Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fouad Ajami on Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah

Mr. Ajami is a Professor and director of the Middle East Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote this piece for the WSJ Opinion page.

Anton Efendi says it is good so I read it. He's right. Time permitting, read the whole thing.

He also said it would be an injustice to pick and choose quotes but I'm doing so anyway.

A great diplomatic setback was handed it when Saudi Arabia shed its customary silence and reticence to condemn what it described as the "uncalculated adventures" of those in Hezbollah and Hamas who brought about this crisis. The custodians of power in Arabia noted that they had stood with the "Lebanese resistance" until the end of Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. But that was then, and there is a world of difference between "legitimate resistance" and "uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements within the state, and behind its back, exposing the region and its accomplishments to danger and destruction." Gone was the standard deference to Arab solidarity.

This had little to do with the Shiism of Hezbollah, but with the Saudi dread of instability. The Saudis are heavily invested in the reconstruction and stability of Lebanon: This had been the achievement of Rafik Hariri, and it was to continue under Fouad Siniora, the incumbent prime minister, a decent Sunni technocrat who came into politics as an aide of Hariri. Untold thousands of Saudis have their summer homes and vacations in Lebanon. A memory of old Beirut in its days of glitter tugs at older Saudis. On less sentimental grounds, the Saudis have been keen to shore up Lebanon's mercantile Sunni population against the demographic and political weight of the Shiites. Hezbollah's unilateral decision to push Lebanon over the brink was anathema to the Saudi way.

In due course, the Saudis were joined by the Jordanians and the Egyptians. etc.

Much to think about here.
This looks important to me:
The Lebanese, though, are not masters of their own domain. They will need protection and political support; they will need to see the will and the designs of the radical axis contested by resolute American power, and by an Arab constellation of states that can convince the Shiites of Lebanon that there is a place for them in the Arab scheme of things. For a long time, the Arab states have worked through and favored the Sunni middle classes of Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli. This has made it easy for Iran--overcoming barriers of language and distance--to make its inroads into a large Shiite community awakening to a sense of power and violation. To truly turn Iran back from the Mediterranean, to check its reach into Beirut, the Arab world needs to rethink the basic compact of its communities, and those Shiite stepchildren of the Arab world will have to be brought into the fold.

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