Fundamentalists at Heart Of Four Middle East Conflicts
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
In France, it may be “cherchez la femme,” but nowadays in the Greater Middle East, it is invariably “cherchez le fondamentaliste musulman.”
In the four conflicts percolating across the ever-turbulent Middle East at the moment — in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, and Iran — the common denominator is the Muslim fundamentalist element.
Take Lebanon. What began as a spring freedom fest a year ago following the expulsion of the Syrian army has deteriorated into a heated battle of words that appears to be heading toward an armed conflict. Behind it stands Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded, Syrian-supported Shiite Muslim fundamentalist militia and political party.
At the top of this party and its heavily armed band of killers and kidnappers is a slick-looking Iranian-trained mullah named Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. He angles his head cover to show his hair in an attempt to suggest to the future suicide bombers among his Shiite followers that he’s hip. He may be that, but he’s also an Iranian agent, as sure as the sun comes up every morning somewhere around the globe.
This is the man who presided over the kidnapping, torture, and murder of at least two Americans and two dozen Westerners in Beirut. He also engineered the 1983 suicide bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks there, killing 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and three Army soldiers, and injuring 60. He also orchestrated the bombing of a French barracks, killing 58 paratroopers and injuring 15. When it was all over, Sheik Nasrallah said it was a good thing.
Syria is one area where America can come down like a ton of bricks.
The message should be the same one President Bush was starting to deliver before he got distracted about a year ago: Back off or face a barrage of international pressure, organized courtesy of America.
On to Iraq, where an average of 50 people are killed every day. People are executed along old-fashioned Lebanese lines, known as “killing by identify cards, or ID killing.” It goes like this: You are stopped at a fake, or real, checkpoint. If the gunmen there are Shiites, and your ID says you are Sunni, you die, horribly. Alternatively, if you are stopped at a Sunni checkpoint, and your ID says you are Shiite, you die, too, just as horribly.
The Sunni clergy sanctioning the killing gets its money primarily from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries, including Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait. The Shiite clergy gets its money and instructions from — you guessed it — Iran. In this one, America has no dog in the race. So let them be. America keeps permanent military bases in Iraq but stays off the streets.
Israeli armor is now rumbling in and out of Gaza, which is “Mad Max” territory where at least a half-dozen armed militias, styled pretty much in the Somalia “Black Hawk Down” mold, roam freely. They may not believe in much, but they are directed by, once more, Muslim fundamentalist religious leaders and the Koran. Their reference point is the criminal Muslim fundamentalist government of Hamas. You don’t have to be Jewish to be paranoid in this situation. These guys are Muslims bent on murder. But Israel can take care of them. We should support Israel fully on this one.
And across the Persian Gulf, in the land of big oil, the Iranians are pursuing their rug-merchant bargaining style with gullible Western negotiators, never giving a yes or no to ending their program of uranium enrichment — short for nuclear weapons. Let them be, as long as they know obliteration is the order of the day if they even think of using them. Maintain and even increase the economic sanctions.
America should play this game on its own terms. Prioritize. Syria is first, Lebanon is second, and Saudi Arabia is third. In every case, America should identify who is pushing the fundamentalist ideology within the country (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, and all the Muslim charities, without a single exception) and who is letting the poison across the borders (Syria to Iraq, and Jordan to Iraq) and say, “Folks, let’s have a chat.” You’d be surprised how carefully they’ll listen.