Michael Totten

The New Backbone of the Sunni Resistance

When Israel retaliated against Hezbollah in July of 2006, something strange and new and unexpected took place. Arab governments blamed Hezbollah for sparking the conflict and didn’t complain about Israeli behavior until later. During the more recent war in Gaza we saw something similar; only this time the de-facto alignment of Israeli and Sunni Arab state-interests was even more obvious. Most Arab governments blamed Hamas for starting the latest round, and Egypt worked openly with the Israelis to achieve a new ceasefire arrangement that left their mutual enemy in the Gaza Strip weakened. “Saudi Arabia is no longer the backbone of the Arab alliance against Iran,” Asher Susser from Tel Aviv University said to me as the ceasefire went into effect. “Israel is.”
It’s bizarre, to be sure, to think of Israel as the backbone of a Sunni Arab alliance against Iran and its proxies, but Israelis aren’t the only ones who see things that way. Disgruntled Arabs from Cairo to Beirut and Damascus have noticed the same thing, and they aren’t happy about it.
“Egyptians Seethe Over Gaza, and Their Leaders Feel Heat”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/10/world/middleeast/10cairo.html?fta=y, read a headline in the New York Times a few weeks ago. “It is understood that Egypt gave the green light for the attack,” “Rannie Amiri wrote”:http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=14779 in the Palestine Chronicle. “There is true and full collaboration between certain Arab regimes,” “said Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah”:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/129095, “especially those who have already signed peace deals with Israel, to crush any form of resistance.”
I heard similar complaints myself after the Second Lebanon War. “Gulf Arabs give bombs to Israel to kill my people!” one Lebanese Shia man “said to me in a hysterical tone of voice”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2007/01/its-like-a-phish-concert-for-t.php at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut December of 2006.
Some of these accusations are madness on stilts. Gulf Arabs will never give Israel weapons, for instance. But even the more hysterical residents of Arabic countries see clearly that the geopolitical tectonic plates in the region are shifting. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen “came out strongly against Hamas and in favor of their Fatah rivals”:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1061352.html at a meeting in Abu Dhabi this week.
“Egypt is cooperating to a great extent with Israel,” Susser continued, “as are Abu Mazen and the Jordanians. There were more anti-Israel demonstrations in Dublin than there were in Ramallah.”
Most Arab governments, aside from Syria’s and possibly Qatar’s, are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about anything coming out of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. They know perfectly well that the State of Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/53322.