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The Scene is Tragic and the Direction Poor - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The scene is a composite one; it would be naive to attempt its deconstruction. It’s no longer possible to dissociate what is happening in Lebanon from what is happening in the West Bank, Gaza or Iraq; the conflict is the same. The problems here and there are intertwined and identical – even the proposed settlements are similar. Regarding the impossible solution; the outcomes are inevitable and acknowledged: the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq intensely erupted in Lebanon and Gaza last week, portending something greater – namely, civil wars.

The Arab society is eroding. The historical mosaic that shook off the Arab awakening and the struggle against colonialism in the past century is now crumbling under the hammer of corrosion and deprivation both internally and externally. The dominant summits are rigid, pitiful and divided. There exist no ideas on the present and there is no exploration or examination of future prospects. The economic growth rates are false; the higher they rise, the more the societies become poverty stricken, miserable and backward, and with it increases inflexibility and rejection!

Arabs have become afflicted by materialism. Politicizing religion has led to it becoming sectarian and ideologically conflicting. Sectarianism and rallying have roused dormant historical obsessions, and the dead have come to govern the living. The misgivings of the minorities about the majority’s religion have whittled down to a mutual apprehension within a single religion. Through the multiplicity of doctrines, societies have been stripped down to their primitive characteristics with all that it entails of spite, hatred, ferocity and discord, of melodramatic regret over bygone days, and the overwhelming desire to seek foolish vengeance from a majority that inherited it rather than took part in its making.

‘Nationalistic’ infighting spared the Arab street the consequences of public infighting and the conflict over power remained confined to the elite. The ‘jihadi’ era has brought dialogue and conflict to the street, and politicizing the street has rendered leaders neutral and made leaders of the masses and the mob.

In the absence of a unified Arab position, the fever of international and regional polarization has invaded the Arabs. The clash of power and politics between Iran and the West is rending the Arabs between one party and another, transforming their nations into a field of hot and cold wars between the two parties. With America holding the reins of the initiative of confronting the Iranian infiltration of the Arabs, the collision has grown severer, fiercer and bloodier since the turn of the year.

I say with caution that the ability of Bush’s America to re-grip the reins of the military initiative in Iraq is not guaranteed to persist or succeed as a result of the decline of the Bush administration’s influence and power – both internally and externally – and due to the vigor of the resistance and of the weakness of al Maliki’s government and its subdivided Shia parties and militias. This poses a serious threat to the security and stability of the Arab system, which – willingly or unwillingly – promptly supported Bush’s new strategy that is reportedly aimed at striking a even a minimal balance between Iraq’s ruling Shia and the Sunnis opposition, or those who do not accept the occupation-imposed ‘Shia reality.’

In some detail, I first refer to the situation of ‘Siniora’s regime’ in Lebanon. America’s shift towards offense in the region has won Siniora a major tactical victory. The man returned from Paris overloaded with generous checks to salvage a regime and a debt-laden country (US $41 billion). Paris III international donors conference was a Chirac-led European-American political show to demonstrate to Iran the West’s ability, despite all appearances, to act once it decides on confrontation following the Iranian-Israeli attack last summer: a gilded bag to promote ‘Siniora’s Sunni regime’ and his US-backed Christian allies.

I deliberately refer to it as ‘Siniora’s regime’ rather than ‘Siniora’s government’ because the severe cabinet crisis has gone beyond the traditional crisis between the government and the opposition in Lebanon and has come to reside at the core of the regional conflict. Siniora’s fall or endurance has come to imply the fall or survival of an Arab regime faced with intense Iranian infiltration.

Iran managed to undermine Siniora’s ‘government’ internally but was not capable of toppling his ‘regime.’ Hezbollah’s Hassan occupied the ‘Sunni’ heart of the capital, pitching tents beside al Hariri’s tomb and surrounding Siniora’s ‘headquarters’. But when he sought to magnify the encampment into a strike and a sit-in that would paralyze the country and regime, his taking to the mob-filled streets, armed with political dialogue, was met with the possibility of a civil war that Lebanon would inevitably lose, and the Shia and Iran cannot win.

Thank God Bush didn’t send 21,000 troops to save Siniora who is under siege in the government headquarters. No, Bush settled for US $2 billion equally paid by his treasury and his ‘World’ Bank. Khamenei’s sense of the hot American ‘iron’ prompted him dispatch Larijani to Saudi Arabia; the only Arab state with which Iran still can speak with candor, knowing that its considerable political weight enables it to publicly express reservations about America’s conduct in the region, and to resist any military strike against Iran.

Through the Saudi-Iranian contacts, in addition to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s, statements in which he expressed his concern over Arabism and the Sunnis, it seems the two countries did not reach some form of synchronicity, it rather led to an understanding of the present without further escalation. Perhaps it was Khamenei’s restraint of Ahmadinejad that allowed the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon to resume contacts with Nabih Berri and his partner, Hezbollah’s Hassan, in hope of succeeding.

One reason behind the Saudi reservation was Condoleezza’s insistence that the Arab foreign ministers should ‘back’ al Maliki’s government; they had just gotten over the shock of Saddam’s execution on the day of Eid-ul-Adha [Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice]. Meanwhile her president, Bush, blamed and chided al Maliki for his tardiness in reconciling with the Sunnis and pursuing the al Sadr’s militias that support him [al Maliki].

Bush’s determination for a settlement in Baghdad does not dispel his confused position towards the ruling Shia parties neither does it repudiate the obscurity of his relation with al Maliki’s government. Bush’s hesitation baffles the Arabs who backed the new American strategy. Bush prepared the American ‘rescue’ troops to discipline the ‘ill-behaved boy,’ but the American reinforcements involved al Maliki in their third strike against the residents of the Sunni street of Haifa under the pretext of hunting Sunni terrorists. With the help of al Maliki and al Sistani, noble boy Muqtada along with his militias successfully fled Baghdad to the Shia depth of the south.

The condensation of American clouds continues, its anti-Tehran verbal threat crescendo on the rise, add to that the pursuit of the latter’s agents who have snuck into Iraq (31,000 agents’ names were published by the oppositional Mujahedin e-Khalq organization), and the marine mobilization and the deployment of anti-missile missiles in the Arabian Gulf and Eastern Europe.

Amr Moussa, who had predicted that ‘gates of hell’ would be flung open if America attacked Saddam’s Iraq, similarly now predicts that another of hell’s gates will unbolt if America attacked Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The Palestinian scene is not separate from the Iraqi or Lebanese scenes in any way. During the polarization process between America and Iran, two Palestinian birds are engaged in fighting while inside the occupation’s cage! Dozens are killed and injured in Palestine using Palestinian bullets! It is a fight between settlement and rejection. The Arab’s attempt has so far failed to extricate Hamas from Iran.

Tehran finances the Hamas militias, and Israel releases Palestinian money to finance Abbas’s militias. Jordan prosecutes Hamas members who brought in Iranian Katyusha rockets through the Syrian borders. Iran and Syria allowed Mishal to meet Abbas in Syria but didn’t allow them to agree to a ‘national unity’ government.

The scene is agonizing, and direction poor. The victims are millions of Arabs. Those who watch in silence cannot intervene and cannot guard life. Bullets are blind in their killing, whether fired by the guns of the occupation or by those of the ‘protectors’ of resistance and jihad.

Everyone has been rendered atrophic and incapacitated: Bush, al Maliki, Abbas, Mishal, Haniyeh, Olmert, Siniora and Hezbollah’s Hassan.

So, what is the solution? The solution is to create a state for Hamas in Gaza and another for Fatah in the West Bank. Long live the slogan “This revolution arose to last.”

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam is a Syrian writer and journalist based in Paris.

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