Mahmoud Sabit at PostGlobal

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. Sabit also works as a writer and producer of historical documentaries. Close.

Mahmoud Sabit

Cairo, Egypt

Mahmoud Sabit is a historian and an authority on Egypt’s 19th century political reforms. more »

Main Page | Mahmoud Sabit Archives | PostGlobal Archives


« Previous Post | Next Post »

Symmetrical Balance And Intransigence

Egypt - U.S. policy has weakened its alliances with democratic and moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. The U.S. is completely ignoring their concerns, and most importantly U.S. pro-Israeli bias is compromising Arab defensive strategic policies.

First and foremost for the strategic interest of these Arab countries is a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Although Western media has made much of the existential threat posed to Israel by its neighbors, very little has been articulated in reference to Israel's much more valid existential threat to the Arab countries in the area. More valid because of Israel's possession of a substantial nuclear arsenal and its willingness to engage in a military dialogue, a dialogue of coercive diktat, as witnessed in the present, unfolding events in Lebanon.

Secondly the US policy of acquiescence towards Israeli unwillingness to engage in an equitable peace process is encouraging extremist ideologies. There is an almost dogmatic religious undertone to the US administration's urge to worship at the shrine of 'Israel's-divine-right-to-do-as-it-pleases' If this is provoking a more extremist shift in the attitudes of the 'Arab Street', and its concurrent effect on the stability of the moderate regimes of the Arab world, it should come as no surprise.

Third is the emerging weight of an Iranian influence in the equation. Iran is perceived to be developing a nuclear military potential, it is seen as a tacit supporter of Hezbollah. Iran's long term policy may be to step into the role of 'core' state in the Muslim world, using Samuel Huntington's terminology from his book 'Clash of Civilizations.' In its calculations it may be developing the necessary military balance to offset Israel's nuclear advantage, a sort of Middle Eastern version of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) policy of the Cold War. Through this empowered situation Iran could find itself in a position to extend a nuclear umbrella to the Arab countries in exchange for ideological hegemony through a unified front of Shia'a and Sunni Muslim nationalism.

For it cannot be denied that today the contender for unity in the Arab Middle East which hitherto had been Arab Nationalism is being challenged by an emerging Muslim Nationalist ideology, based on Muslim solidarity. It is an ideology that offers unity as a result of the defeat of the Arab World's aspirations of unity through a secular Arab Nationalist dialectic. Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, these were the last strongmen of secular Arab Nationalist ideals. No-one fought for Saddam in 2003, and Arafat died and the PLO lost their political hegemony over the Palestinians. Hamas is merely a symptom of what may be coming.

Syria the last of the Arab Nationalist states maintains its ascendancy over its mosaic of religious and ethnic minorities through the Ba'ath, its ruling political elite are themselves of a religious minority; the Alawites, Shia'a 'light.' Syria's most serious internal political threat is their version of Sunni Muslim nationalists.

If we see the crisis in this light, Iran has an interest in promoting this process of Muslim nationalist development, they also fear it, because it would inevitably be a Sunni phenomena, due to the Sunni majority in the Arab world, and the most hostile element against Iran amongst the Sunna are Al Qaeda, therefore if this transition is inevitable, Iran had better develop unimpeachable credentials in confronting the Arab worlds most serious threat to its survival, Israel.

Iran may consider the wisdom of engaging in a policy that would rally the region behind their yet to be developed credentials in confronting Israel. Hezballah is Iran's cat's paw, their way of gaining support in the area, Iran's way of developing credentials. Already Hassan Nasrallah is extremely popular amongst the Arab masses, are Hezballah an Arab Nationalist movement? Obviously not, they are a Shia'a Lebanese militia, factional contenders in a Muslim ideological struggle yet to come.

This dangerous state of affairs has developed as a result of many factors; one of its most important ingredients has been the elusive and festering problem of a peaceful definitive solution to the Arab-Israeli confrontation. Hezbullah developed its hard line as a result of the symmetry of Israeli intransigence; Hezballah exists because of Israel's behavior in southern Lebanon in 1982, a symmetrical reaction to Israeli excess. Hamas emerged and was elected to office by the Palestinians as a direct result of Israeli unwillingness to engage with the PLO, and its reliance on the politics of occupation and oppression. Therefore what sort of symmetrical reaction are we to expect to Israel's brutal assault on Lebanon? Will it be limited to Lebanon, or will it also include a violent and destabilizing reaction against the existing moderate and democratic regimes of the region?

We should be extremely concerned about the effects of the present crisis in Lebanon, failure to address the interests of moderate and democratic Arab regimes which also include an emerging democratic Lebanon. Failure to apply all UN resolution in reference to the Middle East, including both resolution 1559 that applies to disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and all those other resolutions pertaining to a just solution to the Palestinian problem. As well as the legitimate interests of Syria and Lebanon, threatens to provoke similar messianic reactions to Israeli policy, and would undoubtedly make the situation much more dangerous to the US and Israel, as well as to the region in general.

Please e-mail PostGlobal if you'd like to receive an email notification when PostGlobal sends out a new question.

Email the Author | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook

Reader Response

ALL COMMENTS (841)

Post a comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

Categories

  • America's Role
  • Business and Technology
  • Culture and Society
  • Environment
  • Human Rights
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Islamic Movements
  • Israel-Palestine
  • Security and Terrorism
  • The Global Economy
  • The New Asia
PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.