Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Huwaydi's believe it or not

Fahmy Huweydi is a widely-read journalist, writing in many Arab newspapers, sometimes described as an intellectual and not an Islamist, a necessary remark, because people assume if anyone is widely-read in the region these days, he is probably an Islamist of some description. Huweydi isn't.

Writing in the Arab Emirates newspaper Al-Khaleej on Tuesday October 10, he underlines the dizzying changes in the region's political map since the Israel-Lebanon war, or really you should call them attempted or proposed changes, because he stresses what the US and Israel want isn't necessarily what will happen. The piece is headed "Coup in Arab Priorities and Alliances".

He opens with a long series of "who would have imagined" sentences, highlighting the weirdness of Arab regimes conniving in the starvation of Palestinians on the issue of recognition of Israel; the suddenness of the shift from hyping the Israeli threat to hyping the Iranian threat instead; the strangeness of the proposed Israel-Sunni coalition; and so on.

He then offers an encyclopedic account of the visible events of the last few weeks indicating what Washington was about. Shortly after the war, the US sent a senior person to Amman essentially to warn Abbas that he was under no circumstances to make a deal with Hamas for a national-unity government, otherwise his scheduled meeting with Bush would be cancelled. The reason for this was the creation of a new doctrine, namely the updated "axis of evil" which is to include Hamas (along with Hizbullah and Syria and Iran). Abbas was to hold off from any agreement to give time for pressure on Hamas to work its effects. Abbas complied. Following Abbas' Washington visit, there was another meeting, this one in Aquba, Jordan, including heads of the intelligence agencies of four Arab states, including Egypt and Jordan, along with the head of Shin Beit Yuval Diskin, Abbas and his intelligence chief, and others, to talk about the need for a hard line with Hamas on the issue of recognition of Israel, multilateral cooperation in areas including isolating Hizbullah, and in fighting "terror", particularly in Palestine. There was reportedly a reference to toppling the Hamas government.

Being a scrupulous man, Huwaydi notes that most of the above was first reported on October 3 and 4 by two newspapers, the new Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, and Al-Quds al-Arabi. It was then picked up by many others. But there was never any follow-up, and there were never any denials from any of the parties, he notes.

Turning to Israel, Huweydi lists a whole sequence of statements by civil and military people in that country, laying out the new position, to the effect that Israel's survival in the face of the threat from Iran et al, cannot be assured on a go-it-alone basis, and that therefore friendly relations must be established with the "moderate" Arab regimes that traditionally side with the US. Part of the new line was the idea of a congruence between Israel and the Arab regimes in opposition to opposition movements like Hizbullah and Hamas. Huweydi calls attention to the fact that none of these statements said anything about how the Arab regimes were supposed to go about convincing their populations of this. He says an Israeli journalist asked Defence Minister Peretz: "Do you think raising the cry of 'fighting fundamentalist Islam' is a good way for the Arab regimes to convince their people to form an alliance with us?" Huweydi quotes Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter to the effect no concessions to the Arab regimes are needed, "because their interests in this are the same as ours". In any event, that is the plan, and Huweydi adds: As it happens, these are Sunni regimes, thus supposedly well-configured for a confrontation with this alleged "Shiite crescent" threat.

Finally Huwaydi says "What does it all mean?" And his answer is this: What is being proposed to the Arab regimes and their populations is colossal. They are being asked to leave the Palestinians to be dealt with "internally" by Israel, abandoning them in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in confrontation with Iran. In the final analysis, he says, the Arab regimes are being asked to give up the claims deriving from their Arab and Islamic identities, in order to integrate themselves into this US-Israeli grouping. He concludes: "Condoleeza Rice, on her latest trip, was no doubt distributing to the various parties membership-forms for this new 'Israeli-Sunni-Moderate' alliance. Believe it or not."


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