Gjesteskribent

Seymour Hersh hevdet i en artikkel i the New Yorker i våres at USA hadde innledet et samarbeid med sunni-regimene om å stanse Irans fremmarsj. På grunnplanet betød det samarbeid med og støtte til tvilsomme islamistgrupper. Ett eksempel var at Saad Hariri, sønn av den drepte Rafik, støttet islamistgrupper med penger og våpen. Disse påstandene gjentas i disse dager av Robert Fisk i the Independent. Men de blir ikke noe mer sanne av den grunn, skriver Michael Young i Daily Star.

Han tar et oppgjør med Hersh og sier han har lyttet til prosyriske stemmer, som ønsket å bakvaske Saad Hariri.

In his article for The New Yorker, Hersh faithfully channeled what sources in Lebanon told him, lending legitimacy to statements he otherwise failed to prove. Most prominently, for being so specific, he wrote that «representatives of the Lebanese government» had supplied weapons and money to Fatah al-Islam. But Hersh’s only evidence for this claim was a quote attributed to one Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who is co-director of Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Nor did Crooke have direct knowledge of what he was saying. In fact, he «was told» the weapons were offered to the group, «presumably to take on Hizbullah.» The argument is now being picked up by media belonging to senior members of the Syrian regime to affirm that the Lebanese Army is fighting an Islamist group in the Nahr al-Bared camp that is effectively on the payroll of Saad Hariri.

Lately, we’ve had more ricochets from that story. Writing in The Independent on May 22, journalist Robert Fisk, who we might forget lives in Beirut, picked up on Hersh, citing him uncritically to again make the case that Hariri was financing Islamists. So we have Fisk quoting Hersh quoting Crooke quoting someone nameless in a throwaway comment making a serious charge. Yet not one of these somnolent luminaries has bothered to actually verify if the story is true, even as everything about the fighting in Nahr al-Bared virtually confirms it is not true.

Men det finnes et grunnlag for storyen, og det er Hariri-klanen selv som har levert den med en typisk blunder:

The lie about the government financing of Fatah al-Islam has been given legitimacy thanks to a spectacular blunder by the Hariri camp, in particular Bahiyya al-Hariri. A few months ago she helped resolve a crisis that had resulted from the presence of Islamists located in the Taamir district of Sidon, abutting the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, by paying compensation money to Jund al-Sham militants so they would leave the area. From the narrow perspective of Sidon, which Bahiyya al-Hariri represents in Parliament, this made sense. Taamir was a running sore in relations between the state and inhabitants of the area on the one side and the Islamists and camp residents on the other. However, instead of disbanding, a number of the militants went to Nahr al-Bared, according to Palestinian sources. There, they joined Fatah al-Islam. Now the Hariris look like they financed Islamists, when they were really only doing what they usually do when facing a problem: trying to buy it away.

Young er overbevist om at det er Syria som står bak, særlig bombene i Beirut. De skal fortelle befolkningen prisen for å la Hariri-tribunalet bli opprettet. Hvis prisen er landets ødeleggelse vil de fleste trolig velge å skrinlegge domstolen. Tenker Damaskus.

Men før man går inn på en slik kjøpslåing må de ansvarlige på libanesisk side stille seg et spørsmål: hva gir Syria i bytte? Er de villig til å la Libanon i fred hvis domstolen skrinlegges? Det er slett ikke sikkert, skriver Young.

Nyanser

Anna Ciezadlo bor i Beirut og skriver om et besøk til Nahr al-Bared i the New Republic. Utenfor leiren treffer hun noen heller usympatiske typer, utsendt av Saad Hariri for å støtte hæren.

And so Hariri’s Future Movement has sent bands of goons–armed, excited, and ready for trouble–to guard the perimeters of the camps and help the army.
..
Outside the entrance to Nahr El Bared, a crowd of about 50 men is gathered. A battered white sedan with two bullet holes in the front bumper pulls up. A giant man with a bristly grey crew cut unfolds himself from the car and lumbers toward us, clearing his path with a massive potbelly and dragging a Kalashnikov. He has a green strap tied around his head and a pair of handcuffs dangling from his belt. The pack of men part eagerly before him. His name is Mustafa Abu Saqr.

«We’re helping the army,» he says, with pride. «I am bringing the bodies and the injured soldiers out under constant gunfire. They even fired a mortar at me. You can see it, look at the building over there; all the people saw it hit the building. You can take a picture of it. Mine was the only car moving on the street.»

Stemningsskifte

Sympati for palestinerne har alltid vært en måte å gjøre seg populær på. Men det er slutt. Det er liten sympati med innbyggerne i Nahr al-Bared.

Det er en interessant detalj: Leder for våpengutta kaller leirene for Tel Aviv, og palestinerne kaller han «jøder». Stort klarere kan det ikke sies hva man mener om innbyggerne.

Loyalty to the Palestinian cause has always been a reliable way to boost your Arab nationalist credentials; this is why Saddam Hussein donated money to families of Palestinian suicide bombers. So attacking Palestinian civilians is generally not a good p.r. move in the Arab world.

But there’s deep resentment of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and they’re often an easy scapegoat for the country’s problems. When we ask Abu Saqr if he knows about civilian casualties inside the camp, he answers by referring to the Palestinians as «Jews,» and the camp as «Tel Aviv.»

«Over there, in Tel Aviv?» he says, pointing toward the camp with contempt. «Don’t bother asking! There are lots of dead bodies lying in the street like dogs. No one is moving them. None of the hospitals would accept them.» (This is not true; half an hour later, we speak to a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, with shrapnel wounds in his chest, at a local hospital that has been treating casualties from the camp.)

Professor Professor Charles Harb ved det Amerikanske universitetet i Beirut har en litt annen, sofistikert tolkning. Han mener salafistgruppene er blitt støttet og noen ønsket å bruke dem, men de er ute av kontroll.

Han tar utgangspunkt i Nord-Libanon, som den mest fattigste regionen, hvor palestinerne var åpen for radikalisering.

North Lebanon, especially Tripoli and Akkar, contains some of the country’s most deprived areas, neglected by successive governments. Tripoli, a traditionally conservative Sunni city, and Akkar, a strikingly poor province, became fertile territory for the proselytising of Salafist and radical Sunni groups. But impoverished conditions do not explain the rapid empowerment of radical Sunni movements in recent years; political cover was needed – and was provided by pro-government forces. In the 2005 national parliamentary elections, Saad al-Hariri, the son of slain prime minister Rafik Hariri, appealed to Sunni sentiment to woo northern voters. Significant efforts were made to bring the Sunnis of Tripoli and Akkar under his wing and away from the area’s traditional leaders. Fulfilling an electoral pledge, the new parliament pardoned jailed Sunni militants involved in violence in December 2000. Those clashes in Dinnieh between Islamist radicals and the Lebanese army left dozens dead in a precursor of the violence of recent days.

Courting radical Sunni sentiment is a dangerous game. A major sign of trouble ahead had already emerged in February last year, when a protest against the cartoons belittling the prophet Muhammad turned violent and the Danish embassy was set ablaze in the fashionable Beirut district of Ashrafieh. Most of those protesting came from the impoverished areas of the north.

Men så knytter han det til shia-sunni-splittelsen som herjer i hele Midtøsten, og mener at noen har villet bruke de ekstreme salafistgruppene til egen fordel, men at det er ute av kontroll.

This picture becomes more complicated when the regional dimension is factored in. The invasion of Iraq has inflamed the Sunni-Shia divide and is changing the dynamics of the Middle East. Fear of Shia influence in Arab affairs has prompted many Sunni leaders to warn of a «Shia crescent» stretching from Iran, through Iraq, to south Lebanon. Several reports have highlighted efforts by Saudi officials to strengthen Sunni groups, including radical ones, to face the Shia renaissance across the region.

But building up radical Sunni groups to face the Shia challenge can easily backfire. While militant Islamist groups are sensitive to appeals to Sunni sentiment, they remain locked in their own agenda. Courted by regional players – Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia – and infiltrated by intelligence services, Islamist radical groups serve the needs of some without necessarily becoming servants to any.

Some perceive the fighting of recent days as a confrontation between regional forces – the US, Syria, Saudi Arabia – vying for control of the Lebanese political space. Others see it as a plan that went wrong, with Islamist groups escaping the control of the pro-government forces that nurtured them. And others perceive it as an attempt to draw the Lebanese army – regarded as the only genuinely national force in the country – into the fray of Lebanese politics.

Michael Young beklager at storier om bruk av salafister resirkuleres. Han ser Syrias hånd klart og tydelig i det som skjer. De vil ha hånden ned i honningkrukken igjen.

Lebanon’s power struggle.
Camp Rout
by Annia Ciezadlo

Blowback in Lebanon
The Islamists at the centre of the fighting were built up by pro-government forces for sectarian reasons

documents referat av Hersh-artikkelen:

USA dobler innsatsen i Midtøsten