli arena, and the cruelty of those who are supposed to protect the Arabs is far greater than the cruelty of the Israelis. The disaster that has befallen Syria, caused by its ruler, is far beyond our ability to imagine, and in Iraq, those responsible for the destruction  is the Iraqis themselves, who are fleeing in droves from a land that is capable of producing 110 billion dollars per year with the export of oil. The president of Tunisia, in broad daylight, stole 13 billion dollars that belonged to its citizens, and the children of Yemen are starving despite their country being one of the most fertile in the world. Lebanon, despite its small size, can't manage is citizenry,  and chaos engulfs most parts of the Arab world. None of these problems is the result of the existence of Israel or of the struggle against it.


Al-Mulhim reminds his readers that just one day after the declaration of the state of Israel, on the 15th of May, 1948, Arab armies invaded the nascent Israel and began a war that continued until the 10th of March, 1949. They failed in their effort to annihilate the "Zionist entity". The failure distressed them psychologically and that is why this war is called the "Nakba", "disaster". The Arabs gained nothing, and many Palestinians became refugees. In  June, 1967, the Arabs,  under the rule of the president of Egypt, Gamal Abd al-Nassar,  initiated a the war with Israel and in this war they lost much more territory than the area of Palestine. The nickname for this war is "Naksa", "loss", but the Arabs never admitted their terrible defeat, because it  is beyond their capability to admit failure.


And now,  the endless "Arab Spring" is in full swing, and the Arab world has no more patience or time to deal with the problems of Palestine and Palestinian refugees, since many Arabs have become refugees themselves and they are now sitting ducks - permanent, stationery targets of their own armies. From Syria alone, four hundred thousand men, women and children, were forced to flee from the inferno of the past twenty months, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled from the Land of the Two Rivers and they have been refugees in Arab lands ever since 2003. These refugees fled from their homes and their land not because Israeli jets dropped bombs on them. In Yemen, its residents are experiencing the most severe human tragedy, and the the train of human progress has left the residents of the Sinai Peninsula behind, standing on the platform.


And while the Arabs sink into the quagmire of blood and tears of their own creation, Israel has raced forward into the future with the most advanced institutions of research in the world, leading universities and highly developed infrastructure. Many Arabs aren't aware that the life expectancy of Palestinians in Israel is much more than the life expectancy of Arabs living in Arab countries, and the Arabs in Israel enjoy much more political and social freedom  than those living in the Arab world.  Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation [sic]  in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than citizens of Arab countries. In fact, one of the Israeli judges who sentenced the former president of Israel to prison was an Israeli Palestinian.


The Arab Spring proved to the world that the Palestinians are better off than their brothers who have fought to free them from Israeli rule, and so the time has come to stop the hatred and the wars, and to begin to create a higher standard of living for the future generations of the Arab world.


This concludes the summary of the main points in the article by Abdulateef Mulhim, the Saudi writer.


This article caused a tsunami of response, some in agreeinment and some dissenting. The BBC held a public discussion on the matter where the positions presented were polar opposites. Syrians who support Asad blamed Saudi Arabia, the country where the author lives, for the miserable conditiion that Syria finds itself in, since it is Saudi money that enables the rebels against Asad to acquire weapons and ammunition, and if it weren't for the Saudi funds, Asad would be able to stabilize the government in Syria, and many of those who have been killed in battles would still be alive. But other Syrians publicly thanked the Saudis for supporting the rebels agasint the bloodthirsty dictator who belongs in the trash heap of history.


Other participants agreed with the writer that indeed the Arabs of today have a severe problem of dictatorship and neglect, but nevertheless, Israel is still the greatest enemy just by dint of its existence, because Israel reminds the Arabs every day of what they are not willing to admit: that they have been badly defeated in all of the wars against Israel and that Israel has succeeded to survive and flourish in the Middle East against all odds. The Arabs see Israel's success and envy it, and that's why they hate it, too. When they compare their miserable situation, especially in the past two years, with the highly developed conditions in Israel, they feel that Israel is rubbing salt in their emotional wounds.


Other speakers, who agreed with al-Mulhim, expressed disappointment in the Arab Spring which, when it began at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, gave the Arabs high hopes for democracy, human rights, political freedom and the elimination of corruption. Today, after almost two years since the Arab Spring burst forth, the situation is worse than before it began. In Egypt the failing economy may wipe out the political achievements of the Muslim Brotherhood, and cause Egypt to become even more dependent on the charity of the "infidels" of Europe and the United States. The Syrian "Spring" has cost, until now, the lives of more than fifty thousand Syrians, butchered by the bloody rule of the 'Alawite sect, which has always presented itself as a model of Arabness and the realization of the lofty ideals of Arab nationalism.


Some of the speakers noted that the struggle in Syria and Iraq have let the sectarian genie out of the bottle, and the Islamist slogans of those who tread the same ideological path of Usama bin Laden are now written more and more on the walls of the ruined buildings in Damascus, in Aleppo, in Adlib, in Homs and in Hama. Iraq has become a boxing ring  between Sunnis and Shi'ites, a problem that was swept under the rug in the days of Saddam Hussein.


Al-Mulhim's article places a mirror in front of the Arab world, so that it can see its true face, and this is why the article is important. It is not the same old song of praise that the Arab media so loves to sing with its worn-out slogans and rosy dreams, rather it reflects the bitter reality that the Arabs have created by their own doing, and they are its primary victims.


According to al-Mulhim, Israel is not the Arabs' enemy; rather the Arabs are their own worst enemies. They are the ones who have brought upon themselves the misfortunes, the dictators, the cruelty, the ignorance, the disdain and the neglect , and as long as they accuse Israel of causing their misfortunes they will continue to suffer the bitter consequences of  the sad  reality that they have caused for themselves. Denial is no solution but only exacerbates the problem, and the Arabs - according to al-Mulhim's claim - cause their own misfortunes and it is not Israel or anyone else that has done it to them.


People such as Abdulateef al-Mulhim are the hope of the Arab world.




===============

Dr. Kedar is available for lectures in the U.S. and Canada 


Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with the permission of the author.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:


Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama’s Greatest Foreign Policy Error



by Daniel Greenfield



Obama’s greatest foreign policy error was the same one that had been made by Bush and by numerous past administrations. The error was that the problem was not Islam, but Islamic violence. It was Obama however who took that error to its logical conclusion by pursuing a foreign policy meant to part Islamists from their violent tendencies by allowing them to win without the need for terrorism. 

Violence, the thinking in diplomatic circles went, was inherently alarming and destabilizing. When Islamists don’t take over, they move to the West, preach radical theology, gather up followers and begin blowing things up. But let them take over their own home countries and they’ll no longer have any reason to draw up maps of London and New York, not when they’re beheading adulterers and burning churches back home.

The Arab Spring was to the Middle East what the betrayal of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis and the betrayal of the rest of Eastern Europe to the Communists was to 20th century European history. It was the moment when all the diplomatic folly that had come before it came together in one great historical instant of national and international betrayal.

The diplomatic wunderkinds had never taken Islamist theology seriously, just as their predecessors had not considered the possibility that the Bolsheviks might be serious about their world revolution. And they had also failed to recognize that Islamic terrorism was not only a means to power, but also an end in and of itself, a way of harnessing the endless violence and instability in desert societies and turning them into power and profit.

What every Middle Eastern leader has always understood is that the violence, call it raids, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, gang activity, sectarian militias, military coups, desert banditry, was never going away. It was the tiger and the clever leader rides the tiger, rather than ending up inside it, harnessing and directing the violence, to remain in power.

Islam is a religion built around that violence, sanctifying it as a religious principle, and thus taking it out of the realm of Fitna and into the realm of Jihad. The difference between the two is a matter of theology and that theology is a matter of perspective. What is banditry and what is a holy war is a matter of where you’re standing and which way the bullets are flying.

The Islamists might be able to direct the violence, but they could no more shut it down than any of their secular predecessors could. They could kill their enemies, but only by unleashing the tiger on them and when the killing was done, they would still be left with a hungry tiger looking around for his next meal. So the Islamists, like the Saudis, were bound to fuse religion with realpolitik by making sure that the tigers were pointed our way.

Even if their violence were only a means to an end, the end would not come when every Middle Eastern country was run by Islamist governments. For one thing there would never be a means of agreeing on what a truly Islamist government was. The reactionary impetus of Wahhabism leads to an endless series of reforms meant to recreate a lost 7th century theological paradise by purging those damnable 8th century theological innovators.

To many Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood is just Mubarak with a beard. To other Salafists, those Salafists are just the Muslim Brotherhood with an untrimmed beard. After overthrowing Mubarak to end the perception that the United States supports un-Islamic dictators, maintaining ties with the Muslim Brotherhood would invite attacks from those Salafists in the hopes of ending US support for the Brotherhood, resetting that foreign policy accomplishment to zero. And the Brotherhood would wink and nod at those attacks to maintain its Islamist street cred and keep the violence going in the other direction.

As the attacks of September 11, 2012 showed us, the effect of putting the Islamists in charge of the Arab Spring countries was not to relieve tensions or improve America’s image, but to make it easier for Jihadists to launch attacks on America. And the argument advanced by Obama and so many others, that it was our support for dictators that inspired terrorists, had come to nothing. As Carter had done in Iran, Obama had stood behind the Islamists and against the “dictators”, only to have the newly Islamist dictators kick him in the face, first through mobs carrying out attacks against American diplomatic facilities under the guise of plausible deniability, and then through bolder confrontations.

But finally, the seizure of one Muslim country or two of them or a dozen of them is not the end of the Islamists. Islamists don’t recognize borders or national identities, no more than the Communists did. Their objective is not a flag of their own, but the territorial expansion of their ideology.

The presence of Muslims in the West makes the takeover of Western countries necessary for the same reason that the takeover of Muslim countries by Islamists was necessary. Muslim immigration to the West creates a mandate to impose Islamic law on the West. Western leaders react to that by offering to accept some elements of Sharia into their legal system. This moves the process into the second stage, the one that the Arab Spring countries were under, practicing an imperfect version of Islamic law that the Islamists were then compelled to “perfect.”

Everything that the West has done to appease Muslims has worked as well as a man jumping into a tiger cage and pouring meat sauce all over his body. Each act of appeasement only makes Muslim violence necessary and inevitable. Every increase in the Islamic footprint in the West attracts Islamists intent on expanding and purifying that footprint, as they have done in their own countries. The more the West takes in Islamic populations and laws, the more Islamists are compelled to bring Diaspora Muslim populations and laws into full compliance with their theology.

Obama’s foreign policy aimed at allowing the Islamists to win. He ignored the Iranian protesters against an Islamist state, while rushing to support the Islamist protesters in Egypt and Tunisia. The Islamists won and September 11, 2012 was a consequence of those victories. And it won’t be the last consequence.

As Chamberlain learned of Hitler and as the Democrats learned of the Commies, there is no finite amount of concessions, no set range of territories that can be traded in exchange for peace. The Nazis and Communists wanted the world because their goals were not confined to mere territories, but to the enslavement of billions to create an ideal world for the benefit of their chosen elites. Islam is interested in the same thing.

Islamists don’t want Egypt, Syria or Palestine. And they certainly won’t settle for them. No more than Hitler settled for Czechoslovakia or Stalin settled for Poland. They will accept their conquests in bites, but they will never stop biting, chewing and swallowing until they run up against a force that will not allow them to advance and expand further.

Obama tried to divide violent Islamism from political Islamism, giving the Islamists what they wanted without violence, to eliminate the need for a War on Terror. But all he accomplished was to give Islamist violence a bigger base and more resources to work with. Islam is inherently violent. A non-violent Islamic victory doesn’t end the violence; it only expands its capacity for violence.

Daniel Greenfield

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/dgreenfield/obamas-greatest-foreign-policy-error/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Sudan Threatens Israel after Khartoum Arms Factory Hit



by Eli Leon, Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff



Fire engulfs the Yarmouk ammunition factory in Khartoum, Wednesday.
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Photo credit: Reuters

Eli Leon, Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=6202

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

CNN: Al-Qaeda in Iraq May Be Linked to Benghazi



by Alana Goodman


Officials have already speculated that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was involved in the Benghazi attack, but CNN reports al-Qaeda in Iraq may be linked as well. AQI has been regaining strength since U.S. troops withdrew last year:
U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN. 
That would represent the second al Qaeda affiliate associated with the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. …
The latest intelligence suggests the core group of suspects from the first wave of the attack on the Benghazi mission numbered between 35 to 40. Around a dozen of the attackers are believed to be connected to either al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the government official said.
The attack had two waves: The first targeted the main compound where Stevens and another diplomatic official were believed killed. A second stage a few hours later involved an annex building approximately a mile away. 
The Obama administration is still trying to slowly back away from its “spontaneous reaction” line, pivoting to the claim it was an “opportunistic attack” that didn’t require a lot of pre-planning. Whether it was “opportunistic” or not doesn’t really matter, but it’s a way for the administration to cling to a small shred of credibility after initially telling the public it wasn’t premeditated or preplanned. Either way, if there were a dozen attackers directly linked to two different al-Qaeda affiliates, as CNN reports, that’s still an al-Qaeda attack, no matter how “opportunistic” or “spontaneous” the administration wants to argue it was.

Good thing President Obama’s foreign policy has “devastated” al-Qaeda, right John Kerry?

Alana Goodman

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/10/25/cnn-al-qaeda-in-iraq-may-be-linked-to-benghazi/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hizbullah’s Unspoken War in Syria



by Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

  • The fighting in Syria has already spilled over the border into Lebanon, threatening the fragile sectarian balance holding that country together. Cross-border attacks have become customary, with the Syrian Army shelling and shooting into Lebanese villages that it says are harboring Syrian rebels.
  • Across from El Hermel in northeastern Lebanon and inside Syrian territory, a string of villages inhabited by Shiites has been clashing with majority-Sunni villages that back the Syrian opposition forces in the countryside of Qusayr, on the outskirts of Homs. Hizbullah is interfering directly and militarily in Qusayr under the pretext of protecting the Shiite villages in the area. It currently claims control of 18 villages along the widest part of the Orontes River Basin.
  • The French Mandatory authorities delineated the Lebanon-Syria border in the years following the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920, but the border was never finalized. What is happening on the ground could be called de facto demarcation since Hizbullah has a presence in the string of Shiite villages (annexing them de facto to Lebanon), while the Free Syrian Army is present in most Sunni villages, thus annexing them to Syria.
  • Hizbullah appears to be carving out a 20-kilometer (12-mile) border corridor to the Syrian Alawite enclave on the coast. Hizbullah appears to be seeking to control strategic access to the Orontes River Basin in Syria and Lebanon to form a contiguous Alawite-Shiite mini-state. Yet the Shiite belt would likely face a major challenge from Sunnis on both sides of the border.
  • For the first time, Hizbullah is “exporting” its military know-how and might for use against Arab neighbors, in order to respond to Tehran’s strategic scheme to protect the Assad regime from falling. But by doing so, Hizbullah has alienated the Sunni majority in Syria and also in Lebanon. It would be fair to assess that in case Assad’s regime falls, Hizbullah will also have to fight for its life in the Lebanese context.
  • Hizbullah has been fighting for years to prove its “Lebanese” credentials. Fighting alongside the Alawite regime has turned Hizbullah back into what it really is: just another Lebanese armed militia, a Shiite army at the service of its patrons, sponsors, and protectors in Tehran. 

The Syrian Conflict Spills into Lebanon


As the fighting in Syria intensifies, the conflict has already spilled over the border into Lebanon, threatening the fragile sectarian balance holding that country together and sparking yet another blood-spattered internal conflict. Although the clashes are still limited to the ill-defined border areas between the two countries and in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, still, the latest car bombing in Beirut on October 19 (the first since 2008) which targeted senior Lebanese intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan, who led the investigation that implicated Syria and Hizbullah in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was most probably the result of Syrian–Hizbullah cooperation and could herald an expansion of the domestic Lebanese conflict between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime. Hassan was the brains behind the uncovering of a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August 2012 of former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a setback for Damascus and its Lebanese allies including Hizbullah.

These events are serious enough to cause alarm among Lebanese politicians and the public that the military situation might escalate and the country might find itself in civil strife for sheltering opposition rebels within its borders.

Since the beginning of the rebellion in Syria, the Syrian regime has repeatedly requested that Lebanon secure its borders from smugglers, to no avail. As a result, cross-border attacks have become customary, with the Syrian Army shelling and shooting into Lebanese villages that it says are harboring Syrian rebels. The Syrian army has strengthened its positions along Lebanon’s northeastern border to prevent weapons smuggling and the infiltration of fighters. Syria’s opposition groups have indeed made use of this largely porous territory. Many of those fleeing from Syria or wounded in the violence have been brought across the border into Lebanon. Since the uprising began, Syrian security forces have slipped into various border towns and villages in pursuit of what they call “armed terrorist groups.”

The Lebanese government has made numerous complaints to the Syrian authorities but the incursions have not stopped. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked his foreign minister in July 2012 to send an official letter of complaint to the Syrian ambassador in Beirut, but the complaint got tangled up in sectarian and regional alliances, a common feature of Lebanese politics. Lebanon’s foreign minister, Adnan Mansour, is a member of Amal, a Shiite political party that is a strong supporter of the Syrian government, and the letter he ultimately sent to the ambassador fell far short of a formal complaint.1

Lebanon’s northeastern border with Syria was once calm, with smugglers regularly ferrying food and fuel between the two countries. But now the dynamics have changed: Fighters and weapons have replaced consumer goods as the hot commodities, and fighting erupts frequently in the once quiet border villages. Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters easily cross into the country and can move freely to carry out operations or move men and arms. The region befits these activities with its heavy tree cover, borders that are not clearly demarcated, and Sunni residents who are generally supportive of their aims.
Map: CIA Factbook

Flashpoint Shiite Villages Inside Syria

However, across from El Hermel in northeastern Lebanon and inside Syrian territory, a string of villages inhabited by Shiites has been clashing with majority-Sunni villages that back the Syrian opposition forces in the countryside of Qusayr, on the outskirts of Homs, and there has been a series of mutual kidnappings between the groups. Hizbullah is interfering directly and militarily in Qusayr under the pretext of protecting the Shiite villages in the area. Hizbullah has deployed its combatants in the upper Brital villages of Tfeil and Maaraboun, and it also has men in Zabadani and Sarghaya, where there are regular clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and Assad’s troops. In 23 Shiite villages (mostly inhabited by members of the Hamadeh, Jaafar and Zeaiter clans) which once housed 21,000-30,000 people, less than half of the original residents remain; the rest were forced out or fled. In fact, Hizbullah forces have been assigned to protect and control the Orontes River Basin – a strategic area that links the Syrian hinterland to the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Control of this area would, of course, prevent the FSA from smuggling arms, ammunition, and fighters into Syria from Lebanon.

 
Map: Al-Manar
Hizbullah has been using heavy weapons including artillery and rockets in the Qusayr area in an effort to dislodge FSA forces from Abu Hori, Al Nahiyah, Sakarjah and Al Burhaniyah, as it seeks to prevent the FSA from enjoying direct territorial continuity with Lebanon. It was even reported that Hizbullah has taken control of Syrian villages and towns in that same area such as Zeyta, Hawik, El Hamam, Al Safsafah, Al Fadiliyah and the groves of Al Nazariyah. Hizbullah currently claims control of 18 villages along the widest part of the Orontes River Basin: Bab al-Hawa, Wadi Hanna, Rabla, Matraba, Al Jadaliyya, Balluza, Al Huwayik, Ghawgharan, Al Summaqiyyat, Al Hamam, Al Safiyyah, Zeita, Al Fadiliyya, Al Qarniyya, Al Misriyya, Dibbin, Al Suwayidyya and Al Hush. The most Hizbullah activity in Syria has occurred in this area, particularly around the border town of Al Qusayr.2

The Syrian rebel forces have displaced the occupants in order to create a smuggling link from the Homs countryside to Wadi Khaled and north Lebanon, which tends to back the Syrian uprising. This forced displacement prompted Hizbullah to confront the opposition with heavy force, driving the Free Syrian Army to focus their smuggling on the area between Masharih al-Qaa and Upper Aarsal.

Hizbullah officials have repeatedly denied that their group has troops on the ground in Syria. However, on October 9, Hizbullah had to face an unanticipated event: Ali Hussein Nassif (alias Abu Abbas), commander and coordinator of Hizbullah’s forces in Syria, was killed in Qusayr, deep in Syrian territory, prompting further speculation about Hizbullah’s role in the fighting. According to reports from that area, Hizbullah suffered severe losses to the FSA, which succeeded in repelling Hizbullah attacks combined with Syrian Air Force strikes against the strategic town of Joussiyeh.

Abu Abbas was treated like a martyr and a ceremonious funeral was held in his hometown of Boudiyah (on the border with Syria). In his eulogy, Mohammad Yazbek, head of the Judiciary Council and member of the Shura Council (Hizbullah’s highest decision-making authority), said that Abu Abbas had died in Syria protecting Lebanese citizens who live there (!). In his own words, Yazbek described those Lebanese as “oppressed and as such who have been abandoned by the state (Lebanon) and government” – a typical Shiite wording used to describe the Shiites living in Lebanon.3

According to local sources in the Homs countryside, Hizbullah and the Syrian opposition have 5,000 fighters each. Both sides have kidnapped members of their rivals, and there have been three rounds of fighting between clusters of villages since September 2011. The Free Syrian Army accused Hizbullah of “occupying” six Syrian towns near the Lebanese-Syrian border including Joussiyeh and Al Qusayr, where the Hizbullah commander found his death.

The Lebanon-Syria Border Was Never Finalized

No doubt, the cross-border conflict also stems from the fact that the border remains in dispute in numerous places. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan conceded that “there seems to be no official record of a formal international boundary agreement between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.” The continued ambiguity over the Lebanon-Syria border is due to the indifference of the Lebanese state to its impoverished frontier regions and Syria’s reluctance to accept the notion of a separate Lebanon. Syria has always considered Lebanon to be a province of Syria.

Greater Lebanon was created by France to be a “safe haven” for the Maronite population of Mt. Lebanon, an area with a Maronite majority that had enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy under the Ottoman Empire. However, in addition to Mount Lebanon, Greater Lebanon included other, mainly Muslim, regions that were not part of the Maronite administrative province; hence, the word “greater.” Those regions correspond today to north Lebanon, south Lebanon, the Beqaa Valley, and Beirut. The capital of Greater Lebanon was Beirut. The new state was granted a flag merging the French flag with the cedar of Mt. Lebanon.

The French Mandatory authorities delineated the Lebanon-Syria border in the years following the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920, drawing detailed maps of the frontier in 1934. The border was supposed to follow the perimeters of four ex-Ottoman sub-provinces: Akkar in the north, Baalbek in the east, and Hasbayya and Rashayya in the southeast. For the sake of convenience, the boundaries were defined by the geographical features of the Nahr al-Kabir in the north and the peaks of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range and Mount Hermon in the east.4

But these natural boundaries often conflicted with property rights, where Lebanese-owned land ended up inside Syria and vice versa, and with local demographics. For example, the village of Tufayl, which longitudinally lies just east of central Damascus, is connected to the Bekaa Valley by a narrow finger of Lebanese territory that projects eastward over the Anti-Lebanon range and into the semi-desert north of the Syrian capital. Tufayl was included in Lebanon due to its population being Shiite, therefore more closely connected to their co-religionists in the Bekaa than the Sunnis and Aramaic-speaking Greek Catholics who are their immediate neighbors in Syria.5

Muslims in Greater Lebanon rejected the new state upon its creation. The continuous Muslim demand for reunification with Syria eventually brought about an armed conflict between Muslims and Christians in 1958 when Muslim Lebanese wanted to join the newly proclaimed United Arab Republic, while Christians were strongly opposed.

In the decades after Lebanon and Syria gained independence in the 1940s, both countries formed several committees to settle border disputes, all of them unsuccessful,6 and the notoriously porous border remained a source of contention between Lebanon and Syria:
  • There is at least 460 km2 of Lebanon occupied by Syria.
  • There are dozens of smuggling passages in operation, all used to import goods and infiltrate foreign fighters and weapons.
  • There are numerous Syrian Army camps inside Lebanese territory.7

The Free Syrian Army and Hizbullah Move to Protect Their Interests

In late 2008, Lebanon and Syria made the historic decision to establish diplomatic relations for the first time, but the border issue was left open. The beginning of the rebellion against Assad put an end to any possible cooperation for the time being on the issue.

Left with no alternative, the FSA and Hizbullah have decided to act in order to protect their interests. In fact, what is happening on the ground could in a way be called de facto demarcation since Hizbullah has a presence in the string of Shiite villages (annexing them de facto to Lebanon), while the FSA is present in most Sunni villages, thus annexing them to Syria. The fighting is therefore taking place in the mixed villages or in those which are vital for maintaining geographical homogeneity in the Sunni and Shiite areas. When the fighting ends, it is likely that the demarcation of the ill-defined border will have been facilitated by the events of today.

Hizbullah appears to have a contingency plan to carve out and defend a 20-kilometer (12-mile) border corridor to the Syrian Alawite enclave on the coast. This is a difficult endeavor because Hizbullah does not exercise authority in Sunni-dominated northern Lebanon. Instead, Hizbullah appears to be seeking to control strategic access to the Orontes River Basin in Syria and Lebanon to form a contiguous Alawite-Shiite mini-state. Controlling the bulge of the river basin would theoretically allow Hizbullah to pool resources with an Alawite enclave in the northern Bekaa while the organization attempts to hold its ground in the southern Beirut suburbs and southern Lebanon.8 The purported plan to build this sectarian fortress is fraught with complications, especially since the Shiite belt would likely face a major challenge from Sunnis on both sides of the border. But in contingency planning, one must hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Hizbullah is evidently doing just that.

Hizbullah’s direct participation in the fighting in Syria has created a precedent: For the first time since its establishment, Hizbullah is “exporting” its military know-how and might for use against Arab neighbors, in order to respond to Tehran’s strategic scheme to protect the Assad regime from falling. But by doing so, Hizbullah has alienated the Sunni majority in Syria (and also in Lebanon) which, in the event that Assad falls, will probably strive to make Hizbullah bear the consequences of its support for the Alawite regime. Signals in this direction are already being sent in the media, while Hizbullah itself has stepped up its preparations in the Dahiyah area of south Beirut in anticipation of such consequences. It would be fair to assess that in case Assad’s regime falls, Hizbullah will also have to fight for its life in the Lebanese context. For this reason, it seems that Hizbullah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria is crucial. Hizbullah has to win the war there in order to survive in Lebanon.

Finally, Hizbullah has been fighting for years to prove its “Lebanese” credentials. Fighting alongside the Alawite regime has turned Hizbullah back into what it really is: just another Lebanese armed militia, a Shiite army at the service of its patrons, sponsors, and protectors in Tehran. Its aims remain sectarian and not national or supra-national – namely, fighting a Shiite war. This is far from what it claimed to be – a pan-Islamic movement to fight Israel and the West.
*     *     *
Notes
1. Babak Dehghanpishch, “Lebanese Worry that Syria Army Might Escalate Attacks,” www.yalibnan.com, July 30, 2012
2. Louai Beshara, “ Hizbullah’s Contingency Planning,” AFP-Stratfor, 18 October 18, 2012.
3. Rashed Fayed, “Jihad? Ay Jihad!,” Al-Shafaf, October 9, 2012.
4. Nicholas Blanford, “Border Complications Promise Long Dispute,” Bitterlemons International, September 18, 2008, http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/inside.php?id=1002
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. “Lebanese-Syrian Borders: Fact-Finding Survey,” May 2007, nowlebanon.com
8. Beshara, op. cit.

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

Source: http://jcpa.org/article/hizbullahs-unspoken-war-in-syria/

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With Friends Like These



by Mark Tapson


 

When Barack Obama first ascended to the presidency, his American supporters exulted: now that the hated Dubya Bush was out of the picture, the world would finally “like” us again! It’s as if they were all in junior high school and considered the United States a Facebook page, and nothing was more important than having the whole world click our “like” button. Now that the end of Obama’s tenure approaches, it is abundantly clear exactly which world leaders “like” him and why they want him to have a second term.

After four years of apologizing for American arrogance, alternately either bowing to or embracing Islamic fundamentalists, insulting our oldest and closest allies like England and Israel, and driving other allies out of power altogether, Obama has indeed won over a certain sector of the world – the sector comprised of the most America-hating dictators on the planet. And they “like” Obama because he has diminished, if not crippled, American economic and military might, and because his goal conforms with theirs – to move us into a post-American world in which we are no longer the lead actor on the world stage. In short, he has alienated our allies and embraced our enemies.

Case in point: Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who at the end of September publicly announced his support for our Saboteur-in-Chief’s reelection bid. “If I were American, I’d vote for Obama,” Chavez said in a television interview. Of course he would – Chavez is a power-mad socialist. He’s certainly not going to get behind capitalist Romney and his Ayn Rand-inspired running mate Paul Ryan. The America-bashing, Hezbollah-supporting thug also pronounced Obama to be “a good guy” and speculated correctly that if Obama were Venezuelan, “I think… he’d vote for Chavez.”

Another example: Mariela Castro, the government-official daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, younger brother of the brutal Fidel, proclaimed in June her support for Obama during a visit to the U.S. “I believe that Obama is a fair man… As a citizen of the world, I would like him to win,” she said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. She didn’t explain what a citizen of the world is, but it sounds like a typical Obama supporter’s grandiose fantasy. “Given the choices, I prefer Obama,” because he might be inclined to lift the trade embargo against the oppressive Castro regime.

She felt that Obama has been hampered in his efforts to effect change. “He wants to do much more than what he’s been able to do,” she said. Oh, there’s no question about that. But given a second term, Obama will certainly pull out all the stops to implement his radical agenda as thoroughly as possible.

“I believe that Obama needs another opportunity and he needs greater support to move forward with his projects and with his ideas, which I believe come from the bottom of his heart,” Castro said. Actually, his projects and ideas come more from a lifelong indoctrination by radical ideologues like Marx, Alinsky, Muhammad, Bill Ayers, and Rev. Wright.

Then there is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who has eliminated most elections in his country, monopolized all major media and destroyed the political party system. Now the dictator has extended his endorsement, pointing out that Obama is “a genuine person” who “really wants to change much for the better.”

Speaking to Russia’s state-run RT television channel, he said a second Obama term could help solve disputes over missile defense, whereas Mitt Romney has said that Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Putin said such talk was merely “mistaken” election rhetoric. He warned that a Romney victory could complicate efforts to resolve Russia’s opposition to a missile defense shield. “Our American partners tell us, ‘It’s not [aimed] against you.’ But what if the president of the United States will be Mr. Romney, who considers us enemy No. 1?”

It was only a few months earlier that Obama was caught on camera reassuring Putin’s predecessor Dmitry Medvedev that he would “have more flexibility” to deal with such contentious issues after he wins his last election. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” said Putin’s number two.

Then of course, there is the United Nations. Its Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson, has warned Americans not to elect Mitt Romney president; doing so would be “a democratic mandate for torture,” because Romney has refused to rule out the use of waterboarding in enhanced interrogations of terrorism detainees, a practice Obama ended (which didn’t stop him from taking advantage of the technique’s success, under Bush, in obtaining information that ultimately enabled Obama to claim his lone foreign policy achievement – the elimination of Osama bin Laden).

“The reintroduction of torture under a Romney administration would significantly increase the threat levels to [Americans] at home and abroad,” Emmerson said. “Such a policy, if adopted, would expose the American people to risks the Obama administration is not currently exposing them to.” So the UN supports Obama because Romney is less likely to appease international bullies. No wonder that organization has been so ineffective for decades.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood has not issued an official public statement of support for one candidate or the other, Obama has made his support for Islam and the Brotherhood crystal clear from day one of his presidency, so it’s difficult to imagine that that support will not be reciprocated.

As my screenwriter friend Robert Avrech points out on his Seraphic Secret blog, Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also has weighed in on the election, issuing a warning that Romney might steal the election through voting machines that “manufacture election outcomes.” Ahmadinejad also claimed that polls favoring Romney or even showing him neck-and-neck with Obama are fraudulent, and predicts black Americans will riot if Obama loses.

When some of the world’s worst current dictators openly get behind your campaign, it should be a very clear red flag for American voters about your character and your policies. With friends like these, America doesn’t need any more enemies – certainly not in the White House itself.

Mark Tapson

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/mark-tapson/with-friends-like-these/

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U.S. State Department Strengthening Hamas



by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Emir of Qatar's visit to the Gaza Strip is a huge diplomatic victory for Hamas and a severe blow to the moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. The emir did not come to the Gaza Strip to try to persuade Hamas to abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. Nor did he come to the Gaza Strip to tell Hamas to endorse democracy and stop its oppressive measures against Palestinians, especially women.
The U.S. Administration has sought to downplay the significance of this week's visit to the Gaza Strip by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad al-Thani.

"We have seen the reports that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa visits Gaza today on a humanitarian mission," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We share Qatar's deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, including those residing in Gaza."

Many Palestinians, especially the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank, do not share the U.S. Administration's position regarding the emir's visit.

Palestinian Authority leaders do not see the visit as a "humanitarian mission," but as an attempt to strengthen Hamas.

In fact, the high-profile visit of the emir and his wife to the Gaza Strip was anything but a "humanitarian mission."

This was a visit that has political and economic implications, not only for the Palestinians, but for the entire region as well.

True, the emir promised to invest $400 million in various projects in the Gaza Strip. It remains to be seen if the Qatari ruler will fulfill his promise.

The timing of the visit raises many questions and sheds light as to the emir's true motives.
Qatar has always been supportive not only of Hamas, but Muslim Brotherhood and many jihadi organizations.

If Qatar really had "deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people," where was the emir during the past seven years?

As the emir himself pointed out during the visit, it was the so-called Arab Spring -- which has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries over the past two years - that paved the way for his visit to the Gaza Strip.

"Were it not for the Egyptian revolution and President Mohamed Morsi," the emir said, "the visit would not have taken place."

The emir came to the Gaza Strip to offer not only financial aid to Hamas, but also moral and political backing. The visit, the first of its kind by a head of state to the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control over the area in 2007, was aimed at helping the Islamist movement break the state of isolation in which it has been since then.

The emir did not come to the Gaza Strip to try to persuade Hamas to abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. Nor did he come to the Gaza Strip to tell Hamas to endorse democracy and stop its oppressive measures against Palestinians, particularly women.

The emir's visit is a huge diplomatic victory for Hamas and a severe blow to moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank were quick to express deep disappointment with the emir's visit, rightly arguing that it would only enhance Hamas's standing and empower the radical camp among the Palestinians.

The emir's visit also means that the Gaza Strip has become a separate Palestinian entity that has no link to the West Bank's Palestinian Authority, and which is capable of conducting its running its own economy and foreign policy.

The visit has actually solidified the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, turning Abbas's effort to establish an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines into a fantasy; if he tried to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank alone, would be accused of "abandoning" the dream of creating a full, united, Palestinian state, and of dividing Palestine into two states.

Finally, the emir's visit to the Gaza Strip also serves Qatar's wish of becoming a major player in the region as well as in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Syria, Iran and Egypt, countries which once used to have enormous influence over Hamas, have been pushed aside by Qatar's ruler and his promise of big checks.

Khaled Abu Toameh

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3411/state-dept-hamas

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