To and Fro in the Middle East

Jonathan Spyer recently observed that "if the U.S. leaves a void here, the secondary powers in the region—Israel, Turkey, and Iran—will begin tussling with one another for dominance." And lower down the food chain the proxies may be fighting for turf. Hanin Ghaddar from Lebanon Now says that street fighting which broke out in Beirut between Hezbollah and a Syrian militia called Al-Abash.

the clashes must be seen as a message from Syria to Hezbollah that Damascus is back and that the Party of God no longer single-handedly controls the political scene in Lebanon. It is also worth mentioning that this happened immediately after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that he would visit Lebanon on September 11 and 12.

The streets are now full of rage. The death and destruction will only lead to more anger and the need for revenge. The problem of Hezbollah’s illegitimate arms still remains, but now we know once and for all that the Resistance’s arms can be used on the street against other Lebanese, whether to defend its arsenal, as was the case in May 2008, or to confront another militia over who controls Beirut’s streets.

If the problem of arms is not resolved soon, the clashes will increase, and the rule of the militia will prevail.

The Associated Press is depicting the clashes as a dust-up between the Hezbollah and an insignificant Sunni group. Ghaddar believes it is more than that. Al-Abash was once a gang controlled by Syria and its fight with the Hezbollah might be  a signal by Syria to Sunni Muslims that Damascus, and not just Riyadh, is the patron of Sunni Muslims in the region.

That occurs against the interesting background of the administration's "soft power" efforts in the Gulf. Muslim Matters reports that the Imam Rauf was recently in Doha as part of a State Department sponsored visit. Rauf later spoke at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Doha. As was probably inevitable, some in the audience saw Rauf's role as not to convince Muslims of America's good intentions, but to win over America to the pan-Muslim cause. Muslim Matters says that some people in the audience felt the embassies were should be reversed and that Rauf, rather than touting America in the Gulf should be pushing Islam in America. Rauf appeared reluctant to discuss the Mosque.

Amad: Imam, we have been obviously following the matter very closely

Imam: I’m sure you have

Amad: We are wondering how it [the controversy] has affected your trip here?

Imam: Alhamdulillah, it hasn’t. But, except that I have been getting less sleep [kind of half-serious]. Everyday, [I spend] 2-3 hours following the issues of the day.

Amad: A lot of people are asking. Do you feel that you are needed more there. Do you feel that it would have been prudent more to be there [in America] than here?

Imam [the voice was fuzzy here so this may be less than perfectly accurate transcription]: That’s a difficult question but the decision was made/justified to stay on course with the program. [And I think he said he was content with that]

In the meantime, Joe Biden was in Iraq "to assure Iraqis the United States is not abandoning them as it stops combat operations, a milestone in the 7-1/2 year war the Obama administration is trying to end." Biden told newsmen:

We are going to be just fine. They are going to be just fine,” Mr. Biden told reporters as he prepared to confer with James Jeffrey, the new American ambassador in Baghdad, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing American commander in Baghdad.

The wheel is still in spin all over the region. The chaotic interplay between the Obama administration and the political factions of the Middle East is occurring across the spectrum ranging from culture to military confrontation. About all that can be safely said is that the struggle for power is by no means over. Perhaps nothing is ever "over" in the Middle East, a point illustrated by this video featured at Michael Totten's. It's an ad for a night club whose message is, live while you can because you never know.

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