2006 June 18 Sunday
Iraq War Radicalizes Muslims In Lebanon

Writing for the Washington Post Anthony Shahid finds increased Jihadist sentiments in Lebanon.

Men like Shaaban, of the Islamic Unity Movement, praise the insurgency in Iraq but deny any hand in subversion. At the same time, the growing reach of their groups in the poor neighborhoods of Tripoli -- through newspapers, radio stations, mosques and social welfare, the bread and butter of Islamic groups -- has gone far in transforming a predominantly Sunni city that was traditionally home to a vibrant mix of Arab nationalism and leftist and Islamic politics.

Even longtime residents are struck by the shift in social mores over the past few years: the proliferation of women's veils and men's beards, the flourishing of religion classes and the number of youths joining groups such as Shaaban's. On balconies, interspersed among flags for residents' favorite World Cup soccer teams, are black banners with religious inscriptions usually associated with holy war. In squares of Tripoli, particularly its most religious neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, civic art is often a stark representation of God's name.

It is worth noting that the 9/11 attacks also fed the growth of militant Jihadist Islam. Many Muslims feel emboldened when some of their own hit their enemies hard.

Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards -- of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.

"The targeting of Iraq can be considered the first step in targeting the entire Middle East to impose a new order in the region," said Fathi Yakan, a founder of the Islamic Association and head of an umbrella group known as the Islamic Action Forces.

What is the biggest downside of the US invasion of Iraq? Probably that we seem inefficacious against the Muslim insurgents and this emboldens Muslims to support Jihad and terrorism.

Fighters like Abu Haritha and activists like Shaaban and Yakan speak in almost mythical tones about what they call the resistance in Iraq. In nearly every conversation, they make the assertion that the United States has, at this point, lost the war.

"We already consider it a success. It has already led to the failure of the American project in Iraq," Yakan said with a shrug that suggested the obvious. "I think the Americans realize that, and they are looking for an exit to wash their hands of it."

If the US is going to use force somewhere it really should be overwhelming. It hurts us to use force incompetently as Jorge W. Bush has done.

The irony here is that the Bush Administration might by accident accomplish something that some Arabs see as a clever Machiavellian design: to increase sectarian conflict and hatred between Shias and Sunnis in order to pit Muslims against each other and weaken Musliims politically.

Some see an American hand in Iraq's entropy; in their analysis, the United States and Israel are fanning the flames of sectarianism as a way to further divide the Arab world and create a region even more balkanized than today's. Others see a more deep-seated hostility in U.S. actions, a scorched-earth campaign to hasten an apocalyptic battle or, in Salih's words, the "politics of chaos."

"America is with the Shiites in Iraq and against the Shiites in Lebanon, with the Sunnis in Lebanon and against the Sunnis in Iraq and Palestine. It is against the Shiites in Iran. Where is America?" Shaaban asked. "It needs Einstein to resolve it."

My guess is the increase in hostilty toward the United States due to the Iraq invasion outweighs the increase in hostility between Shias and Sunnis. But if the US pursued a break-up of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab nations the US might be able to exit Iraq in a way that will cause the Jihadis to see the US intervention as a success for the US.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 June 18 10:47 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs

John S Bolton said at June 20, 2006 1:31 AM:

What first-world academic, media and official types think of US policy is not often worth catering to.
The third world mind, which cowers before those who rule by atrocity; while despising those who speak of peace, love
and the unity of all mankind, is what has to receive discouragement, and more effective exclusion from better places.
A three state disunification, would mean more war at first, but less later.
Public policy one-worlders have a bias towards larger sovereignties; aren't they the sophisticated ones who are pushing the backward on towards their destiny, to live blessedly under polyglot empires of peace and prosperity? Don't they just know that
a larger state, with that prestigious prize, recognition by the UN, is itself a work of glory?
Another slapdown of the presumptuous one-worlders has recently occurred.
Montenegro has been recognized by a number of European countries.

Bob said at June 4, 2009 4:38 PM:

COOL!!! That is awesome how the Lebanese did that!!

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