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Political Differences are Acceptable - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is nothing more difficult than attempting to think quietly during a time of war. If only it were merely a war! The current crisis is one of sects, interests, nationalities and political leanings, both visible and hidden.

Civilians are the first to suffer from the ongoing war in Lebanon, in addition to the country’s infrastructure, which had just recovered from the civil war.

Of course, one hopes that death and destruction stop raining on Lebanon’s innocent women and children.

Under the current circumstances, quiet thought seems to be forbidden, because it can break the cycle of violence.

Israel’s military machine is once again attacking Lebanon. What’s new? It has attacked Gaza and continued to do so.

However, the novelty in the conflict rests in the Arab stance against Hezbollah, because the escalation in Lebanon serves Iran’s interests in the region.

This has become fact; the only disagreement is regarding when to announce such a stance and whether it would be best to postpone it, until after hostilities have ended, in order to support the resistance.

Hezbollah’s sectarian isolation has increased as it has isolated itself from its Arab surroundings and strengthened its links to Iran’s regional plans, despite the issue of Lebanon and before it Palestine, being at the crux of Arab concerns for decades. Hezbollah has hijacked Lebanon and its problems for the benefit of Iran.

The prominent Iranian figure, Ali Mohtashemi, who was one of the founders of Hezbollah, recently told ‘Etemad Melli’ newspaper, “Iran can’t play an international role because of the distance [separating it from Lebanon]. In addition, Arab countries consider the Palestinian and Lebanon issue an Arab issue.”

This reflects a complaint by many in Iran towards the regime’s preoccupation with revolutionary foreign policy, at the expense of the needs of the country, as Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continue to speak with fervor about Palestine and Lebanon. A caricature published in Rooz online newspaper showed the Supreme Guide saying: Our leader fights Israel and America but the Lebanese people are the ones dying!

In reality, the Iranian nation and its people cannot be reduced to a sectarian component. However, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other similar groups in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, strive to rely on a Shiaa Iran, in its Khomeini guise. They have also contained other rival elements of Iranian identity. Someone such as Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah is certainly closer to Khamenei’s policies than those of former president Mohammed Khatami, let alone nationalist Iranian intellectuals.

According to Magnus Ranstorp, Hezbollah, from its inception, was an organ of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, with its members receiving training and equipment from Iranian officers. Speaking to the French newspaper to Le Figaro, he discussed the role of Revolutionary Guards in the party’s Shura Council, its highest authority, and the pivotal role played by Imad Mughniyeh.

The link between the Party of God and the ruling Iranian fundamentalist current is a concrete reality. Many members of Hezbollah have even admitted this link and the closeness between the Iranian model and that of Hezbollah. At a ceremony in Lebanon in 1997, Ibrahim al Amin, the party’s spokesman, said, “We do not say we are a part of Iran; we are Iran in Lebanon and Lebanon in Iran,” as reported in the Lebanese newspaper ‘An-Nahar’ at the time.

Hassan Nasrallah, the party’s Secretary General, told Al Moqawama magazine, Hezbollah’s official publication, “We see in Iran a government that rules in the name of Islam and a government that supports Muslims and Arabs… The religious authority there forms the religious and legal cover for our struggle.” (Al Moqawama magazine, volume 27, page15-16)

Therefore, Hezbollah, in spite of its Lebanese intricacies and internal agenda, as well as the reasons for which the Lebanese Shiaa have joined it, is part of the revolutionary Iranian network in the region.

Therefore, the reactions of some Shiaa individuals in the Gulf and their support of Hezbollah seem odd. If we take away the common elements between the Shiaa in the Gulf and their brothers in Jordan and Egypt, which is the support of Hezbollah because it is opposed to Israel, do the Shiaa in the Gulf support Hezbollah and Iraq solely because they are Shiaa?

I believe not, or hope not. The Shiaa in the Arab world have to be very careful and keep a distance between them and Iran’s politics, in order not to be accused of loyalty to Iran at their countries’ expense. This accusation hurts the feelings of Shiaa citizens and it is their right to feel aggravated, but furthermore, it hurts the feelings of anyone who is eager to abandon sectarianism, and I am one of them.

Our criticism of Iran’s political designs or our disagreement with Hezbollah’s agenda should not lead to an increase in Sunni sectarianism. Instead, counter sectarian tendencies should be silenced.

Our differences with Iran are solely political, as it tries to exploit the Shiaa as a party affiliated to it and not as “original” sects and part of the Arab world’s social fabric.

This is the challenge but first and foremost, our hearts are with Lebanon and its people.

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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