Last Updated: Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:08 am (KSA) 08:08 am (GMT)

Unmanned aircraft raises unanswered questions

Eyad Abu Shakra

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

George Washington

Hezbollah described the operations in which several of its militants were killed at the Lebanese-Syrian border as “jihadist duties.”

It is hard to understand the reason for using such an expression especially if the “enemy” it is fighting and killing is predominantly Muslim and some its fighters believe they are involved in a form of “jihad.”

This gets us lost in a “jihadist” maze that I believe Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah himself would not have wanted to be part of had it not been for the directives of the Iranian supreme guide. In fact, Nasrallah had been known for avoiding open involvement in any Muslim-Muslim conflict before the May 2008 events when his militants invaded Beirut.

Nasrallah once gave a famous speech that the Lebanese remember till now. In this speech, he called upon the Lebanese authorities to sentence to death anyone proven guilty of collaborating with Israel, and demanded that this be applied to Shiites before any other sect.

Yet within the past few years, Nasrallah forged an alliance with General Michel Aoun who has served as his tool for creating a rift between Sunnis and Shiites without Nasrallah being directly blamed for it. A fierce war was thus waged against the Sunni camp and sedition ensued between different factions in the country, all at the expense of the Lebanese state and its institutions.

Then suddenly the truth about officer Fayez Karam, one of Aoun’s closest aides, and his collaboration with Israel were unraveled, and despite Hezbollah’s influence, the Lebanese judiciary found him guilty even though the verdict was quite lenient.

Hezbollah then totally ignored the Karam affair, and when the man did his brief time in jail, and Aoun gave him a heroes’ welcome, Nasrallah “forgot” all his earlier speeches about collaboration with Israel being the gravest of sins.

Let us remember here that Fayez Karam is just a disciplined officer brought up in a military house learning to pledge allegiance to his commander. Therefore, he would not have collaborated with Israel without the prior knowledge of his own commander, and indeed he accepted the guilty verdict later to protect this same commander. This perhaps explains the way Aoun received him after he got out of jail. However, Aoun is not the problem, but rather Hezbollah, which seems adamant on attacking Israel, yet fails to deal with its allies who collaborate with Israel.

The term “jihadist duty” is, therefore, not suitable for use against other Muslim groups. That is why Nasrallah could have used other alternatives that do not incite more sectarian strife like “struggle” or “resistance.”

That would have been a much wiser choice.

But Nasrallah is not sure that the Syrian regime it is currently supporting is worth this “struggle” or really epitomizes “resistance.” There is no clearer proof than the fact that the Syrian regime has not used its arsenal since the fall of 1973 except to kill its own people and destroy its own cities.

If Israel were really that frightened of the “formidable threat” posed by the “resistant” Syrian regime, it would have exploited the revolution that has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Syrians within a year and a half to put pressure on international powers, and have this regime toppled instantly.

But for some reason, Israel did not do that!

When Hezbollah sent an unmanned aircraft over southern Israel, which was downed right away, Nasrallah made a point of publicly taking responsibility and noting that the aircraft was manufactured in Iran and assembled by Hezbollah youths and technicians. In the meantime, the Lebanese state is the last to know, or rather the last to want to know.

Iran, on the other hand, was silent about the entire matter, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney whose election come November, Israel seems to say, would make a strike against Iran unnecessary in case he wins.

Here a series of unanswered questions emerge:

Could Hezbollah act on its own and without orders from Iran?

Is there full coordination between Tehran and Damascus, especially, in the light of Hezbollah’s stance on the Syrian revolution?

Does the Western alliance under Barack Obama really want to offer a resolution to the Syrian crisis and which starts with Assad stepping down?

What is the role played by Turkey in this conspiracy against the Syrian people?

Is Israel serious in its threats to Iran?

Is there an implicit Iranian-Israeli agreement to support Romney in the U.S. presidential elections owing to the common resentment both countries feel towards the rising Sunni power inspired by the Arab Spring?

The U.S. presidential elections are expected to provide some answers to those questions within a few weeks or a few months at most, regardless of who will emerge triumphant.

Netanyahu is also expected to garner more popular support during the upcoming early elections, scheduled for January. This gives him more space for maneuvering and blackmailing than any other time in the past.

In the meantime, an average 200 Syrians are killed every day, and the Syrian state is on the verge of collapsing. A harsh winter is awaiting Syrian refugees inside and outside Syria. More suffering looms in the horizon with the Syrian regime, backed by Iran and blessed by Russia, China, and Israel, insisting on spilling more blood and avoiding any real resolution.


The writer is a columnist at the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, where this article was published on Oct. 15, 2012

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