|Photo by: Jamal Saidi/Reuters|
The Region: Where is the Middle East going?
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 stories,
but can be discovered by analyzing those reports. Here are a few developing
• Fifty percent of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian
National Council (SNC) budget came from the Libyan government. 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 front. (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.) If true, this means the Obama
administration was using a barely disguised channel to fund a revolutionary
Islamist movement seeking to take over Syria. That this group was also
anti-American, anti- Semitic and genocidal toward Jews was apparently not
significant. The rest of the SNC budget came from Qatar (38%) and Saudi Arabia
In any case, now the SNC has fallen apart, and US efforts to
broker a new Syrian opposition leadership have failed completely.
only is al-Qaida not dead but 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 that attack constituted
• As if to ensure strong opposition to making Palestine a
non-member state in the UN – the only diplomatic initiative the Palestinian
Authority has come up with in the past four years which in no way advances peace
with Israel – Abbas Zaki says once this happens the Oslo accords will be
One implication of this stance is that a state of Palestine will
exist which has denounced any recognition of Israel’s existence. Granted that he
is a traditional PLO hardliner Arafat crony, 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 clients,
Hezbollah, the Shi’ite Islamist group, and pro-Syrian Sunni Muslim politicians.
In contrast, the opposition has been led by Sunni moderates.
civil war is shaking this situation.
Hezbollah and its patron Iran have
been supporting its other patron, the Syrian dictatorship. The opposition, which
includes the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Sunnis, is outraged. If the current
Syrian government is overthrown, and this is already on the horizon, the
opposition is going to go after the Lebanese regime.
Not only will it
support the Sunni Muslims there against the Shi’ites, 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.
followed and people were killed. With the home front so insecure – and likely to
be 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 seeing 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
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
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 determination 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 state 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? No sooner had I written this than the Egyptian
press reported that the leading secular-oriented representatives in the
constitution-writing constituent assembly had resigned, charging the new
document would enshrine Sharia law.
The problem was not the statement in
Article 2 about Sharia being the main source of Egyptian legislation but other
provisions that made it clear Islamist-controlled institutions would interpret
precisely what that meant.
Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and Arab
League secretary-general, said the new constitution would bring disaster for
Egypt. Abdel Meguid called this combination “Taliban-like.” And then President
Mursi declared that no court could challenge his decisions.
Here we go
The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and editor of The
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His latest books
are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab
Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria