May 23rd, 2007 — peoplesgeography
In an interview for CNN International, Seymour Hersh has posited a blowback explanation to the current violence in Lebanon involving new group Fatah al-Islam (see appended video clip and transcript):
“We’re in the business now of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia; against the Shia in Iran, against the Shia in Lebanon, that is Nasrallah … the Arabic word for it is ftna, civil war. We’re in a business of creating, in some places, Lebanon in particular, sectarian violence. …
What it is very simply is a covert program we joined in with the Saudis as part of a bigger broader program of doing everything we could to stop the spread of the Shia, the Shia world, and it just simply bit us in the rear, as it’s happened before.”
In an article entitled The Redirection, Hersh reported in March of a policy shift in US policy toward the Middle East that would oppose Iran, Syria, and their Shia allies (most significantly, Hezbollah) at any cost, even if it meant backing hardline Sunni jihadists. Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams, and Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan reportedly settled on a policy whereby the Saudis would covertly fund the Sunni Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, to serve as a counterweight to the Shia Hezbollah.
In the past couple of days, Hezbollah has released a statement in support of the Lebanese Army and has called for a political solution to the crisis. In a press release they have said: “We feel that there is someone out there who wants to drag the army to this confrontation and bloody struggle … To serve well-known projects and aims.” The Palestinian Fatah party have also distanced themselves from their newly formed (est 2006) namesake, Fatah al-Islam (as have the Syrian Government), calling them a “gang of criminals” according to Robert Fisk. Fisk’s own analysis seems to look elsewhere than Hersh’s thesis, though significantly he also rejects the Syrian blamecasting as “too simple.”
Though I do not find Hersh’s articulation of the fear of Hezbollah in Washington very plausible (whether he is claiming that it is genuinely held or simply propagated is not entirely clear), so far these explanations certainly make more sense than official government declamations of defeating terrorism from the Lebanese and US administrations. Unfortunately some will still buy into the framing of this conflict as a cartoonish existential fight between freedom and terrorism.
An important missing link in Hersh’s otherwise viable explanation is the absence of Israel’s neocons and their wish to see Hezbollah undermined, if not destroyed, in these covert ops.
It also comes as a US government plot to assassinate the Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been reported (even as the State Department “reaffirms its policy against targeted assassinations” in relation to Israel’s ops against Hamas, in particular by targeting Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh).
For a transcript see –