Krauthammer on Sunni Solidarity

Shia_1 "The other Arabs have spoken, too. In a stunning development, the 22-member Arab League criticized Hezbollah for provoking the current crisis. It is unprecedented for the Arab League to criticize any Arab party while it is actively engaged in hostilities with Israel. But the Arab states know that Hezbollah, a Shiite militia in the service of Persian Iran, is a threat not just to Lebanon but to them as well. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have openly criticized Hezbollah for starting a war on what is essentially Iran’s timetable (to distract attention from Iran’s pending referral to the Security Council for sanctions over its nuclear program). They are far more worried about Iran and its proxies than about Israel. They are therefore eager to see Hezbollah disarmed and defanged."  Krauthammer


The doctor has it right.  The countries of the Arab League are all controlled by Sunni regimes.  Some of them; Bahrein, Saudi Arabia, Yemen (Zeidi), the UAE have significant Shia minorities (or maybe a majority in the case of one).

Iran’s growing power and ambition are obvious for all to see.  The aggressiveness of both Hizballah and Hamas has the aroma of Iranian influence about it.  It is very possible to see this aggressiveness as a demonstration to the Islamic World by Iran of its intention to be the paramount power in Islam and ultimately the dominant protector of the Islamic "nation," the ‘Umma.

A re-alignment of power of this kind would result in the end of many of the existing governments.

Is it really a surprise that these governments condemn the Iranian proxies?

Pat Lang

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25 Responses to Krauthammer on Sunni Solidarity

  1. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Can any of these governments last?

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Come now.. A bit of a pose.
    kul shayuun fi yed Allah. pl

  3. jonst says:

    It’s a challenging calibration this ‘who do the Sunnis support’ argument. My take is the more this is perceived as a Sunni v. Shia issue, the more the Sunni governments AND the people they ostensibly represent, at least the Sunni population, anyway, move to the same page.
    However, the more this is perceived as an Arab v. Israeli confrontation, the more one could argue that there might be a gap between the interests of the Sunni Govt as opposed to the interests of some their people. i.e. I’m not sure Egypt’s position on the fighting would be the same if, say, the Moslem Brotherhood were in power.
    A lot of these Sunni govts may be taking a substantial existential risk condemning Hezbollah. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future when the fighting has stop and the blame, in all directions, is apportioned.

  4. zanzibar says:

    “there might be a gap between the interests of the Sunni Govt as opposed to the interests of some their people. i.e. I’m not sure Egypt’s position on the fighting would be the same if, say, the Moslem Brotherhood were in power.” – jonst
    Very good point. I am curious about that too. Are the interests of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt and Sunni Wahabists in Saudi Arabia and Iraq the same as Mubarak and Abdullah?
    Would the US/Israel divide the Muslims along Sunni/Shia lines and let them fight and weaken themselves? And maybe even take sides like take the side of the Sunnis against the Shia? How would that turn out? Although the US did the opposite in Iraq!

  5. jonst says:

    I would guess that if Hezbollah (and can someone tell me how the hell to spell it correctly)is percieved to have suffered a set back a new myth will take root. The Sunni govts (which soon enough might be dropped to the the Sunnis, as time goes by)will be deemed to have joined with the ‘Zionst Entity’,and the ‘Great Satan’, to stab the Shia in the back”.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    hizb = party
    Allah = God (big G)
    Posession is shown in Arabic by what is called a “noun-noun construct.” (idafa)
    i.e. baab =(door). Beit = house
    “baab beit” means the door of a house.
    “hizb Allah” means the “party of God.”
    The correct transliteration is “Hizballah.”
    “Hezbollah” is just ignorant.
    Kinda like “Hizbalians” which we heard yesterday. pl

  7. jonst says:

    Thank you PL. The fact that there is only one a in the Hezbollah should have clued me in right away. I stand corrected.

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Hell. I wish I could remember more of the subtleties of “the tongue of the angels.” pl

  9. confusedponderer says:

    PL, do you really think that Iran is masterminding Hamas and Hezbollah?
    I don’t know. To me they seem to share ideas and enemies, and receive aid from Iran (money, training, arms) and give back intel and a deniable military arm against those common enemies.

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There are no command and control type relationships in the Islamic world unless they are the product of massive acculturation toward the west.

  11. confusedponderer says:

    That was the impression I got. That makes me wonder why the right wingers take such a great joy in blaming Syria, Lebanon and Iran for the trouble they got. Sure there is support, but the pressure generated is not about causality, but rather about ‘isolating the battlefield’, that is: Denying Hezbollah and Hamas support in order to crush them – as I said, I doubt that’s going to be successful.
    What these folks overlook is, that despite foreign funding and support, Hamas and Hezbollah are worlds apart from the ‘old skool’ palestinian guerrillas (Fatah & Cie) in that they finance themselves through ‘taxing’, rather than through donations. They live out of the people. Without crushing the people, there is no crushing of Hamas and Hezbollah.
    Attacked by Hezbollah they logically attack Lebanon – the country Hezbollah are operating out of. In blaming states, they play politics over a seemingly insurmountable strategic problem. Instead, they should be thinking about how it comes, miraculously, that Hamas and Hezbollah continue to receive popular support, despite all hardship, despite Israeli military pressure.
    They are still thinking in terms of ‘proxy wars’ and states. The problem I see is that Hezbollah is an entity sui generis, much closer to, say, a medieval knights order (there were muslim orders of that sort, too) – albeit a modern egalitarian version and broad social movement.
    I mean: Today the St. John and Maltese knights still have state sovereignty – why can’t Hezbollah have? It’s probably better to accept their existence and influence, which is simply a fact. Secretly they are talking with each other already anyway.

  12. confusedponderer says:

    It certainly has an ironic ring to it that those most eager to cast away the rules of Westfalia after 911 – state sovereignty most of all – are caught in a westfalian pattern of thinking that only accepts states as actors on the international scene.
    They think by the cold war playbook, where non-state actors were actually state proxies in the larger cold war pattern. Times have changed.
    Al Quaeda and Hezbollah stand out in being different. They much more resemble international NGOs, which they are in the widest sense, entities that act on their own agenda, independent from states.
    Hezbollah is even more interesting, having a de-facto state territory, a people and a common social bond, and state powers – they govern. They would fit into Jellinek ‘s definition of a nation state.

  13. confusedponderer says:

    Insofar Hezbollah should be a stark warning to those who think they can write the course history: An informal nation state emerging accidentally, as a result of a foreign intervention?!

  14. wtofd says:

    NS/CP, well played. You’re 12:58AM post is perfect.

  15. Soonmyung Hong says:

    It seems somewhat feudalistic system to me.
    Nominally, Hezbollah is feudatory to Lebanon. But in fact, they are autonomous entity.
    I think Lebanon isn’t (centralized) nation-state yet. they are pre-nation state.

  16. confusedponderer says:

    I find the feudalistic aspect amusing, as, while it is often denied, is just what a lot of US Middle East policy amounts to.
    Some neocons wanted to make the king of Jordan the king of Iraq (after all he’s a hashemite). Then they wanted to make Ahmed Chalabi the Sultan of Baghdad. They made the Kurds nominal Emirs or Kurdistan, because they passed the loyalty test by killing Arab Sunnis and hating Saddam.
    It’s because of feudalism that all the exciles are weaseling through Washington – to become emir or king or president of a protectorate of the Grand American Empire.
    But then, I don’t blame them. It’s also rather practical an approach to things.
    It, however, is worth keeping in mind that in the Middle Ages nobles at times had loyalty relations to two enemies in a conflict, and had to choose sides, loyalty nonwithstanding. The US, with their preference of black and white over nuance, will have difficulties accepting that.
    If history teaches us anything, then that people don’t learn fom it. Which, oddly, as a dictum calls into question my conclusion.

  17. confusedponderer says:

    People blame Syria of granting a feifdom to Hezbollah, in order to spite Israel. Personally I think that’s just silly babble.
    1. Syria was being quite pragmatic in this: (a) Hezbolla was a formidable fighting force that had bloodied Israel – and as such a military asset, (b) When military superior Israel didn’t succeed in crushing Hezbollah, why should Syria even try, exaust itself and leave itself vulnerable to Israel? (c) Control in Lebanon was difficult enough to achieve, so keeping Hezbollah quiet was merely prudent. The result was Hezbollah emerging as the informal emirs of south Lebanon. (d) Cheaply, it produced a formidable problem to Israel (and as such a genuine bargaining chip), another bonus.
    Syria acted thoroughly pragmatic, and simply accepted the facts on the ground and used them to their advantage.
    2. The US acted very similar in respect to the Kurds. With clear manpower limitations they had to delegate control of northern Iraq to the Kurds, who were (a) militarily capable to do so and (b) considering their national ambition (and some old scores to settle) more than willing to do.
    Now Kurdish autonomy is de-facto reality, that scrap of paper (made in America) labeled ‘Iraqi constitution’ nonwithstanding. The prospect of Kurdish secession however, poses a formidable problem for the US relations to Turkey, and Iraq. Who are the US to support – (aa) the Iraqi central gvt and Turkey, or (bb) the Kurds? In case of (aa), what will be the price of dropping the Kurds?
    3. The US motives in supporting the Kurds mirror Syria’s approach to Hezbollah, but it seems to me that the Syrians have picked their vassals more wisely (ironically, Syria was left no choice, much unlike the US).

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You make very good points.
    Also, Hamas and Hizbollah also leave off donations from the larger Arab and Muslim populations.
    Your point is very good about Hizbollah & Lebeanon: in fact now there is a new nation-state called Hizbollah (Islamic Republic of South Lebeanon)
    Reminds me of William S. Lind’s observations.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Sorry: meant “live off” rather than “leave off”.

  20. confusedponderer says:

    I find many of Lind’s observations astute. I enjoy reading his articles. His ‘Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps Fourth Generation War Field Manual’ is insightful stuff.
    What I’m sceptical about is wether we are indeed facing a fourth generation of war. It might as well be that some things simply have never changed, they just went by unnoticed or were forgotten by westner-centric observers.

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Since the major powers cannot afford a global thermonuclear war they will try to settle their differences through proxies and “terroristic tactics.
    The Ismaili Shia certainly pioneered this type of war through their use of “targeted killings”; thus the word “assasin”.

  22. confusedponderer says:

    It’s not only that. It’s a consequent further development. On the strategic side it’s about the nonsense of thermonuclear war – if there will ever be one there’ll be only losers. Talk about winning thermonuclear war is IMO utter insanity. Consequently, the cold war has demonstrated that antagonists have chosen proxies as their tools.
    There is this saying along the line: War emerges when someone values something he wants more than peace.
    I think the US and Israel finding themselves at the receiving end of ruthless guerrilla wars face the ultimate consequence of their own superiority.
    When you can lay on anything you detect overwhelming fires, then the enemy will try to evade detection, or keep moving. Evading overwhelming nuclear fire was the driving force behind NATO mechanisation in the 1950s. Technical advantage today forces forces to adapt to the need to evade overwhelming high precition fires.
    That’s IMO not a revolution but an evolution. That, however, doesn’t invalidate the accuracy of many of Lind’s observations. I think he’s particularly inspiring when he writes about the state and non-state actors.

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t buy any of the stuff about generational warfare. Humans is humans and war is a human social activity. It does not change. Technology changes, but not war. pl

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    As Plato said: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    That’s what I told my mother when I left home. She didn’t “buy it.” pl

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