The Salafi spectre and some other conclusions

Fida’ Itani is back with this haunting idea that behind every weakening of Mustaqbal, there is a strengthening of Sunni Salafi groups that are more anti-Shi’a than anti-Israeli. I do agree with his analysis, in the fact that there is an increasing anti-Shi’a sentiment in the country. But I do also think that anti-Shi’a feelings have always existed and shared by the population at various level, social, economic and political. I wonder how much these groups can have political clout, and I don’t know how much their alleged ideology (judging from the quotes Itani provides) is really sustainable in the future. Also this demonization of “The Salafi” is very much akin to the one made of Hizbullah. Now that Hizbullah is supposed to be ‘the good guy’ wanting to build cooperatively the “Lebanese State”, the frontiers of the sanctified and not sanctified has been broadened. That said he makes a good point, and weakening Mustaqbal is certainly a lose-lose situation.

The opposition cannot weaken a party, humiliate him, etc, and then claim it wants to share power the traditional Lebanese way. This is the biggest contradiction of Hizbullah: It wants to play by the rules of the game (confessionalism, consociationalism, etc.) but uses vanguard party methods of takeover. The biggest problem of Hizbullah is that it is not a state-within-a-state it is a much better functioning State than the Lebanese State at any point of it history, yet wants to bring itself down and play by the rules of the figments of a State that is the Lebanese State. This political schizophrenia (present in Tayyar to a certain degree) may turn out to be more detrimental to the stability of the political system.

Fath al Islam: a quick update

Itani has a little update on the state of affairs regarding the bad guys in the north and their friends in the south, in the Palestinian camp of Ain el Helweh. I just want to point out one or two things that I think we can conclude from everything that happened pre and post the Nahr el Bared debacle.

1- Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the US voluntarily and involuntarily had a hand in making circumstances ripe for Fath al Islam and other darker versions of “Islamists” militants to emerge. Syria, by kicking “al Qaeda” elements out of its country in order to clean its landscape and throwing it back on us. the US through the Mustaqbal movement, and actually the Mustaqbal movement on its own by trying to co-opt these wild creature and try to tame their zealousness with a bit of cash and status promises, and Saudi Arabia by simply sending official delegations to Lebanon for some conference who never went back. It seems also that the international “Rafic Hariri” airport of Beirut has unfolded red carpets for many of these dudes.

2- When something happens, like a crisis or something, the stupidest thing to say is “he’s the guy responsible for it”. Even in the case of an assassination or the start of a war. What’s important is why in the first place such an event is possible and in this case political circumstances are many, are multi-faceted and at the end of the day, what counts is who gets to gain from it, and who gets to lose.

Oh when you’re smilin’!


…The whole world smiles with you.

My Grandfather …

told me you could learn everything you needed to know about a man from his hands.

Has the Race Begun …?

I cannot help but think that the very public beating Bandar Bush is taking may be a sign that the race for the Saudi throne has begun. While much of the fighting will take place behind the scenes, it will be interesting to see how changes in the role of the Saudi regime in international affairs will require some of the grandsons to duke this out very publicly. Stay tuned.

Portentous …?

Am I the only one who feels a chill down his spine when King Abdullah calls the U.S. presence in Iraq an “illegitimate foreign occupation” ?
I have been around the block enough times to appreciate the pathetic pageantry of Arab League summits, but a head-on verbal fusillade against the U.S. by its closest ally?
Perhaps, I am being too paranoid, but when the US surrogates/monarchs start refusing to go to White House parties (warning: Hoagland is an idiot), I get really, really worried. Maybe, it is just an acknowledgment of Iran’s popularity and diplomatic and rhetorical skill in assuming regional leadership despite obvious disadvantages. But maybe they know something I do not.
We shall see.

Dahlan and the Mecca Agreement …

Dahlan was the darling of the Western intelligence services, and was being tutored in English in London, where he could be found at Claridge’s Hotel. In the evenings, he would sometimes be spotted at some of London’s most fashionable nightclubs … The speculation in Washington is that the White House will make sure Fatah gets the money one way or another – even if that means taking responsibility for its disbursement out of the hands of the State Department and putting it back into the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency. “They’ll just take this white program and make it black,” a government consultant with ties to the agency said. “They’ll make the program covert, like it once was” in February 2006.

A Looming Crisis …?

In reality, though, the pool is smaller: those sons who are not genetically Arab are handicapped (at least five of Ibn Saud’s sons had Armenian mothers);

A possible succession crisis in Saudi Arabia does not get enough international attention. Too often, the House of Saud is taken as a monolith in discussions of Middle Eastern politics. Passing reference to venality and cut-throat power struggles often stand in the place of a much-needed analysis of the internal dynamics. Of course, the opacity of the regime makes such things difficult, but it is hard for me to imagine that the Saudi leadership is united behind any single foreign policy, which should, I think, force a rethink of Saudi policies in Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere. As a side note, I have been wondering what happened to Waleed bin Talal, who seemed to have gone silent after Hariri’s assassination. I saw a funny article about a hotel he wants to build in Israel, but other than that, he seems to have dropped below the radar to tend to his incomparable financial empire.

Tis All a Checker-board of Nights and Days …

where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates and slays, and one by one back in the Closet lays.
— Omar Khayyam.
PS: Link corrected.