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On the Threshold of a Hot Summer - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In the Middle East, threads have become so entangled that it has become impossible to distinguish where things start or how they will end. The perpetually agitated region is undoubtedly pregnant, but what will it give birth to? And will it be born alive, or will it be yet another stillbirth to join the endless caravan of death? All the events indicate that we are heading towards a sweltering summer, one that is as hot as the region; if not, even more.

Syria did not, and will not, accept the UN resolution to set up the international tribunal to investigate the assassination of Rafik al Hariri. It upholds that accepting it would impact its national sovereignty; however the degree of fear displayed suggests that it is not about national sovereignty and indicates the presence of a hidden agenda.

The situation is more about issues, which if brought to light, would harm many in the Syrian regime.

Undoubtedly Syria will not allow its hands to be tied in the face of the predicament it created when it thought that having entered Lebanon it would never leave, and thereby assassinating and supporting whoever it pleased – until it backfired in its face.

What will Syria do about this quandary? Will it be left with no other recourse than to exercise Samson’s option, to bring the temple down on itself and its enemies? It will play all its cards – that is, if it has any left.

It seems the only solution left to Syria is to destabilize, or rather, to continue to destabilize the region as a way to solve the crisis of the impending international tribunal, or to buy time, which may bring about an unexpected solution. Today Syria is playing for time, but there will be no time gained until things calm down and stabilize.

It is not unlikely that Syria has a hand in the events taking place in Lebanon. It is obvious that whenever the tribunal issue is raised, situations explode in one way or another, through assassinations, bombings or inciting an armed faction to ignite violence.

If Hezbollah was last summer’s ‘hero’, then Fatah al Islam is this summer’s uncontested hero so far, and one that will not be easily defeated despite what may appear to be the case. This is particularly so since it is backed by a state that provides it with arms and equipment and has an interest in maintaining the state of sedition.

In Iraq, there is a continuous escalation of events. Al Sayyid Muqtada al Sadr is back on the stage to deliver his first speech wrapped in a funeral shroud, which implies the persistence of violence despite all calls and slogans raised for tolerance and civil peace.

Today al Sadr continues to call for the departure of the American occupiers fully knowing that the withdrawal of the occupational forces would only serve him and his Mahdi Army, which is the only one qualified to control Iraq’s destiny, with Iran’s backing after violence has spread throughout the land.

Ultimately Iran will find itself capable of manipulating the destiny of the region by turning Iraq into a marginal state to orbit around it, not to mention the negotiating power gained from this situation where Iran can coerce the nuclear club into accepting it as a full member rather than a mere producer of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Today, after the United States and the European Union offered some concessions by accepting the principle of negotiating with it – which was not possible earlier – Iran feels it is more powerful than ever. Iran’s policy is to play its available political cards by maintaining destabilization in Iraq and manipulating Lebanese internal affairs as it wishes, particularly through Hezbollah and by allying itself with Syria. This is in view of the fact that instability would ultimately serve them both, which prompts further Iranian intervention in Iraq and Lebanon as long as these situations yield a better negotiating position.

In Palestine, the ‘enemy brothers’ are engaged in fighting, each backed by one regional or international player. Everyone is after their own interest, while the ‘enemy brothers’ remain unaware.

In the final analysis, Israel will not stand silent in the face of the provocative missiles launched from the Gaza Strip, and it will seek a decisive solution like the one it resorted to last summer in Lebanon – even if it leads to a direct confrontation with Syria, or to the destruction of the Iranian nuclear facilities. And if that were to happen, all hell will break loose in the region.

To discuss the region and regional affairs, one has to talk about al Qaeda and its attempts to return to the scene to recover its declining momentum. This jumbled situation offers al Qaeda an ideal opportunity to infiltrate the aggravated locations in the region to regain popularity.

The terrorist cells discovered recently in Saudi Arabia are merely al Qaeda’s attempt to return to the limelight and to strike the right chord throughout the region. If Saudi Arabia were to collapse, then the whole region would follow suit and become an easy prey for al Qaeda and its disciples. For al Qaeda, Saudi is a key spot. The region and its fate can only be controlled by dominating Saudi Arabia and its fate – which can be achieved only through striking its economy. Then, extreme chaos will ensue and against this background, al Qaeda’s cancerous cells can proliferate. Iraq, Lebanon and other states in the region could only fall like dominoes.

Saudi Arabia is al Qaeda’s ultimate goal. Al Qaeda’s interferences in other regional locations are only intended to reach the depth of Arabia, of which the heart is Saudi Arabia.

With all these knotty threads, we can expect a long hot summer.

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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