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Iraq & Lebanon, Iran & Syria: What is Next? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Acts of violence have become a daily occurrence in Iraq as hear about massacres carried out by one party against another. Violence is the same regardless of the different parties involved: Sunnis against Shia, Shia against Sunnis, Kurds against Arabs and Arabs against Kurds, yet everyone raises slogans bearing the interest of the country and nation as the bloodshed and destruction continues. In Lebanon there is continuous and escalating tension between political parties, each with its own agenda, to the point that we have reached a deadlock, the outcome of which only God knows whether it will be a new civil war, conflict between foreign powers on Lebanese soil or a return to the pre-Taif Accords situation and discussion of cantons. As long as national accord is absent and as long as there are powers that have interests in preserving the social or political chaos in Lebanon, all possibilities are open.

Outside Lebanon and Iraq, there are regional powers that fuel situations as they begin to subside, as after all, their stability depends on the instability of others. Iran wants to join the superpowers club by developing nuclear energy; however, the club is concerned about an alliance between an antagonistic ideology and nuclear energy that can annihilate mankind. The issue is not about one country or another having nuclear energy but is more concerned with who possesses such energy and can actually use it in regional or international wars; hence the fear of Iran’s neighbors. Iran can only maintain its nuclear pursuits in a state of regional instability, particularly instability in its neighboring countries. Therefore, it becomes clear that the Iranian interest lies in the continuation of political chaos whether in Iraq or Lebanon, and that there is no objection to the destabilizing of other countries.

Syria finds itself in a state of international and regional isolation as it has been subjected to accusations over the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri and other Lebanese figures; and with the approval of the international tribunal, the Syrian regime in particular finds itself closer to danger that can only be avoided by increasing political confusion and chaos in the concerned country, that is Lebanon, than in any other state. The political breakdown in Lebanon, and the potential consequences that cannot be predicted, is the last possible chance for the Syrian regime to save itself. Moreover, any stability in Iraq would threaten the incumbent regime in Syria, which is similar, or rather identical, to the former regime of Iraq. The interest of Syria, or rather of the interest of the political regime in Syria, is best served by the continuation of the current Iraqi situation as it creates an absorbent buffer for it, in the sense that such chaos and instability diminishes pressure on the regime. The case is the same in Lebanon. The instability in both Lebanon and Iraq is the winning playing card that allows Iran to maneuver and evade and Syria to attempt to sustain the regime. Therefore, the Iraqi and Lebanese issues are a matter of life or death for both parties.

This quick analysis of circumstances in the region may be known to those who seek an analysis that is void of personal goals and interests and political ideology. However, it should always be taken into account because the questions it raises are of utmost importance as we look at the future of this region and the future of its people. For instance, where will the conflict in Iraq lead to? The maintaining of this violent conflict will not end with the withdrawal of US forces, for example, nor will it end with the monopolization of authority by one group or another. Moreover, it will not end by the Iranian domination of Iraq. Iraq is a country that is made up of various ethnicities and sects; it has always been like that and always will be, and no one group, however powerful and long-lasting, will be able to subdue all other groups. Disregarding this fact will only lead Iraq to continuous violence until every last Iraqi is affected or until the unwanted partition has taken place. Perhaps the persistence of violent and horrific acts or partition serves one foreign party or another; however, this will not serve the interests of the Iraqis themselves, regardless of the instant gains of this or that party. The same applies to Lebanon, of which the legitimacy of its existence is based on its multiple ethnicities and sects, and any attempt to overlook or omit this fact equates disregarding the Lebanese legitimacy, therefore, obliterating Lebanon. In that country today, there are those who are fuelling political conflict out of sectarian and regional interests. This may serve a foreign party and may serve the interests of individual groups, but Lebanon will ultimately be the loser because once pluralistic Lebanon ceases to exist, everybody will eventually cease to exist.

Is it that the Iraqis and Lebanese – long experienced with politics as they are – are not aware of such matters? This is not the case inasmuch as the external observer, especially when the interest of the region as a whole is taken into account, has a more accurate vision. Those practicing politics and involved in its inferno are often blinded by a short-lived interests that they seek to gain, or by a political ideology that captures their minds from within, or by certain sectarianism that hinders sound vision. Any state, despite its policies or doctrines, is ultimately concerned with its own interests, regardless of any bright slogans that are raised. The case should be the same for Iraq and Lebanon if they are to continue to exist. In light of the violence in Iraq, and in light of this tension and escalation in Lebanon, the warlords of both countries should ask themselves one question that may be the key to everything; what is next? It is a simple question, the answer to which however is the answer to everything.

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad is a distinguished Saudi Arabian political analyst, journalist and novelist. Mr. Al-Hamad was educated in Saudi Arabia and the United States, where he obtained his PhD from the University of Southern California, later returning to Riyadh to teach political science. He retired in 1995 to take up writing full time.

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