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Feeding the Sectarian Frenzy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The verbal assault on Saudi Arabia began from southern Lebanon and northern Yemen within days of each other using similar language and terms taken from the same source that reeks of Tehran.

Nawaf al-Musawi, the official in charge of external relations of the Lebanese divine party [Hezbollah], emerged recently threatening the enemies of the group. He threatened to devastate who ever appoints any individual to any security department without taking permission from Hassan Nasrallah, the Supreme Guide of the Hezbollah Islamic Republic.

Al-Musawi- who is notorious for making statements that are not related to the nature of his post – violated the constitution, “pierced the boil”, and clearly attacked Saudi Arabia although he said “a Gulf country” like veteran diplomats who only make hints rather than statements.

According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar, Al-Musawi attacked Saudi Arabia without naming it, saying, “This Gulf country is financing the sectarian sedition in Lebanon”. Al-Musawi added, “The problem is that this is a political battle that this Gulf country is waging and it should know that it cannot transform Lebanon into an emirate appended to the emirates that it controls” as he referred to the formula of Lebanese co-existence among its sects. This is what was said – from north of the Arabian Peninsula- by one of the leaders of the Iranian-Lebanese party whose master [Hassan Nasrallah] admitted that he was a follower of Waliyat el Faqih. So what was said from south of the Arabian Peninsula and almost in the same week?

In inconsistent remarks to the weekly Yemeni newspaper Al-Wasat (on 18 June) following the recent battles with the Yemeni army, Abdul Malik al-Huthi, the field commander of the Al-Huthist insurgents in the northern mountains of Yemen and the strongholds of Al-Zaydiyah in Sa’dah and elsewhere, said: “The Saudis are hostile to us although we are not their enemies. But their participation in the aggression against us with money and other things force us to treat them like enemies. We have many options and various files that we can revive and raise alongside other Yemeni files”. Al-Huthi added: “But so far we have not declared war”. In a statement to the Yemeni newspaper Al-Nida on 12 June, Al-Huthi accused Saudi Arabia of “involvement in shedding Yemeni blood to placate the United States”. He warned that if Saudi Arabia’s aggressive behavior continues, “We may be driven to classify it as an enemy”. Abdul Malik al-Huthi also expressed to Al-Wasat his deep admiration for the Iranian state and its policies saying that he supports these policies.

The fact is that the criticism of Saudi intervention by Al-Musawi or Al-Huthi is like trying to block the sunlight with a sieve. Regardless of the true source of corruption and harmful interference – that is Iran – and even if we agree with them that Saudi Arabia is the biggest corrupter and interventionist in Lebanon and Yemen, why is Saudi intervention viewed as an evil deed of the devil while Iran’s intervention is deemed sweeter than rainwater?

Let us ask Mr. Al-Musawi: You say that Saudi Arabia wishes to destroy diversity in Lebanon. But you intentionally forgot that Lebanon’s second constitution that consolidated the formula of Lebanese co-existence among its sects was concluded under Saudi auspices in the Saudi town of Al-Taif. You also intentionally forgot that it was Iran that established the ideology of the only armed fundamentalist party in Lebanon while Saudi Arabia did not build a Sunni fundamentalist party although it is easy to do so. We also know that there are many young Sunnis that are ready to join any Sunni fundamentalist movement or project that raises the banner of combat and jihad against any party that is the enemy of true Islam. Under the Sunni embers, there is a crisis of fundamentalism that is ready to erupt. However, Saudi Arabia reinforced the line of the civic state and formula in Lebanon and what took place in Beirut and Jabal Lubnan during the raid of the divine party attests to this fact. The Sunnis did not resort to arms under the pretext of jihad or Al-Qaeda. Since Hezbollah prefers to speak along sectarian lines, Siniora’s rallying cry was the state and national unity. Siniora – along with Al-Mustaqbal leader Saad al-Hariri – were criticized for that and for not facing arms with arms. It is indeed odd for Hezbollah to say that it is upset with the sectarian tension in Lebanon and the anger of the Sunnis. How is the reaction of the Sunnis in Lebanon supposed to be while Hezbollah itself started its armed fight along glaring sectarian lines? Hezbollah singled out western Beirut as its target, which is a Sunni reservoir supporting Al-Mustaqbal. How does Hezbollah want the people to understand this targeting? Should they strew roses and flowers on the path of the gangs and militias of the yellow party and shout: O Nasrallah, we are at your command?

This frailty in Al-Musawi’s argument that levels accusations at others and distances the divine party from blame reminds me of an incident in history that might be sensitive to the party’s political and religious culture. When battles broke out between Caliph Ali Bin-Abu-Talib and Mu’awiyah Bin-Abu-Sufyan during the “Al-Fitnah al-Kubrah” [The Great Upheaval of the 8th Century] Ammar Bin-Yasir, one of The Companions of the Prophet, was in the camp of Caliph Ali Bin-Abu-Talib and one of the prophet’s traditions had narrated that Ammar was to be killed by the sinful faction. After Ammar was killed during the battle with the spears of the Umayyad army, some came to Mu’wiyah and asked: We have killed Ammar; does that make us the sinful faction? The shrewd Mu’awiyah replied: We did not kill him; the ones that killed him are those that brought him here.

Hezbollah wants us to understand the reason for the sectarian agitation in Lebanon between the Sunnis and the Shias in the same manner. It is not they that ignited the sedition but those Sunni Lebanese that confronted their aggression and that the position of Saudi Arabia and the positions of Egypt, Jordan, and all the international community in support of Lebanon’s constitutional legitimacy are the positions of those that wish to foment sedition and incitement.

These are weird falsifications and weirder shirking of responsibility. But it is alright for Mr. Al-Musawi to say what he did since Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of his divine party, had already shown his fury against Saudi Arabia in the past and had already divided the ranks of the fundamentalist youths. Nasrallah had just taken over power as secretary general of the party when he said in the Al-Iman magazine (31 March 1995): “We refuse to accept the Wahhabi movement as in support of Islam and the Islamic resurgence”. The key phrase here is “the Islamic resurgence” that the divine party wants to monopolize Sunni representation. By resurgence it meant the Muslim Brothers movement and its splinter groups, like Hamas. (In a previous article headlined “The Brother Iranians” he talked about the nature of the relationship between the Muslim Brothers and the Khomeini revolution).

As for the Al-Huthist movement, it is odd for its leader to complain about Saudi support for the Yemeni government, although we do not know what support he is talking about. He talked about financial support but without having accurate information. It is normal for Saudi Arabia to worry about this armed insurrection on its southern borders and on mountains that overlook its valleys and plains. Furthermore, it is a movement that takes support from Iran in one form or another. Many followers of the “Al-Shabab al-Mu’min” [Believing Youths] movement – that was formed by a group of Yemeni fundamentalists – took this movement along the same lines as Hezbollah by revolutionarizing the Al-Zaydi sect and politicizing it along the Khomeini revolutionary line. Many students of this movement used to go to Iran to study and the battle cries of Hussein al-Huthi, the first leader of the movement (that was killed) were identical to the chants of the followers of Khomeini in Iran and the followers of Nasrallah in Lebanon’s Al-Dahiyah al-Junubiyah.

It is indeed regrettable for a person to enter this sectarian tunnel as we see the world around us waging other political, economic, and development challenges. But what we say about one that entangles religion and problems in ancient history in a battle that is essentially apolitical battle as finds others that believe him? We are not saying that the young members of the Al-Huthi movement are Iran’s agents. At the end of the day, they are Yemeni citizens and have demands that the Yemeni government should heed. However, we are saying that the government of mullahs and Waliyat el Faqih in Tehran is enthusiastically seeking to exploit any problem or dispute that smells of sectarianism by inflating and promoting such a dispute in order to maximize the cards it is holding from Lebanon to Yemen. Should Saudi Arabia not worry as it sees these not so innocent revolts and parallel hostile statements coming from its north and its south?

Unfortunately, there are those that do not wish this region to shed the captivity of ancient sectarian thinking. They want to corner the region in this way of thinking. It makes no difference whether they are doing it intentionally or unintentionally for the result is one: Postponing the worries and concerns of the people until further notice.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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