|Photo by: REUTERS/Ali Hashisho|
The Region: Notes on the new Mideast
By BARRY RUBIN
An attack from Lebanon on Israel is increasingly unlikely because that country is moving toward a civil war of its own.
The most interesting developments in the Middle East aren’t in the news, but can
be discovered by analyzing what is.
Here are a few developing right now:
• Fifty percent of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council
budget came from the government of Libya.
Since Libya is very much a US
client, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Obama administration encouraged
this generosity. Yet this money was financing a Muslim Brotherhood
A lot of arms have been flowing from Libya to Hamas and other
terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and to radical forces in Syria. Some claim
that the US government was coordinating that traffic, though this has not yet
been proven. The SNC has now been replaced by a new umbrella group whose role
and even survival is still uncertain.
This means the Obama administration
was using a barely disguised channel to pay for a revolutionary Islamist
movement seeking to take over Syria. The fact that this group was also
anti-American, anti-Semitic and genocidal toward Jews seems
The rest of the SNC budget came from Qatar (38%) and Saudi
Arabia (12%). Now the SNC has fallen apart, and US efforts to broker a new
Syrian opposition leadership have failed completely.
• Not only is
al-Qaida not dead, its sympathizers and those influenced by it have planned a
remarkable number of terrorist attacks on American soil – 95 in the past three
years, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. It’s interesting to note
that the committee lists the Fort Hood attack among them, despite executive
branch denials that it was terrorism.
• As if to ensure strong opposition
to making Palestine a nonmember state in the UN – the only diplomatic initiative
the Palestinian Authority has come up with in the past four years, and which in
no way advances peace with Israel – Abbas Zaki says once this happens the Oslo
accords will be void.
One implication of this stance is that a state of
Palestine will exist which has denounced any recognition of Israel’s existence.
Granted, he is a traditional PLO hardliner crony of Arafat, but this really
underlines the point that such a step would destroy any basis for a peace
process and potentially reopen the conflict fully.
• An attack from
Lebanon on Israel is increasingly unlikely because that country is moving toward
a civil war of its own. Currently, Lebanon is dominated by Syrian and Iranian
client Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist group, and pro- Syrian Sunni politicians. In
contrast, the opposition has been led by Sunni moderates.
civil war is shaking this situation up. Hezbollah and its patron Iran have been
supporting its other patron, the Syrian dictatorship.
which includes the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Sunnis, is outraged. If the
current Syrian government is overthrown, and this is already visible, the
opposition is going to go after the Lebanese regime.
Not only will it
support the Sunnis there against the Shia but it is likely to sponsor a
transformation of the Sunni side with radical Islamists replacing moderates. A
sign of that coming civil war has been several days of fighting in the Lebanese
city of Sidon.
The Sunni Salafist leader demanded that Hezbollah banners
be taken down, then tore down a poster of Hezbollah’s leaders. Gunfire followed
and people were killed. With the home front so insecure – and likely to become
more so – Hezbollah isn’t going to have the forces to spare to go after
• The New York Times continues its bizarre coverage of an Egypt
in which the Muslim Brotherhood can do no wrong. There is a rather humorous
aspect to the newspaper’s reasoning. The issue in question is the new Egyptian
constitution, about whose text rumors are leaking, though only the full draft
text will be authoritative.
According to the Times, “the principles of
Islamic law” would be the main source for Egypt’s legislation but the precise
definition of what is or isn’t properly Islamic would be left to the parliament
and courts. David Kirkpatrick says: “Little is expected to change under the
current courts and parliament – dominated by Islamists who mostly favor a
relatively flexible or gradual approach to adopting Islamic law....” But “...if
literal-minded ultraconservatives – known as Salafis and who currently hold about
a quarter of the seats in parliament – gain more influence in the legislature
and eventually the courts, they could someday use the provisions to try to
impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law.”
In other words, as long
as the Muslim Brotherhood holds most of the power there’s nothing to worry about
– as if that movement doesn’t have the imposition of Sharia law as its main
How can having a parliament in which 75% of the seats are held
by radical Islamists suggest that they aren’t going to impose Islamic law? And
who’s going to be appointing the judges who make such determinations in courts?
Yes, the wording might be similar to that of the old, pre-revolution
constitution. But a Muslim Brotherhood regime is going to interpret things
differently from a Western-oriented, anti-Islamist government.
article goes on to say that “liberal delegates who signed onto the deal noted
that the guidelines were broad enough to leave substantial room for debate over
just what Islamic law should require in the context of modern
That’s true, but many liberals boycotted the constitution-writing
process precisely because they believed no such thing. And, again, who cares if
there’s a debate when the debate will be settled by a Muslim Brotherhood
president, an Islamist-dominated parliament, and increasingly an
Islamist-dominated court system? At any rate, I’ll wait until the full text is
available for analyzing what the new Egyptian system will look
Professor Barry Rubin is the director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. www.gloria-center.org