Topic: War on Terror
The past few days I've wanted to yank my hair out everytime I've heard the media repeat the White House mantra that Fatah al-Islam is being supported by Syria. That assertion, though politically expedient, is absurd: Why would a secular, Alawite Baathist regime -- allied at the moment with Iran - be happy about the appearance of an ultra-violent Sunni/Takfiri militant group in Lebanon? It's total nonsense. (In fact, the supossed leader of Fatah al-Islam, Shakaer al-Absi, was until recently in Syrian custody.)
Ultimatly, the anti-Hamas policies of the US and EU directed against the Palestinian people -- for having the audacity to vote for Hamas -- is to blame for the terrible situation the Palestinian refugees in Nahr el-Bared are going through right now. These policies have been slowly strangling the PA's finances in the occupied territories, and as a result, control of the patronage Fatah once used to weild to keep the disperate Palestinian factions in line has evapporated. This has created a vacuum ultra-religious militant groups are more than happy to exploit.Sy Hersh wrote about this a few months ago in his article The Redirection. At some point, he says, after the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, the Saudis -- with Prince Bandar (Bush) leading the charge -- decided that they weren't going to cede Lebanon to Iran and began to pump large sums of money into the Sinoria government.
Besides proping up the Sunni backed government in Beirut, Bandar and his buddies in the vice-president's office, began coming up with ingenius ways to get al-Qaeda imspired terrorist groups to re-locate to Lebanon.
"American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south."
Hersh writes that Bandar convinced Cheney & Co. that these groups, the same people we're fighting in Iraq, hate Hezbollah even more than they hate us, so they're ok. Bandar is supossed to have told Cheney that the Saudis "will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. We’ve created this movement, and we can control it." [Hersh has implied also that the US is making funds available outside the perveiw of the US Congress for this purpose. (Ever wonder where all those billions of missing Iraqi construction funds are winding up?)]
It's not just Sy Hersh saying this stuff, in case you think he's some sort of whacko. In an AP story today, Bernard Rougier, author of "Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon" says: "By changing their own identities, to one of a Sunni warrior, they . . . get money from Saudi Arabia, and other private sources."
Ali Jarbawi, a political science professer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, says of Fatah al-Islam: "Look at this group. It is 200 people, but it can make anormous waves because it is operating in an institutional vacuum."
The problem now is that, as a New York Times reporter said this morning on the BBC Newshour, refugees being shelled by the Lebanese army are starting to feel that they're the ones being attacked. This is creating some sympathy for a bunch of bearded wierdos that just a few months ago everyone in Nahr el-Bared distrusted and feared. Firing tank rounds into a square mile area populated by 30,000 poor, disgruntled refugess is probably not the best way to to convince them that you're on their side.
And secretly funding al-Qaeda a la the Contras in Lebanon is probably not such a hot idea either.