Monday, July 17, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

In what I find to be a first, several Arab countries are condemning Hezbollah and supporting Israels effort to wipe them out. This from the NYT by Hassan Fattah:

BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 16 — With the battle between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah raging, key Arab governments have taken the rare step of blaming Hezbollah, underscoring in part their growing fear of influence by the group’s main sponsor, Iran.

Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, Egypt and several Persian Gulf states, chastised Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts” at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on Saturday.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, “These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.” Prince Faisal spoke at the closed-door meeting but his words were reported to journalists by other delegates.

The meeting ended with participants asserting that the Middle East peace process had failed and requesting help from the United Nations Security Council.

It is nearly unheard of for Arab officials to chastise an Arab group engaged in conflict with Israel, especially as images of destruction by Israeli warplanes are beamed into Arab living rooms. Normally under such circumstances, Arabs are not blamed, and condemnations of Israel are routine...


“There is a school of thought, led by Saudi Arabia, that believes that Hezbollah is a source of trouble, a protégé of Iran, but also a political instrument in the hands of Iran,” said Adnan Abu Odeh, a Jordanian sociologist. ‘This school says we should not play into the hands of Iran, which has its own agenda, by sympathizing or supporting Hezbollah fighting against the Israelis.”

Hanna Seniora, a Palestinian analyst with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, lauded the Arab opposition to Hezbollah on Sunday.

“For the first time ever, open criticism was heard from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan against the unilateral actions carried out by radical organizations, especially Hezbollah of Lebanon,” wrote Mr. Seniora, who favors coexistence with Israel and opposes radical Islam. “It became clear and beyond doubt that the most important Arab countries did not allow their emotions to rule their judgment.”

The willingness of the leading governments to openly defy Arab public opinion, which has raged against Israel’s actions in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, underscores the readjustment of risks Arab governments say they face.

I would not want to go so far as to call this a watershed moment or a sea change or any of the other well worn cliche's but it is an interesting development.

Additional: Another first, two good articles from the NYT posted here in one day. This is another strange but overdue trip to reality in the Middle East, this time from Iraq. Apparently the Sunni factions have come to the conclusion that they need the American forces in Iraq for their very survival.

As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq.

The Sunnis also view the Americans as a “bulwark against Iranian actions here,” a senior American diplomat said. Sunni politicians have made their viewpoints known to the Americans through informal discussions in recent weeks.

The Sunni Arab leaders say they have no newfound love for the Americans. Many say they still sympathize with the insurgency and despise the Bush administration and the fact that the invasion has helped strengthen the power of neighboring Iran, which backs the ruling Shiite parties.

Captain Ed has more.