Friday, September 29, 2006

Joseph Samaha (My translation)

This is my translation (far from perfect) of an article by Samaha

Saudi Arabia not Sa'ad?

Joseph Samaha

What was more important than the speech of Sa'ad Hariri two days ago was that it was said after the return of the “head of Future movement” from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the presence of it's Ambassador in Lebanon.

It begs the question: Is this an ominous omen of the transition of Saudi Arabia from caretaker of Lebanese cohesion into factionalism, encouraging one group over another, and aiding policies that lead to an escalation of tensions internally? Has Riyadh committed itself and decided to push Lebanon towards a crisis? Does it [Riyadh] really want to open another dangerous file in Lebanon to be added to the Palestinian and Iraqi crises (along with Afghanistan)?

These questions would all have been circumstantial and without substance had it not been for clear indications which show any complacency to be naïve to say the least.

First: We must remember the Saudi position in the beginning of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. It was a position that condemned the “miscalculated adventurism” and a rejection of particular behaviour which would alter the agenda without prior agreement and consent and with unforeseen consequences. This position came as a surprise to many, not least because it came extremely close to justifying the Israeli punishment that was raining down on Lebanon and it's resistance. However it did abandon this position by giving the Lebanese the 'Green Light' to talk about a 'settling of scores' to follow the Israeli 'settling of scores' and continue it. Furthermore it gave other Arab voices (Egypt and Jordan) the opportunity to declare their allegiance to the “Axis of Good”.

Second: It was not logical for Saudi Arabia to interfere with throwing it's weight on the side of those demanding an immediate ceasefire. It would not have been logical because those who refer to “adventurism” are incapable of anything but looking away when these adventurers and opportunists are being disciplined. In spite of that, Saudi Arabia was forced into a hasty retreat from it's position and into condemnation of the Israeli aggression. The changing realities on the ground added pressure, along with increasing public support both locally and on an Arab and Islamic level for the resistance, and this was a public sympathy which overcame any attempts at stirring sectarian tensions.

Thirdly: There were some in the Saudi media who were extremely biased against the resistance, firstly for sectarian reasons, secondly in the name of a purported liberalism, and finally with the context of a bitter enmity with ....Qatar! Some of these media analysts and writers excelled in presenting lessons on realities, in sympathy for the victims, and in praising the handouts that alleviated the effects of the aggression which should have been prevented and that they should have sought to stop.

Fourth: With the “acts of aggression” coming to a conclusion, the Saudi position wavered somewhat and then solidified into a policy based on two main principles: Hiding the scale of the victory first, and acting, secondly, to minimise the ripple effects whatever they may be both within the Lebanese arena and in particular on the wider Arab arena. It has been said that “the Summer War sounded alarm bells”. Resisting the enemy is more dangerous than the enemy, and the real danger is the possibility of a spread of this sentiment, like a contagion.

Fifth: There was an official Arab attempt, which Saudi Arabia was a part of, to “minimise the time of the aggression”, and it was said that after the dust had settled there would be serious attempts and peace initiatives in the Security Council to resolve all the problems and lead to a comprehensive agreement within months, except that this initiative was exposed as a sham. What is clear, today, is that the most that can be accomplished is pay lip service to the Palestinian issue and pretend to champion it in order to absorb the enmity of their critics, and in order to obtain more favourable conditions to engage whatever confrontations that the American “War on Terror” may demand in future.

Sixth: There is no doubt that the Arab citizen has noticed the exceptionally cool response the Saudi's have given to leaked reports of their meetings with Israel at a high level. Yes, Riyadh has denied these reports, and it is “proper” to believe these denials, but that does not prevent anybody from pursuing the special meaning to the flow of soothing words emanating from Tel Aviv on what officials there consider the Saudi political developments. Political dialogue, in the eyes of Israel, is more important than personal dialogue. The above mentioned “developments” do not of course include the initiatives decided on in the Beirut summit. Quoting Shimon Peres, “ The Arab peace initiative is impractical...the problem is what will happen to terrorist groups considering they represent the biggest obstacle right now?”.

These various definitions, represent a gradual slide of the Kingdom towards using an American world view which defines the problems of the region...and the fear is that the recent Saudi behaviour towards Lebanon demonstrates this. The statements of the American foreign secretary Condoleeza Rice have clarified the definining features of this “world-view” in a series of press interviews that she has conducted over the past few days:

  1. The real danger that is engulfing the region is the “Iranian” threat and it's “subsidiaries”. Therefore the resolve of the resistance in Lebanon is not an Arab victory over Israel, but an Iranian sectarian victory over the Arabs.

  2. Embargoing Iran is more important now than at any time, and this is an embargo that must leave the military option open. For that, it is important that the “moderate” Arabs prepare to face the effects of any possible war, and even take part as much as possible, and with all capabilities, in such a war.

  3. Rice says that the United States and it's Allies has an, “opportunity to challenge Iran's ambitions in the region”. She adds: “we cannot allow the continuation of matters in such a direction, and for that it is important to reinforce the moderate Lebanese forces...and the resistance of Damascus and Hamas and finding a way to allow the moderates in the Palestinian Territories to emerge”. She also said, in another interview: “Hezbullah is feeling the pressure”, calling for a continuation of pressure and the importance of, “Arab moderates supporting each other”, referring specifically to the Saudi support to Lebanon. This is a complete agenda that covers the entire region and assigns to each of it's official and political forces a role.

  4. It is expected that the United States will continue to emphasize “Democracy”, in order to strengthen “moderates”. That is it's gift to it's allies.

We can deduce that we, in Lebanon, are faced with a most serious matter. In the light of what I have discussed earlier, Sa'ad Al Hariri does not appear as representing his own political movement alone, and his comments of “emptying Quraitem, Al Mukhtara, and Al Saraya” are ones he may not be forgiven for. We now see before us “regional discussion” (Saudi in the first degree) and international (American). We now have before us the possibility of a “Moderate Trinity”, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, assigned to look after the “Stricken Trinity”: Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.

Thursday, 28th September

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