Published — Saturday 23 February 2013
Last update 23 February 2013 5:27 am
In the second half of the 1970s, Zbigniew Brzezinski — the then national security adviser in Jimmy Carter administration — propounded the idea of religious curtain to confront the Soviet Union, particularly after the latter’s occupation of Afghanistan. Washington did what it took to pave the way for preparing the atmosphere in some countries by propping up some religious parties.
Against this backdrop, Amal — a Lebanese movement — came to the fore as a result of Israeli-Iranian-American agreement. It was followed by the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Hezbollah in 1982, the Islamic Salvation Movement in Sudan in 1985 and finally Hamas in 1987. However, Hamas claims that it came into being as a result of Israeli actions.
Later on, other religious movements surfaced as well. Here, we can refer to Taleban, which was formed in 1996, and the Welfare Party — an Islamist political group — in Turkey in 1983. One can also refer to the Islamist revival in Algeria in 1989, giving birth to the Islamic Salvation Front.
The main reason for the rise of Islamist movement was the need to contain the spread of communist parties, which had spread tentacles and to check the influence the Soviet Union in the region. Interestingly, America alternated its policy with regard to some revolutionary and Pan-Arab countries especially toward Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and Fatah movement in Palestine.
In addition, Washington sought to reinforce the internal strife between religious and Pan-Arab parties. It was during this era that Washington encouraged the sectarian struggle between Sunnis and Shiites especially after Iran built its policy based on its national and sectarian agendas.
Instead of confronting the Soviet Union — that eventually collapsed in 1989 — these religious parties got involved in the sectarian power struggle.
In his three books, Fouad Ajami — the Lebanese-born American university professor — argued that Washington should put its money on the Shiites rather than on the Sunnis.
In 2005, the king of Jordan warned against the Shiite Crescent that would stretch from Iran to Syria to Lebanon.
After the retreat of the communists in the beginning of the 1990s, religious parties were allowed to participate politically despite the fact that there were misgivings that these parties do not genuinely believe in democracy. In Algeria, the Salvation Front won some 188 seats out of 288 seats in 1991 elections. Not surprisingly, the ruling party did not win more than 16 seats. The Islamist party won national democratic elections, proving to be immensely popular. However, before the parliamentary seats could be taken, the Algerian military violently overturned democracy at the behest of the West.
Also in 2005, Hamas gained some 76 seats out of 132. Following the election, Israel detained many of the movement’s leaders, thus causing a semi separation between Gaza and the West Bank.
The winds of change began to blow in 2010 with all political and security analysts attributing it to the success for the Development and Justice Party (AKP) in Turkey. Then AKP-led government in Ankara advised Washington to reassess its policy toward the Muslim world and the Middle East.
There was a conference — supervised by former US Secretary of the State Medline Albright — which suggested that Washington change its policy toward the region. This took place at a time when Ankara thought that there was a chance to generalize the Turkish Islamic model as opposed to the Iranian model. Back then, three projects came to the fore: The American, Turkish, and Iranian projects. Iran supported the Shiites in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen. It also reinforced its strategic alliance with Syria and the Shiite communities in the rest of the Muslim and Arab world. Additionally, Iran used Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause as an instrument of its foreign policy.
In 2008, America reached a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood under the patronage of Turkey. In January 2011, the Arab Spring took off with a sort of understanding with the military establishments both in Egypt and Tunisia.
In 2012, Osama Bin Laden’s killing ushered in a new era for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brothers assured both America and Israel for its support for Turkish-Israeli ties. For this reason, Hamas ended its war with Israel in 2012 declaring a 20-year truce. It is only then some started talking about Hamas’ need to acknowledge Israel within 1967 borders. The withdrawal of Hamas and other Palestinian Islamic factions left Hezbollah and other radical groups on their own in the forefront. For this reason, Hezbollah was left with no options other than supporting the Assad regime. But this time Hezbollah’s arms are directed against both Lebanese and Syrians.
At the beginning of 2013, some Israeli fighters targeted a convoy transporting weapons to Hezbollah. In July 2012, Bulgaria accused Hezbollah of being involved in exploding near an airport, killing some Israeli tourists. Prior to that, India and Georgia accused Hezbollah and Iran of trying to assassinate Israeli diplomats in their countries. Just the beginning of this month, an Israel commando unit assassinated the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Hassan Shatiri. Some source close to Hezbollah linked the assassination with the effort to direct the Western pubic opinion against Hezbollah. They expect that the objective of such a campaign is to put Hezbollah on the list of the terrorist groups. Washington Institute sees that the party is involved in criminal actions in Europe and in actions to destabilize Lebanon.
In his last speech on Feb. 16, 2013, Hassan Nasrallah refuted these accusations and instead threatened Israel. He realized that a series of criminal actions committed by his party would drive the international community to put the party on the terrorist lists. After the decline of its Syrian ally, Hezbollah had no choice but to hope to achieve a phony victory in Syria as in the case of Hamas that declared a 20-year truce. This begs the question whether Hezbollah was on the agenda in the last American-Russian meeting and whether there was a bigger deal?