Sunni-Shi’ite battles may be diverting Islamic rage from Israel

The radical Sunni group the Azzam Brigades who claimed responsibility for the Beirut Iran embassy attacks, detests Shi'ites, Iran, Hezbollah and Assad, leaving Israel as mostly a sideshow for the time being.

Site of blasts in southern Beirut 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Site of blasts in southern Beirut 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“The Syrian war has come knocking on Iran’s headquarters in Lebanon, and it is being targeted directly by Sunni extremists,” an expert on Iranian politics told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
He spoke after a suicide bomb ripped through Iran’s embassy compound in Beirut.
“This bodes badly for Iran’s efforts to portray itself as a protector of Muslims, since it is increasingly becoming involved in a sectarian war between Shi’ites and Sunnis,” said Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
No friend of Israel, the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades decided to exert its energies instead on attacking the “near enemy” – Shi’ites in Lebanon.
The group has been responsible for numerous rocket attacks against Israel.
Saleh al-Qarawi founded the group in 2009. Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, a Saudi citizen, has led it since June 2012.
Radical Sunni groups such as the Azzam Brigades detest Shi’ites in general, and Iran and Hezbollah in particular, because of their support for the Alawite regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Sunni-dominated opposition in Syria is fighting to topple Assad from power, partly because it does not see Alawites as true Muslims.
Hence, in their eyes, Assad has no legitimacy to rule.
The group also dislikes Jews, and after rocket fire on Israel that it claimed responsibility for in August, it said that it was ready for a holy war against the Jews.
Sheikh Sirajuddin Zureiqat, a member of the Azzam Brigades, at the time tweeted a link to a statement which said that Jews were benefiting from the Syrian revolution.
According to the statement, Israel and the West were giving Hezbollah a green light to fight in Syria so as to protect Israel’s security by keeping the Golan border quiet.
The Azzam Brigades is named after Abdullah Azzam (1941- 89), a Palestinian and leading jihadist figure who was close to Osama bin Laden.
According to the US State Department website, the organization was created in 2009 and is based in Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula.
Qarawi fought against US forces in Fallujah, Iraq, working with then-head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to the State Department.
US forces killed Zarqawi in Iraq in 2006, and a US drone reportedly severely wounded Qarawi in Pakistan, with him losing his legs, a hand and his left eye before returning to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Shi’ites are long-time ideological foes of Sunnis, with the origins of the clash going back to the question of political leadership and the succession of Muhammad in the seventh century.
“Therefore there are many among the Sunnis, especially the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, who consider Shi’a as a kind of fundamental heresy,” wrote Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) and a research associate at the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, in a post on his blog.
“The Saudi regime forbids the Shi’ite minority to recite the call to prayer aloud, because even in the [Shi’ite] muezzin’s call to prayer there is an extra part praising Ali,” Kedar said.
Shi’ites regard Ali (died 661) and his descendants to be the rightful successors to Muhammad.
Thus, radical Sunnis throughout the region direct their burning rage at Shi’ites, the Assad regime and their fellow Sunni opponents, leaving Israel as mostly a sideshow for the time being.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told the Post on Tuesday that he does not necessarily see the main players in Lebanon as interested in avoiding escalation.
“We can presume that this situation will continue, according to which terrorist attacks will be followed by a little bit of quiet and then more attacks – in short, terror on a low flame,” Zisser said.