May 28, 2007:
To give you a better idea of how
terrorism plays in the Arab world, consider how the current battle in Lebanon
is being reported in the Arab media. The fighting in Tripoli (a northern
Lebanese port) pits the Lebanese army (mostly Christians and Sunnis in that
part of the country) against al Qaeda affiliated Palestinian Sunnis. The
reporting has turned out to be an assortment of delusions, depending on what
the reporter or pundit feared the most. Lebanese Shia see it as an American
attempt to control Lebanon, via several plane loads of military equipment
recently flown in for the Lebanese army. Since many of the soldiers up north
are Christians, and the Lebanese Christians have always been seen as lackeys of
the Christian West (and many Lebanese Christians look to the West for help in
defending themselves from hostile Moslems), this pitch carries some weight. But
many other reporters see the fighting as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to strike a
blow against al Qaeda (which is really, really eager to take over Saudi
Many Sunnis in the region see the battle as an
attempt by Shias, in the shape of Syria and Iran, to weaken Lebanese Sunnis.
Syria did allow al Qaeda members to move from Syria to Lebanon, where they
found refuge in several of the eleven Palestinian refugee camps. Palestinians
are currently enthusiastic fans of al Qaeda, because of the terrorist attempts
to restore the late Saddam Hussein, a generous champion of the Palestinian
cause, to power. Most Lebanese wanted the Syrians out, but the Palestinians see
al Qaeda as an ally, and seek Syrian protection from the Lebanese.
What makes this so curious is that al Qaeda is very
anti-Shia, and Syrias patron is Shia Iran. The Shia minority in Lebanon also
sides with Syria and Iran, and often tolerates an al Qaeda presence, if only
because they have a common enemy in Israel and the West.
It's also suspected that the Lebanese government
encouraged, or at least tolerated, some Sunni militant groups as a
counterbalance to others. Many Arab countries play this dangerous games.
Sometimes it works, but lately is mostly backfires. One thing is clear, no one
likes the militants once the shooting starts. These guys are kind of cute when
they are marching around with their AK-47s and RPGs, shouting "God is Great,"
and demanding that the women cover up and the men stop shaving. But it's one short
step to using those weapons on police, or civilians believed to be "enemies of
Islam." Once that happens, it becomes difficult to even tell whose side the
fanatics are on.