Lebanon Crisis

Lebanon: Saudis and the Old Arab World
Arabnews, The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily, 26.07.2006

By Adel Al Toraifi

Recent events in Lebanon have brought up a number of questions regarding the real target of the Israeli military operations taking place there. Israel has crossed all red lines in a shameless invasion of Lebanon. They took aggressive action against unarmed civilians, alleging that was the only way to get to Hezbollah. Hezbollah, on the other hand, gave reasons for initiating the crisis. Its members claimed that their operation was to release the prisoners of Hezbollah and other detained Arabs. Both parties have advanced spurious reasons to justify their actions.

In short, the war is an indirect Iranian-Israeli battle on an alternative battlefield – Lebanon. The Iranians and the Israelis realize this too. We are face to face with an Israeli-Persian conflict for power and authority at the expense of the region’s peace. It’s a battle for hegemony that both sides are engaged in and one of its aims is to isolate two major countries: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The missiles that are being used to shell Lebanon were released by orders from Tehran and Syria. Hezbollah didn’t initiate this operation to release the Palestinian or Lebanese prisoners or with the motive of undoing the blockade around Gaza or to solve the dispute over Lebanon’s Shaba farms. There are other parties involved with Iran that approve of Hezbollah’s ideologies and dynamics. For instance, Shiite parties in Iraq are isolating and eradicating their Sunni brothers. Hamas is allied with Hezbollah because the former held obsequies and memorial gatherings to lament the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

The Iranians have rejected the proposals from the international community seeking to stop its nuclear weapons project. When the issue was brought to the Security Council, Iran asked for an extension until next August. The time exte nsion had already been planned so as to set off a new conflict that would lift the burden from their shoulders.

Jordan’s King Abdallah noted previously that there was an Iranian attempt to foist a political Shiite strategy on the region. The Iranians have a vision of controlling 140 million Shiites in the region. They believe that their government and authority should hold sway over more than one country. There is no better proof of this than Hezbollah flags and Hassan Nasrallah’s pictures that have been used in protests by some Shiites in Bahrain and Kuwait. Iran is trying to say that it holds the key to solving the crisis and that whoever thinks of participating in solving problems must go to Tehran, not to Riyadh, Cairo or any Arab capital. Iran has conditions and plans for the region that would make it stronger than their Arab neighbors.

Only Saudi Arabia realizes this and rejects such plans in every possible diplomatic way. Saudi Arabia has tried many time s to convince Tehran to give up its inclinations that disrupt the balance of power in the region and neutralize opportunities for peaceful cooperation and existence.

King Abdullah has expressed his dissatisfaction on many occasions over Tehran’s efforts at the “not peaceful” nuclear program. Up to now, the Saudis have never refused an invitation to Tehran. They have made it clear on many occasions that they are willing to cooperate and support a regional partnership. Saudi Arabia will, however, never accept the idea of dragging the region into a conflict that innocent Lebanese pay for in order to enhance the Iranian position.

Iran must realize that Saudi Arabia and no other country began a diplomatic campaign through Prince Bandar ibn Sultan – secretary-general of the National Security Council – to convince Washington not to proceed with its plans to attack Iran. In fact, Saudi Arabia reached the limit by building an international agreement with Russia and Euro pean countries to prevent a fatal confrontation with Iran. Iran must think seriously of the consequences of this crisis and its impact on its relations with neighboring countries. For a start, Iran can pressure Hezbollah to cease taking these risks.

As for Hassan Nasrallah, he is upset by the Saudi position. In his recent speeches he sounds like Osama Bin Laden, reflecting his fears of the Saudi position0 that is totally aware of the tragic results of these events. Hassan Nasrallah reminds Saudi Arabia of Israeli “cluster bombs” in 1996. He claims that was a victory despite the Saudis’ disapproval of his operations. But what Nasrallah doesn’t want to admit or say is that if it weren’t for the Saudis and the French, Lebanon would have never been able to overcome that problem.

Rafik Al-Hariri, who designed the plans for the country, was supported by Riyadh and not Tehran. Nasrallah says, “What has been demolished, friends will help reconstruct using pure virtuous money.” In fact, this is not a ploy that he can use against Saudi Arabia in his speeches. Saudis along with some Gulf countries and international and European loans rebuilt Lebanon. Saudi Arabia provided the largest loans of any country in the region; I do not say this begrudgingly but as a way of saying that Saudi Arabia did its duty when others in the region did not.
We are sick and tired of all the accusations against Saudi Arabia that come along with every crisis. Saudi Arabia can take part in all efforts aimed at stopping the suffering of Arabs and in settling the Arab problems.

Arabs of the old world are now free to choose between renewing their cooperation on an international legal basis relying on real facts and political logic, or they can become involved in a Western-Persian Cold War.

– Adel Al-Toraifi is a Saudi writer. He is based in Riyadh

Copyright:Arab News © 2003 All rights reserved.

About altoraifi
Al Toraifi is the current Editor-in-Chief of Al Majalla, the leading Arab magazine. A specialist on Saudi foreign policy, he is recognized as a commentator and participant in televised programs for CNN, NBC, BBC and Al-Arabia TV. Awarded the post-graduate International Conflict Prize 2008 from Kingston University for outstanding work, Mr Al-Toraifi is currently a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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