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Fomenting Sunni-Shia conflict is now Washington's and Israel's preferred method
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 27th, 2006 8:14 PM
As Condoleezza Rice gave her first news conference following the flare-up in Lebanon the stench of death pervaded the war-ravaged country and the severed limbs of children, women, and the elderly lay scattered above and beneath the rubble of homes wrecked by Israel's warplanes.

As everyone waited with baited breath for what the US secretary of state had to say, hoping that she would provide clues about when the terrible massacre would end, Condoleezza Rice, a woman said to be among the more moderate members of the most extremist administration in US history, calmly announced that "what we're seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East." She then added that it was not yet time to seek a ceasefire. In saying so she made it clear to all that Israel's war on Lebanon is also America's war, and it will not stop until the US achieves its objectives. The international community and the nations of this region have no choice, therefore, but to bear the pain, however severe, of the birth of this wonderful thing the US calls the new Middle East.

This is not the first time the US administration has spoken about the new Middle East. You may recall that the same administration years ago promised a democratic Middle East that is free from despotism and corruption. Considering that Lebanon, the country now being crushed to produce this new Middle East, is one of the most democratic Arab countries, one can only wonder what future it is that Washington envisages. How will the new Middle East differ, for example, from the greater Middle East?

Some people imagine that US policy in the Middle East has taken a new turn. But I fail to see any change in US policy in the region. The new Middle East that the US is trying to achieve amounts to no more than the eradication of all regimes, forces and ideas hostile to US and Israeli designs and their replacement with more malleable regimes, forces and ideas.

For the US the Middle East has been, and still is, a mosaic of rival nationalities and ethnicities, religions and factions, some of which have been coerced into coexistence against their will. This is how the US administration and researchers see the region. Using this model, the current US administration assumed that sectarian, ethnic, and doctrinal diversity and divisions in Iraq offered it a golden opportunity to form a federal state -- one lacking a strong central power and willing to accept US bases in every part of the country. The assumption was reinforced by the cooperation of Kurdish and Shiite factions who hoped to bring down Saddam and cooperated with the Americans during the planning that preceded the war on Iraq. It was not surprising that the US administration, immediately following the toppling of the Iraqi regime, began to talk about democratisation as integral to its idea of the greater Middle East. Elated, the US administration didn't even seem to be bothered by the possibility of Islamist politicians taking power. You may recall Secretary Rice talking about "creative chaos".

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 27th, 2006 8:16 PM
Stubbornly, the US and Israel still believe that force can dictate. In Lebanon, as in Iraq and Palestine, this policy will fail, writes Ahmed Abdel-Halim*

Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers from northern Israel triggered events. The purpose of the operation, according to an official from the Lebanese resistance organisation, was to get Israel to negotiate over the release of Hizbullah prisoners in Israel in exchange for the two Israeli soldiers. Israel's reaction was immediate. Its prime minister pronounced the Hizbullah operation an act of war for which it held the Lebanese government responsible. That was prelude to the massive aerial assault that followed.

If Israel's immediate objective is not so much to secure the release of the Israeli soldiers as it is to clear the south of Lebanon of one of the major threats to it, it is clearly oblivious to why that threat happened to have persisted. Surely it is because Israel has kept the gaping wound of the Middle East conflict open through its various manoeuvrings and machinations to wriggle out of its commitments under various agreements and understandings and, in general, by its failure to handle the peace process in good faith. It is because it allowed the causes of the dispute to remain unresolved that Israel found pretexts to stage military incursions into Gaza and parts of the West Bank and to retaliate with disproportionate force in Lebanon.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 27th, 2006 8:17 PM
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are less than pleased about the sudden rise in the profile of Hizbullah, mainly for reasons of domestic expediency, writes Amr Hamzawy*

In a surprising move, the government of Saudi Arabia publicly blamed Hizbullah for the escalation between Lebanon and Israel describing its actions as reckless. Egypt and Jordan followed suit accusing Hizbullah and its regional allies of irresponsible political adventurism that undermines Arab national interests. Although this position is not shared by a majority of Arab governments, it represents in three different ways a significant point of departure in regional politics.

First of all, it isolates the Syrian Baath regime from its traditional allies in the Arab world, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Both countries have acted in the aftermath of Rafik Al-Hariri's assassination to help Syria avoid international sanctions and mediated between Damascus and different Western capitals. So far the strategic tenet of Saudi and Egyptian diplomacy with regard to Syria has been to stabilise the regime and press it to stop interfering in Lebanese domestic politics. However, the fact that the Baath regime has been less responsive to Saudi and Egyptian demands over recent months has resulted in serious tensions between Syria and the Riyadh-Cairo alignment. The current confrontation between Hizbullah and Israel deepens those tensions dramatically. The Saudi and Egyptian governments seem to believe that Hizbullah acts today to a significant extent upon Syrian requests and in a way that threatens Lebanese national interests. The Baath regime has become too rouge a partner for Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Along with Jordan, they are departing from their alliance with Syria, which has been a defining component of Middle Eastern politics since the 1990s.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 27th, 2006 8:20 PM
As the region's regimes retrench, with tacit approval from Washington, democratic reform is off the agenda. Is it a permanent condition, asks Gamil Mattar*

It is rare these days for Arabs to meet without their understandably falling into a lament about conditions in the region. With every passing day the dreams of Arab people for a stable, free and dignified life seem to move further out of reach and their pride and self-respect sinks ever lower. Meanwhile, the meddlers intensify their meddling, the despairing emigrate or kill themselves, the foolish remain benightedly innocent and the corrupt amass ever greater fortunes while not far away, and in silence, anger multiplies.

The Arab people feel they are the victims of a grand deception; told for decades that our countries would be free of all forms of foreign control, told as well that Israel could not come into existence, and when it did that it could not survive, and when it survived that it would never be recognised, and when it was recognised that Arab countries would never submit to it or abandon the Palestinians to fend for themselves, can they be blamed?

We were told that class and social divisions would narrow, that soon every Arab would know how to read and write, that we would advance by leaps and bounds towards modern science, modern ways of thinking, modern values. After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the boom in oil prices the Arabs, boasted many, were on their way to becoming the sixth super power. A few years later South Korea emerged as the dynamo of scientific and technological progress. By the end of the same decade China announced that it would beat South Korea's achievements, and then it did.

by Middle East Online
Friday Jul 28th, 2006 7:45 AM
While American troops in Iraq continue to battle an ever-increasing insurgency, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, says Souheila Al-Jadda.

The violent conflicts in Israel, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as well as the war in Iraq make me question whether a “clash of civilizations” between the East and West is taking place right before our eyes.

I have never ascribed to Samuel Huntington’s famous “clash” theory, which states that the secular and liberal West is on a collision course with the religious and conservative East. I believe that we are all part of one, sometimes, wounded civilization on this earth. I believe that people of different nations, regions, cultures and creeds are more alike than we are different.

But these days, our differences have become more pronounced.

The world has drastically changed in the last several years following the tragic events of September 11th that took the lives of over 3000 innocent people. The Arab and Islamic worlds find themselves engulfed in conflicts from the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan to the Tigris River in Iraq to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

by thoreau
Saturday Aug 5th, 2006 5:55 PM
Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers from northern Israel triggered events. Really?? What about previous events that triggered the abductions??

Some excerpts to jog your memory.
Israelis gone, Gazans reclaim beach

Monday 12 September 2005, 18:29 Makka Time, 15:29 GMT

Palestinians had been barred from the beach by Israeli troops

Last Israeli soldier leaves
Gaza Strip

Israel formally ends Gaza military rule

Hundreds of Palestinians have flocked to

the Gaza coastline in the south of the territory after the departure of Israeli troops, many getting their first chance to swim in the sea.

The stretch of coastline had been off limits to the Palestinians living in the nearby fenced-off refugee camps and towns of Khan Yunus and Rafah.

Mahmud Barbakh and Muhammad Jaroun, Palestinian teenagers who grew up just a few minutes from the Mediterranean but had never been to the beach before, were overwhelmed by the experience.

On Monday, they waded into the waves with their jeans rolled up, then abandoned all caution and threw themselves into the surf.

"It was the sweetest thing in the whole world," said 15-year-old Mahmud, beaming.

The boys' beach adventure was made possible by Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

In southern Gaza, Israeli settlements took up the beachfront for three decades, and Palestinians in that area were barred by Israeli troops from reaching the Mediterranean.


A few hours after the last Israeli occupation forces left on Monday, hundreds of Palestinians, including many giddy teenagers, enjoyed the water.

Palestinians, kept from the sea for
decades, could not wait to dive in
One used a refrigerator door as a makeshift surfboard. Nearby, youngsters collected spent Israeli bullet casings, stuffing them into empty bottles.

Israeli artillery fire kills Palestinians

Friday 09 June 2006, 20:37 Makka Time, 17:37 GMT

Hamas ends truce after Israeli attack

Israel kills three in Gaza air strike

Israeli air strike kills Gaza official

Israeli artillery shells have struck a group

of Palestinian civilians at a beach in Bait Lahiya in northern Gaza, killing seven people, including three children, and wounding 36 others, Aljazeera reports.

The artillery shells were fired on Friday by Israeli gunboats stationed just off the Mediterranean coast.

The dead and the wounded Palestinians were having a picnic on the beach as it was the weekly holiday, Aljazeera's correspondent Wael al-Dahduh said.

The barrage scattered body parts along the seaside. A tent was destroyed, and bloody sheets were scattered about. A crowd quickly flocked to the area, screaming and running around in confusion.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called the attack "a bloody massacre" and urged the international community, including the US, Europe and the Security Council, to intervene.

Palestinian medical sources said five of those killed at the beach were members of the Ghali family from Gaza. Children aged one, three and 10 died alongside their parents, Ali and Raisa.