Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology


Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology. I Listen to Music and Placed Pictures of Jesus and Martin Luther King in My Home.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Al-Musawi, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on December 29, 2006.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: I do not believe in gallows of ideology. Our problem in the Arab world is that we have many gallows of ideology and of accusations of social betrayal, on which we try to hang an intellectual, a thinker, or a poet every day, just like in the case of Naguib Mahfouz and others. We, I'm sad to say, are against creativity and civilization, and against any language that seeks common ground in society.


We must have the courage to get rid of the "backward" cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind. We suffer from backwardness. This is not masochism - the kind psychologists talk about - acts of self-flagellation. This is the truth. We have not developed even to the point of admitting defeat. We [have to] admit our cultural defeat. In the past, we had a civilization in Andalusia and in many other places, but today we are regressing – we export violence, we terrorize whole countries, we threaten national security, and many other things.


We need to reform and to reshape religious thinking, because, in all honesty, the pulpits of our mosques have begun to "booby trap" the people.

Interviewer: In what way?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: They booby trap them by generating hatred towards "the other." We have claimed a monopoly over Paradise, and each of us has recorded it in the land registry in his name.

Interviewer: But the pulpits are under government supervision.

Some of them are under government supervision, but in some Arab countries, although they are under government supervision, the government itself encourages the booby trapping. This problem has political reasons, but who pays the price? The country, society, civil society, and the young man, who is being told that the black-eyed virgins await him at the gates of Paradise, and that all he has to do is kill himself, to slaughter himself. He might blow up his family and children to get the virgins of Paradise. This is the language and culture of death. We were not born into this world in order to die this way. The beauty of Man lies in his living for the sake of his homeland, not in dying while booby trapping others.


In the Arab world, we have religious clerics who are beacons [of knowledge], but I think the problem is that we are constantly intimidating the public. We talk only about Hell, and not about Paradise at all. The Koran is balanced. It talks about the fire of Hell and the fruits of Paradise, but we constantly preach about the horrors of Judgment Day, saying that a bald Satan, or a bald serpent, would visit them in the grave. It is constant terror. It is always a dark picture. Why? That is the problem. Unfortunately, some young men – out of a wrong interpretation of religion... The moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and to greet others. He accuses some people of heresy and others of sin. He begins all that discourse. He hates music, and refuses to dress neatly. His mind is abducted into the dungeons of ideology, I'm sad to say.

Interviewer: Let me ask you a question. If a Shiite, or even a Sunni, becomes a religious cleric, yet he listens to music, can the Arab public possibly accept him?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my view, the Arab disposition suffers from many problems. We have destroyed many things, including the beauty of the general disposition. Music is a beautiful thing...

Interviewer: Do you listen to music?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: Yes, I listen to music. I listen to classical music, and I think Beethoven's symphonies are very beautiful. They are among the masterpieces of human art. I believe that music develops the spirit of Man and humbles him. What is wrong with that?


As for the policy of non-violence, I'd like to give you the example of Gandhi, whom I consider a hero. If only we could obtain some of Gandhi's genes, and plant them in the brains of our youth in the Arab world...

Interviewer: In your home, you have pictures of Martin Luther King and Jesus on the wall.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my home, I put up a picture of Jesus, because whenever I look at his picture, worlds of peace and love open up before me. It was Jesus who said: "Love thy enemies, bless them who curse thee." We need this beautiful language in our society. I also have a picture of Gandhi, whom I consider to be a very fine person, and whose [image] we should plant in the minds of our youth.


Some of us say: "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs." Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite, and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni, and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity.


Nations that read more are the nations that are most respected, like the Western nations, where people read... When you travel to Switzerland, everywhere you go - on the bus or wherever - you see people reading books. Do you see such sights in the Arab world?


The problem of the Arab youth is that they do not read. As Gustave le Bon wrote in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the Arab youth sometimes smile while they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Why? Because they lack awareness. We suffer from illiteracy. Today, the Arab world has, according to a U.N. report, close to 70 million illiterate adults – in other words, 70 million people whom you can booby trap, against their country and society, because they do not read.

An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War

February 2, 2009
Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.492
By: Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon, and H. Migron*

Table of Contents


The 2009 Gaza War: Timeline

The Iranian-Saudi/Shi'ite-Sunni Rivalry in the Wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

The Escalation of the Conflict During Ahmadinejad's Presidency

Iran Extends Its Influence Into the Arab World

The Emergence of the Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah Axis

The 2009 Gaza War Deepens the Schism Between the Two Camps

After The War – The Schism Between the Two Camps is An Acknowledged Fact

The Saudi Camp: Iran Is Responsible for the Rift in the Arab World

"The Trojan Horse" – Qatar's Role in Consolidating the Iranian Axis

Two Camps, Two Contrasting Approaches to the Arab-Israeli Conflict



The recent Gaza war was portrayed by the international media as a local military conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, this war, like the 2006 war in Lebanon and various other military and political events in the last three decades in the Middle East have a common denominator – namely, all stem from the conflict between revolutionary Iran and the Saudi Kingdom and the respective camps of each. This conflict is key to understanding the Middle East in the 21st century.

This Saudi-Iranian conflict, whose various aspects – geostrategic, religious, ethnic, and economic – have been affecting the Middle East for the past 30 years, began with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Since then, there have been lulls (especially during the era of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami), but the conflict flared up again after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power. The conflict has now escalated into an actual cold war, and is reflected in the emergence of two distinct blocs in the Middle East: the Iranian axis (comprising Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah and Hamas) and the Saudi-Egyptian camp, with which most of the other Arab countries are identified.

This schism, and cold war, will have a major impact on the local, regional, and international level, severely restricting options for diplomatic activity, to resolve the intra-Palestinian rift, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the problem of a nuclear Iran.

The 2009 Gaza War: Timeline

The Gaza war broke out on December 27, 2008, after Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al refused – reportedly on orders from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki[1] – to attend talks for a Cairo-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement. Instead, he announced in Damascus that the tahdia with Israel had ended and would not be renewed, as his men in Gaza fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel.

As soon as the fighting started, Syria and Qatar attempted to convene an emergency Arab League summit in order to help Hamas. This move was blocked by Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the December 31, 2008 Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, where it was decided only to conduct international diplomatic activity aimed at stopping the hostilities. According to reports, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said at a closed meeting with E.U. foreign ministers that "Hamas must not be allowed to emerge triumphant from the present confrontation."[2]

Nevertheless, Qatar and Syria persisted in their efforts, setting the emergency summit for January 16, 2009, to be attended by anyone who wished. At this point, a campaign of pressure on the other Arab countries was launched by both sides: Iran, Syria, and Qatar urged them to attend, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt pressed them not to.

This clash ended with a victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp, in that the summit, held in Doha, was convened in the absence of a legal quorum.[3] To the dismay of some Arab countries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to attend the summit as an observer. Also present as an observer was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who expressed total support for Hamas.[4]

To reinforce its political victory, the Saudi-Egyptian camp enlisted international support by summoning all European leaders to a special weekend meeting at Sharm Al-Sheikh, on Sunday, January 18, 2009. The summit was attended by the entire European leadership, which rallied to show its endorsement of the Saudi-Egyptian camp.

The following day, January 19, an economic conference that had been planned in advance was held in Kuwait, and part of it was devoted to the war in Gaza. This conference, attended by all Arab leaders, was likewise dominated by the Saudi-Egyptian camp. At the conference, Qatar demanded that the resolution of the Doha conference  -- which called to revoke the peace agreements with Israel and to withdraw the Arab peace initiative – be endorsed, but Saudi Arabia and Egypt rejected its demand, and the conference ended with no resolutions.On January 18, Hamas was compelled to accept the ceasefire declared unilaterally by Israel the day before, as well as Egypt's mediation in the intra-Palestinian talks – two demands it had categorically rejected prior to the war.

It can therefore be said that, unlike the 2006 war in Lebanon and the subsequent clash, in 2008, between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces, which ended in Lebanon's falling under the control of Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian axis,[5] the Gaza war yielded an achievement for the opposite side. It ended with Hamas defeated on the ground and with a political victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp on the regional level.

The Iranian-Saudi/Shi'ite-Sunni Rivalry in the Wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

The Iranian-Saudi conflict is rooted in Iran's aspirations to regional hegemony – both geostrategic and religious – which pose a threat to Saudi Arabia. From the onset of the Islamic Revolution era and Ayatollah Khomeini's rule (1979-89), Iran's attitude to Saudi Arabia was marked by ideological and political enmity, stemming from the centuries-old religious, social, and ethnic rift between the Sunni-Wahhabi Arab society and the Shi'ite Persian one. The Sunnis perceive the Shi'ites as a political sect that seceded from Islam, while the Shi'ites regard the Sunnis, and especially the Wahhabis, as a radical apostate political sect that has taken over the Muslim holy places.

This rivalry, which emanates from revolutionary Iran's competition with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Muslim world, reached its height in 1984, when thousands of Iranian pilgrims rioted in the streets of Mecca, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi regime. The Saudis forcibly quelled the riots, closing Mecca to Iranian pilgrims for several years. The Iranian threat also prompted the Saudis to support Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

The wave of solidarity with Iran's Islamic Revolution that engulfed the Sunni world prompted Saudi Arabia to exert great efforts in strengthening Sunni Islam in general and Wahhabi Islam in particular. To this end, Saudi Arabia acted mainly on two levels: giving massive support to the jihad in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s until the Soviets were defeated, and investing billions of dollars, over two decades and more, in establishing and maintaining schools, mosques, and other educational and religious institutions in Sunni communities worldwide. These efforts reversed much of the popularity of the Iranian revolution.

Saudi-Iranian enmity declined during the term of Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, and declined even more during the presidency of his successor, Mohammad Khatami. During Khatami's presidency, Iran strove to rejoin the international community by relaxing its efforts to export the revolution and by seeking to reconcile with its neighbors in the Gulf.

The Escalation of the Conflict During Ahmadinejad's Presidency

With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rise to power in 2005, the conflict reemerged, with a vengeance. Ahmadinejad reverted to Iran's previous policy of anti-Saudi hegemony, by pushing the export of the revolution, and promoting a messianic Shi'ite vision that stresses the imminent appearance of the Mahdi and the reestablishment of the great Persian Empire. In his second television appearance following his election, he said: "The message of the [Islamic] Revolution is global, and not restricted to a specific time or place. It is a human message, and it will move forward. Have no doubt... Allah willing, Islam will conquer. Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountaintops of the world."[6]

The message of reviving revolutionary values became a recurring motif in Ahmadinejad's speeches: "In the recent elections, the [Iranian] people proved that they believe in the [Islamic] Revolution and want to see its ideals revived… This revolution was a continuation of the movement of the prophets, and all the political, economic, and cultural goals of the [Iranian] state must therefore be geared towards realizing the Islamic ideals… The followers of this divine school of Islamic thought are doing everything in their power to prepare the ground for the coming [of the Shi'ite messiah, the Mahdi]… It is our duty to guide the people back to these glorious ideals, and to lead the way towards the establishment of an advanced and powerful Islamic society that will be a model [to others]… Iran must emerge as the most powerful and advanced state…"[7]

"The Iranian people, as well as the Iranian government, which has emerged out of the will of the Iranian people, will defend their right to nuclear research and technology... The older people present here surely remember that one of our slogans during the revolution was, 'We will convert the entire world to Islam with our logic.' We are confident that the Islamic logic, culture, and discourse can prove their superiority in all fields over all theories and schools of thought."[8]

In a recent speech at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad said: "Even though the revolution took place in Iran, it is not confined to Iran alone... Even after 30 years, [the revolution] is alive. We are [still] at the beginning of our road, and there are great changes still before us. This great revolution will continue until justice is inculcated [throughout the world]."[9]

Ahmadinejad's declarations about restoring the glory of the Shi'ite Persian Empire in the region, and the revival of the revolutionary rhetoric by other Iranian leaders – all backed by the regime's leading ayatollahs – were perceived by the Arab countries, and especially by Saudi Arabia, as a reemergence of the Iranian threat.

The religious-ideological threat was compounded by Iran's attempt to position itself as a regional military superpower, and by its determination to develop nuclear capabilities in addition to its long-range missile capabilities. Iran's insistence on developing nuclear technology despite international opposition was perceived by the Sunni Muslim world as a threat to it.

Iran Extends Its Influence Into the Arab World

Another factor contributing to the conflict was Iran's effort to increase its influence throughout the Arab world. Iran's activity in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime, and the rise in the Shi'ites' status in that country after the war, intensified Saudi fears, and the fears of other Sunni countries, about the emergence of an "Iranian/Shi'ite crescent" in the very heart of the Sunni world.

Saudi Arabia responded by increasing its support for the Sunni minority in Iraq, for various Muslim and Christian forces in Lebanon, and for others who were confronting Iranian threats in their territory (e.g. in Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine).

The military and political achievements of Hizbullah, Iran's wing in Lebanon, during the 2006 war and in the 2008 Doha agreement (which de facto gave Lebanon to Hizbullah's control) were likewise perceived as part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony – especially in light of statements by Iranian officials. Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said after the signing of the Doha agreement: "We see this political victory in the regional arena as a harbinger of [even] greater victories..." He added that Nasrallah had "carried out some of [Khomeini's] teachings."[10] 

After the Lebanon war, Saudi-Sunni concerns about Iran's growing aspirations for regional dominance came under more intensive and open discussion in the Arab world. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit said that the Iranians "were trying to spread [their influence] and impose their idiosyncratic ideology over the region."[11] He also accused Iran of "trying to use Arab cards to realize interests and goals that are not Arab,"[12] and said, "It is necessary to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear military power."[13]

Similar concerns were also voiced in the Saudi and Egyptian press. In the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, Saudi columnist Muhammad bin Ali Al-Mahmoud described Iran's policy under Ahmadinejad, stating: "The change in the Iranian arena has led to the emergence of a Nazi-like atmosphere [there, and to the voicing of] empty slogans that are [even] more violent and bombastic [than those heard] during the first [Iranian] revolution [of 1979]...[14] Sadly, the Iranian threat is not just a theoretical [construct] whose nature and course is a matter of debate among scholars. It has become a reality, and there is no difference between the model [represented by] the terroristic Al-Qaeda and the one [represented by] the Iranian party in Lebanon [i.e., Hizbullah]..."

Al-Mahmoud warned about Iran's "octopus-like expansion," saying: "Iran wants to control the region, not by spreading its ideology... but by maintaining armed organizations [in Arab countries]...  it violates their loyalty to their homelands, replacing it with loyalty to Iran. This, especially since Iran is a country that does not spread tolerance or a culture of moderation, but... a culture of one-sided hegemony, as part of a racist effort to impose a kind of occupation..."[15]      

In an article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, Saudi columnist 'Ali Sa'd Al-Moussa wrote that the Arab countries were being subjected to "Persian colonialism," as evidenced by the Iranian "cantons and districts on the map of the Arab world..." He added: "Iran has become a major and central player in Arab politics... Today we are seeing new signs of Persian colonialism. This is a [new], more advanced colonial model: We are no longer talking of troops occupying [certain] regions or of flags [flying] over public buildings. The colonialism of the modern era is manifested by the submission of [various regional forces to Iran]... Iran chose [regions] on the Arab map and attacked them without [even] pulling the trigger. Its entire plan is being implemented by Arabs."[16]

The Emergence of the Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah Axis

As part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony, a political and military axis has formed, comprising not only Iran and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, but also various Sunni forces that have an interest in opposing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was during the 2006 Lebanon war that a distinct Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah axis first emerged to oppose the Saudi-Egyptian camp.[17] At a later stage, this axis expanded to include Hamas, which has in recent years received increasing support from Iran, as well the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Lately, Syria and Iran have been striving to add Turkey to their ranks, and have met with some cooperation on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.[18]

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been trying to pry some of Iran's Sunni allies away from it.[19]

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem spoke of the "strategic alliance" among members of the Iranian axis, saying: "Our relations with Iran are strategic, and our relations with Turkey are also strategic, and we hope that our relations with the Arabs will be [strategic] as well. Our relations with Qatar are strategic, as are our relations with 'Oman, Algeria, and Libya, and we hope that in the future this [framework will expand] to include additional [countries] as well… We are acting in accordance with our interests and in the service of the Arab national cause and national security. To this end, we are coordinating with Iran and Turkey, and we are not ashamed of this… We coordinate [our efforts] towards our common goal – [which is finding a way] to protect the Palestinian resistance and the national resistance in Lebanon, by creating [strategic] depth for them."[20]

 Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad spoke in a similar vein in a September 2008 interview with Iran's  Al-Alam TV: "The strategic ties [between Syria and Iran] have proved to be of importance for the region in recent decades, but their real results have emerged [only] in the last 10 years. These include the victory of the resistance in Lebanon, and the unswerving fortitude of the resistance in Palestine since the Intifada, which began in 2000… We see before us a black slate dotted with bright spots that were once tiny but are now steadily increasing in size. This underscores the importance of [Syrian-Iranian] cooperation and the correctness of the political policy of Syria and Iran. Many countries that once objected to this policy are now beginning to realize its correctness, and to pursue a similar policy themselves…"[21]

The 2009 Gaza War Deepens the Schism Between the Two Camps

Just prior to its outbreak, the two camps engaged in reciprocal attacks. Syria and Iran accused Saudi Arabia and Egypt of pursuing a pro-Israel and pro-American policy and of sabotaging the efforts of the resistance movements. Saudi King 'Abdallah was branded by Syria as an "infidel" and "collaborator with the Imperialist Satan," while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was called a "traitor" and a "tyrant" who should be assassinated like Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for their part, claimed that Iran and Syria were striving to destabilize the region by interfering in internal Arab affairs and by nurturing the resistance movements in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority. They stressed that Syria was trying to divide the Arab ranks and was assisting Iran – a non-Arab country – in taking over the Middle East, to the detriment of Arab interests. [22]

After the war, the Iranian leaders boasted of the support they had given to Hamas – whose actions, they claimed, corresponded to the goals of the Islamic Revolution. The leaders also leveled harsh criticism at the Saudi-Egyptian axis.[23] Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that both Hizbullah's victory in 2006 and Hamas' victory in Gaza were fruits of the "great tree" that is Iran's Islamic Revolution.[24] Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani declared at a rally that "the residents of Gaza, [just like] Hizbullah, have managed to defeat the army of the Zionist regime thanks to the beneficial influence of Iran."[25] Guardian Council Chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in his Friday sermon in Tehran: "[In 2006], the host of Hizbullah [fighters], inspired by Islamic Iran, managed to deliver a crushing blow to Israel, to America and to the other Western countries supporting Israel. Now the same thing has happened in Gaza. Wherever Iran has a toehold, it will save and rescue [the Muslims]..."[26] The Iranian daily Kayhan, which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stated that Israel's war on Hamas had created a new Middle East, and had proved that the entire alliance consisting of Israel, the U.S., the European Union, Egypt and Saudi Arabia could not defeat a small organization like Hamas, despite the use of massive military force.[27]

The pro-Saudi camp, for its part, accused Hamas of serving Iranian and Syrian interests rather than those of the Palestinians. Egyptian President Mubarak declared that "Egypt will not let anyone make political profits and increase their [regional] influence at the expense of Palestinian blood."[28] Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu Al-Gheit accused Iran of using its Arab proxies to bargain with the U.S. and further its own ends. In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he said: "All non-Arab hands should be kept off the Palestinian cause, and even some Arab hands." He added, "Iran... seeks to grab as many Arab bargaining chips as possible, in order to tell the next U.S. administration: If you wish to discuss any subject – especially the security of the Gulf or Iran's nuclear dossier – you will have to speak with us..."[29] Abu Al-Gheit made similar statements in 2007, when he said that Iran's activities had encouraged Hamas to carry out the Gaza coup, and that this "threatened the national security of Egypt, which is only a stone's throw away from Gaza."[30] 

Senior Palestinian Authority officials likewise pointed to Iranian involvement in Gaza. PA Presidency secretary-general Al-Tayyeb 'Abd Al-Rahim stated that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had told the Hamas leaders to resume the resistance, and to keep Egypt from playing any role in the Palestinian dialogue. This, Al-Rahim said, was why Hamas refused to renew the tahdia and to continue the dialogue with Fatah.[31] PLO Secretary Yasser 'Abd Rabbo said that Hamas was advancing a regional conspiracy to turn Gaza into an independent entity separate from the West Bank, and to establish an Islamic emirate there, supported by Iran.[32]

Several days before Israel launched its Gaza offensive, the editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, published a series of articles under the title "Hamas-Damascus-Iran – The New Axis of Evil."[33] Once the Israeli offensive had begun, Ibrahim wrote: "Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Tehran have decided to put the Palestinian cause and its martyrs into Iran's hands. However, everyone is forgetting one important point – namely, that we will not hand over our people's capabilities to lunatics who hide out in Syria and who fire not a single bullet at Israel... There is a plan to set the entire region ablaze, and to kill as many Palestinian and Lebanese martyrs as possible, in order to expose the helplessness of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the [entire] moderate Arab axis...[34]

After The War – The Schism Between the Two Camps is An Acknowledged Fact

The Western media has largely ignored the new reality in the Middle East – namely, the schism and the escalating cold war between the two camps – as well as its far-reaching political implications. However, in the Arab world, this reality has become a publicly acknowledged fact, and is being intensely discussed.

Nasrallah's deputy Sheikh Na'im Qassem explained that Hizbullah was proud to belong the Iranian axis, which was hostile to the U.S. and its Arab supporters. He stated: "In today's world, there are two mutually opposing camps – the camp of the U.S. and its allies, and the camp of the resistance and its allies. The important point is that the American camp, which includes Israel [and is characterized by] corruption, aggression, and monopoly, is a hostile camp, and we, the resistance camp, must therefore oppose it staunchly and forcefully… [Our camp] will emerge triumphant. It is impossible to express solidarity [with the Palestinians] without supporting the resistance... Today, Gaza is the very embodiment of resistance. Everyone who supported Gaza [during the war] is on the side of the resistance, while everyone who did not support it, but was against it, is on the side of the U.S. and Israel…"

Qassem added: "Some thought that if they malign us [by calling us] allies of Iran, Syria, and Hamas, it would bother us. [Well], let me say that you can add Chavez and Bolivia [to the list of our allies], and all the free peoples in the world. We will [all] form a united front against the U.S. and Israel…"[35] 

Dr. Majed Abu Madhi, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Ba'ath and lecturer at the University of Damascus, argued that the war in Gaza had exposed not only the rift in the Arab world between the regimes that support the resistance and those that oppose it, but also the conflict between the rulers who object to the resistance, and their peoples who support it. He wrote: "It has become patently clear which countries support the resistance. It has also become patently clear which [Arab] regimes are the ones that the U.S. calls 'moderate' –[those that] oppose the resistance and even conspire against it. In addition, there is another kind of division, [namely,] between countries where the position of the government and the political leadership is aligned with that of the general public, and countries in which the position of the government and the leaders is at odds with that of the public. We have discovered a gap – nay, a deep abyss – between the wishes of the rulers [who reject the resistance] and those of their people [who support it]."[36]

The Saudi Camp: Iran Is Responsible for the Rift in the Arab World

The pro-Saudi camp accused Iran of causing the rift in the Arab world. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said that the current disagreement among the Arabs was the result of "intervention by non-Arab forces" in Arab affairs – referring to Iran.[37] During the Kuwait summit, Egyptian President Mubarak likewise hinted at Iranian interference, when he accused "internal and external" forces of dividing and weakening the Arab world.[38]

Editorials in newspapers associated with the Saudi-Egyptian camp stated that Iran was sowing division in the Arab world as part of its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and accused Arab forces such as Syria and Qatar of cooperating with this plan. Osama Saraya, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote: "Like the Persians in all [past] eras, the contemporary [Iranian] clerics think that [all] the Arabs, from the ocean to the Gulf, are a bunch of camel herders or ignoramuses. [Therefore, they think] that they can still market illusions that hide their true intentions, which are to take control of our region and to annex it to the empire they hope [to reestablish]... You must stop spreading your religion [in other countries, and confine these efforts] to your land alone. You must respect the [other] Muslim countries and the treaties signed between the Sunnis and Shi'ites [in which they agreed] to refrain from spreading [their respective] religions and from taking over [each other's] lands."[39]

The editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, wrote in his daily column: "Iran's ideology advocates eliminating [all] nationalities and national borders... The problem with the Iranian ideas is that [Iran] has passed them on to its followers in the Middle East... And the most dangerous [problem] with this Iranian philosophy... is that it calls for establishing states within states... This philosophy has indeed borne fruit in some parts of the Arab world. We have several examples of this: Hizbullah won the elections in Lebanon, and its state [within a state] was naturally stronger than Lebanon [itself]. [Furthermore], its militias were stronger than the government's armed forces. [The same thing] has happened with Hamas... [and with] the Shi'ites in Bahrain, who are wreaking havoc in their country [in an attempt to establish] a Shi'ite state alongside the Sunni Bahraini kingdom. In Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood is using its representation in parliament to try and take over the government and the leadership of the state... It is a dangerous and destructive idea to sacrifice the country for the sake of religion..."[40]

"The Trojan Horse" – Qatar's Role in Consolidating the Iranian Axis

It should be noted that Qatar has played a crucial role in exacerbating the rift in the Arab world by initiating the January 16, 2009 Doha summit, to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Qatar's inviting of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to the summit against the will of several Arab countries (such as the UAE, which responded by canceling its participation) clearly identified the summit as a convention of the Iranian-Syrian axis. The summit's pro-Iranian and anti-Saudi orientation was underscored by the fact that it called on Egypt to revoke its peace agreement with Israel, and on Saudi Arabia to withdraw its initiative for peace with it.

After the war ended, Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al thanked Qatar for its support for his movement during the fighting. In a speech in Doha, he said: "Two weeks ago, we came to you and asked you to stand by our side, and today we thank Qatar, its Emir, and its people [for responding to this request]."

Galal Dweidar, former editor-in-chief of the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar, characterized the Doha summit as "a conference in support of the Persian [expansionist] ambitions" and called Qatar "a Trojan horse designed to pave the way for the Shi'ite Persian invasion of [the lands belonging to] Muhammad's nation and the Sunnis."[41]

Al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya wrote in a similar vein: "By calling the Doha summit, Qatar hoped not only to undermine all the Arab actions, but also to deepen the rift among the Arabs and to put the joint Arab action in the hands of the axis of destruction and evil… [i.e. in the hands of] the Iranian axis – whose role was exposed and rendered completely transparent during the recent events in the region, and in the wake of Israel's Gaza offensive."[42]

Two Camps, Two Contrasting Approaches to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Iran's and Syria's support of the resistance, as well as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's support of a peace agreement with Israel, can both be understood in light of the Iranian – Saudi schism.

The Saudi camp's opposition to Hizbullah during the 2006 war, and its opposition to Hamas during the Gaza war, were both part of its conflict with Iran. Likewise, the Saudi camp's determination to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is meant to strengthen its position vis-à-vis Iran and its allies. Egypt is demanding to sponsor the intra-Palestinian dialogue and the current arrangements between Gaza and Israel, in order to prevent Iran from taking over Gaza via Hamas. Saudi Arabia, for its part, is striving to promote its peace initiative with Israel as a strategic option that will consolidate its position vis-à-vis the Iranian axis – at the same time as this axis attempts to undermine the Saudi position through its support for the resistance against Israel.

In fact, the Iranian axis has called to revoke all initiatives for peace with Israel and all manifestations of normalization with it – which it terms "collaboration" by the Arab regimes with Israel and the U.S. As part of this approach, Qatar and Mauritania announced at the Doha summit that they were severing diplomatic ties with Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei even equated the moderate Arab leaders who maintain ties with Israel with the Jews at the time of the Prophet Muhammad who were considered to be his enemies. In a letter to Hamas leader Isma'il Haniya, Khamenei said: "The Arab traitors must realize that their fate will be no better than that of the Jews at the Battle of Al-Ahzab [i.e. the Jews of the Al-Quraidha tribe who were killed for allegedly conspiring against the Prophet]."[43]

The Iranian axis contends that the correct course of action vis-à-vis Israel is resistance. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad declared the Arab Peace Initiative "dead," and coined a new phrase by defining the resistance as "a way to achieve peace," explaining that "peace without resistance is surrender."[44]

Editor of the Syrian government daily Teshreen Samira Al-Masalma explained that the disagreement between the camps was profound and could not be bridged: "The dispute between the Arabs is no longer a matter of different positions or different approaches to the solution, as was the case in the past. [Today,] the dispute is about the fundamentals, the means, the [proper] conduct and the practical approach to the crucial issues. This is what makes the disagreements so blatant.

"Both in July 2006 and during the aggression against Gaza… two [different] positions emerged among the official Arab regimes... According to one position, there is no peace without resistance, while according to the other, surrender is the key to peace and resistance is but meaningless 'adventurism.' These two positions are not merely theoretical. The [proponents of] the former support the resistance in every possible way, while the [proponents of] the latter are openly involved in destroying it."[45]

Furthermore, spokesmen for the Iranian-Syrian axis hinted at the possibility of a further escalation in the region. Syrian President Al-Assad said: "It was the 1982 [Lebanon-Israel] war that gave birth to the resistance in its present form and brought about the liberation [of Lebanon]. The 2002 massacre in Jenin [sparked] a situation of resistance in Palestine. In 2006, the same thing happened [in Lebanon], and today [in 2009] we see the same thing [in Gaza]... There are displays of resistance, and each of these [further] consolidates the course of the resistance and the validity of its ideologies... These are small victories that are part of a great triumph. They will continue in the future, and undoubtedly there will be further confrontations in one form or another – not all of them necessarily armed. But these victories are like steps on a ladder leading to further victories, and we cannot attain the final victory without them."[46]

Ibrahim Al-Amin, chairman of the pro-Syrian and pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, claimed that the Doha summit had provided a new impetus for the resistance, which would now become the preferred strategy not only of the resistance organizations themselves but also of certain Arab regimes. He wrote: "The most important point is that the Arab-Israeli conflict has entered a new phase… The meeting in Doha served as a lever for the camp that advocates resistance, [and resistance] has now become a dominant part of the operation methods employed [vis-à-vis Israel] – also by the [Arab] regimes and governments. This will have repercussions for relations with Europe and the U.S. It will also affect the situation in Iraq, which is the largest Arab country under U.S. occupation…"

Al-Amin contended that "the Arab world would [now] face a spell of score-settling even worse than the one witnessed by Lebanon in 2006 in the wake of the [Israeli] aggression."[47]

Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Na'im Qassem said: "We believe in resistance as a means [of bringing about] liberation and change... [for] the land and the people cannot be liberated from the force of arrogance [i.e. the U.S.] and from its pampered protectorate, Israel, in any other way... We carry out this resistance with our own hands in order to take back our rights. We do not [intend to count on] the [U.N.] Security Council or the superpowers; we will liberate our lands with our [own] weapons, as we did in the past and will [continue] to do [in the future]... The resistance we mean [to carry out] is military, and we say to the world: We will arm ourselves more and more, and we call to arm all the resistance [movements] that fight the enemy who occupies the land..."[48]

 The Saudi-Egyptian camp, on the other hand, opposed the resistance strategy, and rejected calls to sever ties with Israel or withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi foreign minister said, "The Arab Initiative is still relevant," adding that it "places Israel under considerable pressure."[49]

Some even called to return to the original version of the Saudi Peace Initiative, before amendments were introduced in 2002 in response to demands by Syria, such as a clause acknowledging the Palestinian right of return. An editorial in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal stated: "The Arab Peace Initiative, especially in its original form, before it was injected with Syrian-Lahoudian[50] corruption during the 2002 Beirut summit [meaning the inclusion of the right of return for the Palestinian refugees], was a comprehensive strategic vision... Lasting peace is a condition for the success of the programs for reform in all the Arab countries. For the sake of all this, the Arab peace initiative was and still is alive and well, and is the only strategy that the Arabs can propose in today's world."

The daily also called "to remove the Syrian-Lahoudian flaws from the Arab Peace Initiative, and to reintroduce as it was it in its original form."[51]

*Y. Carmon is the President of MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI; A. Savyon is director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project; and H. Migron is a Research Fellow at MEMRI


[1] Al-Tayyeb 'Abd Al-Rahim, secretary-general of the Palestinian Authority Presidency, stated that during a visit to Damascus, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had told the Hamas leaders to resume the resistance, and to keep Egypt from playing any role in the Palestinian dialogue. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 1, 2009.

[2] Ha'aretz (Israel), January 6, 2009.

[3] According to the Arab League charter, an emergency meeting must be convened by a quorum of at least 15 member states. Consequently, each of the Arab countries was forced to take a side in the conflict by either supporting the initiative of the emergency summit or rejecting it, and thus effectively declaring its membership in one camp or the other.

The summit in Doha was eventually attended by Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon (whose president, according to Hizbullah, made a great show of attending under duress), Comoro Islands, Mauritania, Iraq, Oman, Libya, Morocco, and Djibouti. It should be mentioned that PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who is cooperating with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, did not attend. Conversely, representatives of several Palestinian factions, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front – General Command, did arrive, in the Qatari Emir's private jet. 

[4] Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit explained in an interview with Orbit TV that Egypt had thwarted attempts to hold an emergency Arab League summit because "the Arab actions cannot be contingent upon the consent of [non-Arab] countries like Comoro Islands..." He added: "Where are the large and influential countries in the region, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia?" Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 29, 2009.

[5] The 2008 confrontation between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces ended with a victory for the former, since the organization's major demands were met: a one-third majority in cabinet giving it control over government decisions, and the nomination of a president approved by the organization. In addition, the government of Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora reversed its May 6, 2008 decisions which had been the immediate trigger for the clash between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces – namely, the decision to declare Hizbullah's private communications network an illegal enterprise undermining Lebanon's sovereignty and to charge those responsible for establishing it, as well as the decision to fire Beirut airport security chief Wafiq Shuqair, who is affiliated with Hizbullah. Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 15, 2008.

Hizbullah's takeover of Lebanon was facilitated by Qatar, who convened the May 21, 2008 Doha summit, in which the political achievements of Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian-Qatari axis were consolidated.

[6], July 25, 2005.

[7] Sharq, IRNA (Iran), November 15, 2005.

[8] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 782,

[9] IRNA (Iran), January 31, 2009

[10] Al-Hayat (London), May 29, 2008.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2008.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 3, 2007.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 19, 2006.

[14] Ahmadinejad's rise to power is sometimes referred to as the "Second Islamic Revolution." See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 229, "Iran's 'Second Islamic Revolution': Fulfilled by Election of Conservative President," June 28, 2005, and MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 253, "The 'Second Islamic Revolution' in Iran: Power Struggle at the Top," November 17, 2005,

[15] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 29, 2008.

[16] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 15, 2008.

[17] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1249, "Arab Media Accuses Iran and Syria of Direct Involvement in Lebanon War," August 15, 2006,  

[18] Sunni countries and forces, such as Syria, Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas, have various motivations in joining the axis of Shi'ite Iran. Syria, whose standing in the Arab world is at odds with its self-perception as the cradle of Arab civilization and of pan-Arab ideology, sees the Iranian axis as a framework for enhancing its regional status. In addition, it is probably motivated by considerations of political survival. Faced with the danger of conviction by the international tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, Syria hopes that its alliance with Iran will provide it with some backing against this tribunal (like the backing extended by the Arab countries to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir). See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 490, "Recent Attempts to Form Strategic Regional Bloc: Syria, Turkey and Iran," January 6, 2009,

Qatar likewise sees the Iranian axis as a platform for elevating its regional status and also for challenging Saudi Arabia's dominance in the Arabian Peninsula. The policy of Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani is one of blatant opposition to Saudi Arabia, which did not support him in his 1995 coup attempt against his father. To counterbalance the fact that Qatar is home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, and has ties with Israel, the Qatari Emir uses Al-Jazeera TV – his long arm in the Arab and Muslim world – to attack the Arab regimes and the U.S., and to support the global jihad organizations, the ideology of resistance, and the Nasserist pan-Arab ideology.

In the past few years, Qatar has been actively supporting Syria, Iran and the resistance movements. In 2006, it assisted Hizbullah in the passing of U.N. Resolution 1701 for ending the Lebanon war, and, unlike the other Gulf states, it refrained from condemning Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza. Additionally, in an attempt to prevent the isolation of Syria, it was the only Arab country that abstained in the vote on Security Council Resolution 1737 on establishing an international tribunal for the Al-Hariri assassination. Finally, it served Iran's interests by inviting Ahmadinejad to the December 2007 GCC summit in Doha – to the astonishment and consternation of the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia – in an attempt to break up the anti-Iranian Gulf bloc. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 416, "The Collapse of the Saudi Sunni Bloc against Iran's Aspirations for Regional Hegemony in the Gulf," January 11, 2008, (A further report on Qatar's policy will be published by MEMRI in the near future).

Hamas likewise regards the Iranian axis as a suitable framework of operation, since its political goals are at odds with the positions of the Saudi-Egyptian axis.

As for Turkey, in the past few years it too has been inclining towards the Iranian axis. During the 2009 Gaza war, it expressed solidarity with Hamas, and Prime Minister Erdogan attended only the forum of the Iranian axis (e.g. the Doha Summit) and did not attend the summit at Sharm Al-Sheikh. He offered to mediate between the Palestinian factions in coordination with Syria, but not in coordination with Egypt. On the recent Turkish-Iranian rapprochement, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 490, "Recent Attempts to Form Strategic Regional Bloc: Syria, Turkey and Iran," January 6, 2009,

[19] In 2007 and in 2009, Saudi Arabia tried but failed to bring Syria and Hamas back into the Arab Saudi-Egyptian fold.

[20] Al-Manar TV, January 7, 2009.

[21] Al-Thawra (Syria), September 18, 2008.

[22] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 485, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part I – Deepening Crisis in Saudi-Syrian Relations," December 22, 2008,;  Inquiry and Analysis No. 486, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part II – Egypt Trades Accusations with Hamas, Syria, Iran," December 22, 2008,; Inquiry and Analysis No. 487, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part III – Syria, Saudi Arabia Clash over Fath Al-Islam," December 22, 2008,                

[23] In demonstrations in Tehran, strong accusations were made against the Arab regimes, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  During the war, and even before it, there were calls to bring down the Egyptian regime and assassinate Mubarak, like Sadat. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 479, "Calls in Iran to Topple Egyptian, Saudi Regimes," December 12, 2008,

[24] IRNA (Iran), January 22, 2009; Ayandenews News (Iran), January 21, 2009.

[25] IRNA (Iran), January 31, 2009.

[26] ISNA (Iran), January 16, 2009.

[27] Kayhan (Iran), January 27, 2009.

[28] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 31, 2008.

[29], January 1, 2009.

[30] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 20, 2007.

[31] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 1, 2009.

[32] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 23, 2009.

[33] The articles appeared on December 22, 23, and 24, 2008.

[34] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), December 29, 2008.

[35], January 17, 2009.

[36] Al-Ba'ath (Syria), January 19, 2009.

[37] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), January 18, 2009.

[38] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 20, 2009.

[39] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 16, 2009.

[40] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), December 19, 2008.

[41] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), January 18, 2009.

[42] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 16, 2009.

[43] Fars (Iran), January 15, 2009. In a recent Friday sermon, Ayatollah Jannati called Saudi Arabia "a U.S. puppet" and Egypt "an ally of Israel," adding that the heads of those countries should fear an uprising by their people and the wrath of God. ISNA (Iran), January 16, 2009.

[44] Al-Ba'ath (Syria), January 17, 2009.

[45] Teshreen (Syria), January 17, 2009.

[46] Al-Thawra (Syria), January 27, 2009.

[47] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 17, 2009.

[48], January 17, 2009.

[49] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), January 17, 2009.

[50] A reference to then-Lebanese president Emil Lahoud. 

[51] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), January 17, 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009: The year of living fecklessly



A pro-reform protester holds a poster of dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri at his funeral on Monday.
A pro-reform protester holds a poster of dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri at his funeral on Monday. (Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
Friday, December 25, 2009

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not just reject President Obama's latest feckless floating nuclear deadline. He spat on it, declaring that Iran "will continue resisting" until the United States has gotten rid of its 8,000 nuclear warheads.

So ends 2009, the year of "engagement," of the extended hand, of the gratuitous apology -- and of spinning centrifuges, two-stage rockets and a secret enrichment facility that brought Iran materially closer to becoming a nuclear power.

We lost a year. But it was not just any year. It was a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity. In Iran, it was a year of revolution, beginning with a contested election and culminating this week in huge demonstrations mourning the death of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri -- and demanding no longer a recount of the stolen election but the overthrow of the clerical dictatorship.

Obama responded by distancing himself from this new birth of freedom. First, scandalous silence. Then, a few grudging words. Then relentless engagement with the murderous regime. With offer after offer, gesture after gesture -- to not Iran, but the "Islamic Republic of Iran," as Obama ever so respectfully called these clerical fascists -- the United States conferred legitimacy on a regime desperate to regain it.

Why is this so important? Because revolutions succeed at that singular moment, that imperceptible historical inflection, when the people, and particularly those in power, realize that the regime has lost the mandate of heaven. With this weakening dictatorship desperate for affirmation, why is the United States repeatedly offering just such affirmation?

Apart from ostracizing and delegitimizing these gangsters, we should be encouraging and reinforcing the demonstrators. This is no trivial matter. When pursued, beaten, arrested and imprisoned, dissidents can easily succumb to feelings of despair and isolation. Natan Sharansky testifies to the electric effect Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech had on lifting spirits in the gulag. The news was spread cell to cell in code tapped on the walls. They knew they weren't alone, that America was committed to their cause.

Yet so aloof has Obama been that on Hate America Day (Nov. 4, the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran), pro-American counter-demonstrators chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them," i.e., their oppressors.

Such cool indifference is more than a betrayal of our values. It's a strategic blunder of the first order.

Forget about human rights. Assume you care only about the nuclear issue. How to defuse it? Negotiations are going nowhere, and whatever U.N. sanctions we might get will be weak, partial, grudging and late. The only real hope is regime change. The revered and widely supported Montazeri had actually issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons.


And even if a successor government were to act otherwise, the nuclear threat would be highly attenuated because it's not the weapon but the regime that creates the danger. (Think India or Britain, for example.) Any proliferation is troubling, but a nonaggressive pro-Western Tehran would completely change the strategic equation and make the threat minimal and manageable.

What should we do? Pressure from without -- cutting off gasoline supplies, for example -- to complement and reinforce pressure from within. The pressure should be aimed not at changing the current regime's nuclear policy -- that will never happen -- but at helping change the regime itself.

Give the kind of covert support to assist dissident communication and circumvent censorship that, for example, we gave Solidarity in Poland during the 1980s. (In those days that meant broadcasting equipment and copying machines.) But of equal importance is robust rhetorical and diplomatic support from the very highest level: full-throated denunciation of the regime's savagery and persecution. In detail -- highlighting cases, the way Western leaders adopted the causes of Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov during the rise of the dissident movement that helped bring down the Soviet empire.

Will this revolution succeed? The odds are long but the reward immense. Its ripple effects would extend from Afghanistan to Iraq (in both conflicts, Iran actively supports insurgents who have long been killing Americans and their allies) to Lebanon and Gaza where Iran's proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, are arming for war.

One way or the other, Iran will dominate 2010. Either there will be an Israeli attack or Iran will arrive at -- or cross -- the nuclear threshold. Unless revolution intervenes. Which is why to fail to do everything in our power to support this popular revolt is unforgivable.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

UN Resolution 1559 & The Axis Of Evil Thugs

UN Resolution 1559 & The Axis Of Evil Thugs
By Elias Bejjani

December 24/09

Apparently the Stalinist Syrian Baathist rulers are not yet able to swallow and digest the bitter fact that their savage and oppressive occupational army was forced to withdraw from neighboring Lebanon in 2005 with disgrace and humiliation.

Going back to 2004, the UN Security Council issued on September 02/04 its first benchmark pro- Lebanon UN resolution 1559, in a bid to put an end to Syria's occupation of its neighboring country, Lebanon, and stop its oppression of the Lebanese people.

The resolution strongly called for the withdrawal of all foreign armies (Syrians and Israelis) from Lebanon and reiterated the council's steadfast support for reclaiming the country's independence, sovereignty, freedoms, and democracy.

Article seven of the resolution stated verbatim: "Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence".

The Syrian president dictator Bachar Al Assad defied the resolution and forced the Lebanese parliament members through terrorism, intimidation and criminal means to amend the country's constitution that limits the president's presence in office for one term only. The parliament succumbed to Assad's threats and extended the presidency term for three more years for the subservient handpicked Lebanese-Syrian president Emile Lahoud.

On the 14th of February, 2005, Lebanon's Sunni Prime Minister Raffic Al Hariri was assassinated when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The investigation into his assassination by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is still ongoing and is currently led by the independent investigator, Daniel Bellemare. In its first two reports, UNIIIC indicated that the Syrian government might be linked to the assassination.

Hariri's killing led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the uprising (intifada) of the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops. On The 26th of April, 2005, Syria formally notified the United Nations that it had withdrawn all of its troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon

Syrian rulers taking advantage of the Obama administration's Middle East openness, and of a recent Syrian-Saudi rapprochement, waged an extensive and fierce campaign in the United Nations, Arab countries and Lebanon aiming to annul the UN Resolution that forced them to withdraw from Lebanon, alleging they had implemented all articles related to them. Syria informed the Lebanese government officially of its request.

Lebanon's pro- Hezbollah foreign minister, Ali al-Shami, has informed ambassadors accredited in Lebanon that 1559 is "dead." Well-informed sources said Shami, who was part of the delegation that accompanied President Michel Suleiman to Washington, argued that the Hezbollah arms issue is slated for discussion during all-party talks. Shami stressed that the problem was the ongoing Israeli air, sea and land violations against Lebanon. (Al-Hayat Daily & Naharnet 18/12/09) .

The terrorist Hezbollah's International Relations Officer, Ammar Mousawi, said on 18/12/09 that UN Security Council resolution 1559 is "meaningless." "It is being exploited in an effort to impose a trusteeship on Lebanon," Moussawi believed. "No one has the right to exercise the role of the guardian of Lebanon because the issue of weapons will be discussed in the framework of the defense strategy," he added. (Naharnet, 18/12/ 09)

On 20/12/09 Syria asked for the dismissal of UN Secretary-General's envoy on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen, for allegedly making secret visits to Israel to incite the Jewish state against Damascus and oppose the withdrawal from the northern part of the village of Ghajar.

The Syrian mission's third secretary in New York, Yasar Diab, told the General Assembly's fifth committee on administrative and budgetary affairs that Roed-Larsen had written two reports this year on the implementation of 1559 without making any visits to Beirut. On the other hand, he has visited Israel several times. Diab accused the envoy of implementing a "suspicious personal agenda" that has nothing to do with his mission. He also said that Roed-Larsen is violating the UN Charter by interfering in Lebanese-Syrian affairs such as border demarcation.

Diab reiterated that Damascus has implemented 1559's provisions by withdrawing its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanese territories. He said 1559's remaining articles were a Lebanese issue. The Syrian envoy also criticized the UN for considering Roed-Larsen responsible for the implementation of resolution 1680. The UN General-Secretariat has previously noted that Roed-Larsen's mandate derives not only from 1559 but also from subsequent related resolutions, including 1680 and 1701. Diab finally called for the annulment of a clause in the report on the apportionment of the UN envoy's expenses. The clause invites Roed-Larsen to encourage member states to implement resolution 1680.

In this context the pro-Syrian Lebanese President Michele Suleiman echoed Syria's request to President Obama and to all his top administration officials during an official visit to the United States earlier this month. Suleiman alleged that Hezbollah is a resistance party and not a terrorist organization and that its members are Lebanese and hold portfolios in the new Hariri national unity government. He alleged too that the only article of the UN resolution 1559 that is not yet implemented addresses Hezbollah's weaponry and that he personally is leading a national comprehensive dialogue to tackle this matter.
Reliable US reports stated that Obama's administration did not see eye to eye with Suleiman's requests, while president Obama stressed the importance of the implementation of all UN resolutions related to Lebanon, including 1559 and 17701.

Dr Walid Phares, advisor to the US House Caucus on Counter Terrorism called Syria and Lebanon's request to "cancel" Security Council resolution 1559 as a move against international law and traditions. Their rhetoric aims at intimidating the Lebanese politicians and people. He stated that legally no Government, including permanent members of the Security Council can annul a Security Council Resolution. Only that UN body has the right to do so, but it has never annulled any resolutions since the launching of the UN. Phares in his Christmas and New Year message to the Lebanese people assured them that the free world and the Lebanese Diaspora supports strongly their cause of freedom and assured them that a better future awaits them. He urged them to produce new types of efficient politicians or change the behavior of the current ones due to the fact that these politicians have committed too many strategic mistakes since 2005, the worst being legitimizing Hezbollah's weapons in the new Hariri Government's ministerial statement."

Lebanese International Law Professor Chafic Al-Masri has said that neither Lebanon nor any other country whether a permanent or a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has the right to delete international resolutions, the Al-Rai Kuwaiti newspaper reported Saturday. "The UNSC can only impose, remind of, or neglect the resolutions and it is the only side that has the jurisdictions to modify UN resolutions," he said. "Lebanon can demand the UNSC that the item on Hezbollah arms in UN resolution 1559 is resolved by the Lebanese themselves but it cannot request deleting it," he added. "UN resolution 1701 stated in its introduction that it is based on all previous resolutions concerning Lebanon including resolution 1559. Thus, it is illogical that Lebanon holds to all items of resolution 1701 and asks for deleting part of resolution 1559 simultaneously," he added. The pan-Arab Ash-Shaq Al-Awsat quoted a ministerial source in an interview published Saturday that he doubts the existence of a possibility to delete resolution 1559, but noted that some of its items were considered as practically annulled UN resolution 1559 which was issued by UNSC in 2004 demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon and the removal of militias' arms in Lebanon including those of Hezbollah and Palestinians outside the camps. UN resolution 1701 which was issued in 2006 to end the July war between Hezbollah and Israel demanded ending all military presence south of the Litani River in south Lebanon and respecting the blue line on behalf of Lebanon and Israel. (19/12/09, Source: Al Rai)

Nicole Shampaine, US Director of the Department of State's Near East Affairs Bureau Office for Egypt and the Levant, stressed on 19/12/09 that Washington strongly supports the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions related to Lebanon, including resolutions 1559 and 1701. In an interview with al-Rai Kuwaiti daily, Shampaine said that the US will continue to offer strong support for the institutions of the Lebanese state, including the Lebanese army. The US diplomat stressed that a strong, prosperous, and democratic Lebanon was in the interest of the region and the international community.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero has said on 20/12/09 that any UN Security Council resolution remains valid as long as the world body hasn't adopted another resolution to annul it. Valero told al-Balad daily in remarks published on Sunday that Syria and Lebanon should agree on implementing the articles of Security Council resolution 1559.

Valero's comment came in response to Syria's request to annul 1559. Another source told the newspaper that a resolution cannot be annulled without the consensus of the major powers that have Security Council seats. However, Lebanese diplomatic sources told Ad-Diyar daily that 1559 does not exist anymore.

Meanwhile UN resolution 1559 that was issued by the Security Council on September 02/04 is comprised of 12 articles as shown below. Only article five was fulfilled after the election of General Michel Suleiman as president:
1-"Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally territorially recognized borders,
2-"Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,
3-"Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,
4-"Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory,
5-"Mindful of the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections and underlining the importance of free and fair elections according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence,
6- Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;
7- Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;
8- Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;
9- Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;
10- Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;
11- Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;
12-Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter."

The most important articles of the resolution have not been implemented yet as shown below:

The militias (Hezbollah, Amal Movement, SSNP Party (Syrian Social Nationalist Party), Baath Party, and several Palestinian armed factions) have not been dismantled or disarmed.

The Israelis still occupy the Shabaa farms, Ghajar village and a few hills in south Lebanon.

The Syrian army did not complete its withdrawal and still holds on to four military bases under the camouflage of Palestinian militias, one near the capital Beirut (Naeme) and three in the Bekaa valley adjacent to its borders (Helwa, Kosaea, Sultan Yacoub) .

The Lebanese government does not have control of or authority in many regions of the country, including 13 Palestinian refugee camps and Hezbollah's mini state.

The Syrian-Lebanese borders have not yet been demarcated and Syria still officially and openly facilitates the transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah.

We call on the USA to take into consideration that Lebanon is practically still an occupied country and that the terrorist Hezbollah, Syria's and Iran's militant proxy, totally controls the Lebanese government, as well as most of the country's civil and armed institutions.

We call on the Obama administration to maintain the USA's tough anti -terrorism stance and to continue to strongly honor and support the UN resolutions related to Lebanon until Lebanon becomes completely free from armed militias, Syrian occupation and terrorism organizations, and to fully abide by the articles of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSRA) that the Congress passed into law on December 12, 2003.

This act calls for the end of Syrian support for terrorism, the end of Syria's presence in Lebanon, to stop Syria's development of WMDs, to cease Syria's illegal importation of Iraqi oil and to end illegal shipments of military items to anti-US forces in Iraq.

*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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Why do Arabs Migrate to the West?

By Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni

Rationally, logically, and lawfully speaking, westerners are supposed to migrate to the land of the Arabs, because it is the land of Muhammad's message, the place where revelation descended [onto the prophet], the convergence point of civilizations, the land of archaeological sites and tourism, the centre of the universe and the podium of various cultures. However, the inverse happened, with many Arabs migrating to the West. In every town in Europe and America we find an Arab community filling universities, schools, factories, and mosques. Some of them have fled from repression, whipping, torture, gagging, confiscation of freedom, with the traces of torture still on their backs and chests. Others have gone to look for a source of living after being stricken by poverty, stung by hunger, and destroyed by unemployment and idleness. Others have gone to seek knowledge, leaving behind their countries where universities are ranked last in the list of the universities of the world.
Many of these Arabs who were driven out of their countries were poor, or illiterate or mentally disturbed as a result of frustration. Some of them arrived safely, feeling as if they had been in hell, while others drowned at sea, fleeing from a burning hell. Some of them turned themselves into the police or a security station in the West, applying the words of the poet, who said: kill me and kill Malik with me [after me the deluge!].
These Arabs who have reached the West have become engineers, doctors, professors, writers, and intellectuals because the doors to knowledge, work, production, innovation, discovery, and invention have been opened to them. In contrast, some of their colleagues who have stayed behind in the Arab world have retired and were beset by diabetes, high blood pressure, hallucination, senility, and became bald and helplessly crippled. Other colleagues of theirs took private jobs as shepherds and woodcutters, participating in folkloric dances, glorifying their tribe, and threatening other tribes. Others just stayed at home, waiting to die, having written their will while thinking about the Koranic verse that says: "The Death from which ye flee will truly overtake you" [Part of Koranic verse; Al-Jumuah, 62:8]
We have been to the city of Fort Collins, in the State of Colorado, in America. A Libyan invited us. He has political refugee status after fleeing from Libya where he was made homeless, and was hunted, tortured, deported, and frustrated. He worked in the state in question, then bought a farm to which he invited us. The farm has a variety of trees and fruit. He has cows and livestock, and has built a nice villa on the farm that also has clear water and flourishing gardens. He was very generous to us, and he described to us his situation in his country of origin and his current situation. We were amazed. Amazingly enough, here is a man who fled his homeland after being terribly harassed, tortured, and maltreated there and came to a state that we are insulting day and night, and that some of us call the "Great Satan," a country that our preachers are cursing and wishing it bad. Then, this poor Muslim man who was driven out of his country, tortured in his homeland, becomes rich, having a home, a farm and a job, and enjoying a good life full happiness in an American state!
Why don't we, Arabs, think about our tragedies and disasters, and admit that many of our states have abolished the Islamic Shariaa, discarded justice, confiscated liberties, taken over rights, erased the freedom of expression and turned the country into a large jail? This is at a time when, in the West, they discuss their affairs calmly, solve their crises with dialogue and govern their subjects with justice. And, not content with this, many of us sing the praise of illusory achievements and verbal projects, dream-walking in cloud cuckoo land. In fact, they are deceiving and laughing at themselves, deriding their history, and mocking their nation. We have traveled thousands of miles in European and American trains and seen regulations, order, cleanliness, environmental protection, good taste, and respect for others.
While admitting that western materialism has killed souls and turned man into a machine, and that this western materialistic civilization has many bad aspects, I must say that when we look at them in this world and then look at the Arab land, we perceive a wide chasm, with the exception of very few Arab places and towns.
In our Islamic Shariaa we read about order, justice, good character, calls for peace and human rights, respect for others, avoiding hurting other peoples' feelings, showing interest in the environment, seeking knowledge, encouraging work and production, and fighting poverty, ignorance, disease, and injustice. We notice that they are observing all this in the West whereas we find that many Arabs are only paying lip service to it, in their bitter reality.
Please, let us stop cursing and insulting them [in the West], and wishing them bad, and let us preoccupy ourselves with reforming ourselves, improving our level, promoting our universities, cleaning our environment, building our land, and rectifying our mistakes. The Arabs will then return to their land, and perhaps the westerners will migrate to the Arab land.
Dr. Aaidh al-Qarni
Dr. al-Qarni is a Saudi-born Islamic preacher and scholar. His book "Don't Feel Sad" (La Tahzan) has sold millions world wide.

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