Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Looming Hamas-salafi confrontation": Analysis or a new canard?

Back in May, Mohamed abu Roman wrote in his regular op-ed column in the Jordanian paper Al-Ghad about the announced formation in Iraq of something called "Hamas--Iraq", a resistance group but one that abu Roman said was more in the "pragmatic" tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood (hence borrowing the name of that other MB offshoot, the palestinian Hamas) and thus a challenge to the intransigent "salafi" ideology and strategy of AlQaeda and its affiliates. A couple of Egyptian MB people indignantly denied that the new Iraqi group had anything to do with the Muslim Brotherhood, but in any event the group's manifesto did indicate a more pragmatic line, and the implicit idea was: "Gee, maybe this is something the US could negotiate with". From that day to this, I do not recall reading any further reports about this group.

Today abu Roman returns to this theme of "pragmatic versus salafi", in his discussion of the release of Alan Johnston. Abu Roman notes that Hamas leaders dismiss the Islamic Army (Darmoush group) as something that will not be allowed to create further problems, but he says the story goes farther than that, because first of all the Islamic Army has significant AlQaeda-affiliated support (based on jihadi chat-room comments, and on the establishment of a new enterprise that appears to specialize in AQ messages to Palestine). The Islamic Army is merely one manifestation of a growing confrontation between MB-oriented and AQ-oriented Islamic groups. He says the fact there were armed clashes between Hamas and the Islamic Army, with offsetting kidnappings and so on, indicates that the underlying rivalry has "entered a new stage". And he notes that while Zawahiri in his latest pronouncement didn't attack Hamas as a group, he did address its members "who are taking Israeli missles from the front and the knives of Fatah from the rear" and advises them to take note of the fact that "your leaders have compromised sharia and have accepted democracy", in effect appealing to those Hamas members who are prone to disagree with the "pragmatic" strategy. Not exactly a declaration of war, but abu Roman says it is very significant.

Concluding, abu Roman says dealing with Dahlan-Fatah, even in the context of the international blockade, was one thing, but dealing with the jihadi groups of the salafi persuasion like the Islamic Army is going to be a challenge of a different and deeper kind, and one that will require different skills to deal with.

There is something about this "looming inevitable clash" genre that bothers me. Who can forget the dire predictions, at various times and by various parties, of a region-wide clash between Sunnis and Shiites? Of course, in a way it isn't fair to compare what abu Roman says in his sober way about a salafi-pragmatist struggle, with what the salivating neo-cons have had to say from time to time about the Sunnis and the Shiites. Still, in both of these "looming inevitable clash" scenarios, it is fair to say there is a preponderance of picture-painting based on simple two-part classification of the parties, as against a thinness of actual evidence apart from selected intemperate remarks by one side or the other.

To me this all seems tendentious, but to be perfectly frank, what I don't understand is where it is tending. It seems as if the takeaway is supposed to be that "there is still a significant risk of salafi takeover of Gaza". But why would anyone say that in the absence of any real evidence? For what reason?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make it easier to explain why someone would HAVE to bomb the hell out of Gaza? Or send in "international" forces? Because Hamas just doesn't look crazy enough?

10:20 AM  
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