Monday, July 04, 2011

Arabs otherwise occupied

At the moment things may be looking up for Israel. The handing down of the results of the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri and 22 others by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005 is potentially a bombshell for Lebanon. Although the names of the guilty have not been officially released, it is understood that they are four leading members of Hizbollah, as long expected. Now this could cause another civil war in Lebanon, given that the Shia Hizbollah is trying to control the Lebanese Government, and yet they have vowed that they will not hand over any of their members to any tribunal.

Hizbollah has for years been selling itself to the Lebanese and the Arabs as the leader of the rejectionist movement against Israel. But, at the same time, with Syrian collusion, they have been trying to take over power in Lebanon. But, there have been many scandals involving Hizbollah and their leader Sheikh Nasrullah. In 2008 they killed a Lebanese Air Force pilot mistaking him for an Israeli pilot, then they occupied southern Beirut in a clash with other ethnic groups, and killed ca. 100 Christians and Sunnis. Finally there have been reports of extensive financial scandals in Hizbollah. The fact that they justify their existence by their intention to destroy Israel, yet since the Second Lebanon War they have done nothing against Israel while focusing on Lebanese domestic issues, has resulted in the loss of confidence by their natural Shia constituency.

At the same time Hizbollah's sponsors, Syria and Iran, are going thru difficult times. Syria as we all know is in a state of civil war, with the Syrian Army and the secret police being shuttled around the country trying to put down demonstrations and unrest whereever it occurs. They have killed ca. 1,300 people and arrested and tortured thousands. In such circumstances the opposition will not give up and will not go away. Many think the days of Bashar Assad are numbered, but before he and the Ba'ath Party go they will exact a high price in suffering of the Syrian people and the opponents of the regime will reciprocate if they have the opportunity. So Syria, is shall we say, "otherwise occupied."

There is a more and more apparent power struggle in Iran between President Ahmedinejad and the religious power structure headed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. This erupted over the appointment by Ahmedinejad of one of his cronies as Head of Intelligence, a very powerful position in a police state. The Ayatollahs fearing Ahmedinejad's total control of power opposed this appointment. But, Ahmedinejad refused to appoint anyone else, and so a power struggle has developed. Of course, this has nothing directly to do with the Iranian people, most of whom oppose Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollahs equally. But, the struggle between the political and religious power structures can be seen in the wider context of how to respond to the increasing isolation of Iran and the opposition of the Iranian people to the Ahmedinejad Government. The Ayatollahs are afraid that if they can't control Ahmedinejad then the whole regime may collapse.

The Palestinian unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah has been in effect postponed for the time being. They were supposed to agree to an interim neutral administration, but they could not agree. So the status quo is to be maintained until the UN GA vote on unilateral Palestinian statehood in September. So the so-called unity agreement is a fig leaf and any country voting for the establishment of a Palestinian State should know that there are already two separate entities, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the PA, that are irreconcilable. This could only lead to further trouble and possibly a continuation of the inter-Palestinian civil war. So much for a "two state solution."

The situation in Egypt is still fluid. Yes Mubarak has gone, but what will follow is still in doubt. It is unlikely that any interim Government in Egypt would be prepared to endanger its existence by cancelling the peace treaty with Israel or embarking on a dangerous confrontation. So with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Egypt, the Palestinians and also Iraq, otherwise engaged (and the flotilla floundering), we must hope that things are looking up. As long as none of these parties decide to try to distract everyone from their problems with a little incident with Israel.


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