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Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

The destruction of the

The destruction of the Islamist group, Fatah al-Islam, by theLebanese army in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee campin May to September 2007 delivered a crippling blow to theradical Salafi movement in the Tripoli area.Syrian and Sufi-inspired Jam’iyat al-Mashari al-Khayriya al-Islamiya (Association of IslamicCharitable Projects, known as the Ahbash), triggeringa harsh government response. Many Islamistsfled to the Dinniye Mountain east of Tripoliand regrouped into a 300-man strong radicalmovement. 8 Their excommunicatory ideologytoward moderate Muslims and rejection of non-Muslims in line with the religious edicts of IbnTaymiyah, the famously radical medieval scholar,outraged the government and invited its wrath.In January 2000, the Lebanese army routed thegroup, killed its leader Bassam al-Kanj, and apprehendeddozens of combatants. Otherssought refuge in Ein al-Hilwa Palestinian refugeecamp near Sidon. 9The Lebanese authorities pardoned jailedSalafis shortly after the assassination of formerprime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. In fact, SaadHariri, who succeeded his slain father as leaderof the Future Trend movement, opened up toradical Sunni movements with the prodding ofRiyadh, which wanted to ensure that Sunnis8 Now Lebanon (Beirut), accessed Feb. 7, 2011.9 Al-Markazia (Beirut), accessed Dec. 2, 2010.88 / MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY SPRING 2011were capable of standing upto the Iranian-backed ShiiteHezbollah. 10 Salafi movementssprang up in Tripoli’spoor neighborhoods such asBab at-Tibbane, as-Suwayqa,Abi Samra, and at-Tal. Thesight of heavily bearded,armed young men and turbanedSalafis striding in alleysmade the once bustling cityaustere and unwelcoming. 11The Hariri assassinationamounted to a coup thatblunted the Saudis’ thrust intoLebanon and reaffirmed thepreeminence of the Syrian-Hezbollah entente. Riyadh’sresponse came in the form ofarming Tripoli’s Salafis so asto allow them to stand up toHezbollah. As noted by the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, “the regional underpinnings of Tripoli’ssurging jihadist Salafists are directly linked tothe conflict between Damascus and Riyadh overcontrolling Lebanon.” Indeed, while beingbankrolled by Qatar, Kuwait, and the United ArabEmirates, “every single activity by any Salafimovement is doomed to failure if it doesn’t receiveSaudi support.” 12 Saudi aid is presentlyfunneled through the ministry of religious endowmentsand a number of private associationswhose activities are closely monitored by the government.13 Philanthropic associations promotingjihad, such as al-Haramain, have been discontinuedafter the 9/11 attacks.The ease with which Hezbollah managedto defeat Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal militia in Beirutin 2008 convinced the Saudi leadership thatthey could not rely on northern LebaneseSalafis, who formed the backbone of the prime10 Al-Akhbar (Beirut), June 8, 2010.11 Author interview with Rashid Jamali, former head of theTripoli municipality, Tripoli, Dec. 18, 2010.12 Al-Akhbar, Sept. 5, Oct. 21, 2010.13 King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives,Riyadh, accessed Feb. 5, 2011.

minister’s militia, to serveas a countervailing militaryforce to Hezbollah. 14 Theyhave thus curtailed most oftheir military assistance andcontented themselves withpromoting as-Salafiya al-Ilmiya, or official Salafi,that eschews involvement in politics. So did theother Gulf Cooperation Council states, which supportTripoli’s as-Salafiya al-Irja’iya, 15 the Salafipreaching group that separates belief and actionand limits itself to the former.The destruction of Fatah al-Islam by theLebanese army in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinianrefugee camp in May to September 2007 delivereda crippling blow to as-Salafiya al-Jihadiya(Jihadist Salafi), whose remnants had gone undergroundinto sleeper cells. Having made itsdebut in the refugee camp in 2006, Fatah al-Islamdoubled its initial strength of 150 fighterswithin less than a year as the army intelligence’spersecution of young, northern LebaneseSunnis, who asked for weapons to counter theShiite power surge, drove them into the arms ofthe newly-established militant group. Thegrowth, however, of this millennial movementwas preventable. Fatah al-Islam’s rise attests tothe clumsiness of Lebanese army intelligenceand the heavy army and civilian toll during theNahr al-Barid fighting.Lebanese Salafis lay the blame onHezbollah for refusing to involve them in confrontingthe IDF and its South Lebanon Armysurrogate, accusing Hezbollah of pretentiouslylabeling itself “al-Muqawama al-Islamiya” (IslamicResistance). 16 In response to the denialof their access to the anti-Israel military campaign,the Salafis directed their energies againstthe national government.In support of Hezbollah during the 2006The Hariri assassinationblunted the Saudis’ thrust intoLebanon and reaffirmed thepreeminence of the Syrian-Hezbollah entente.DATELINEsummer war against Israel,Yakan, the leader of theTripoli-based IslamicGroup, established the IslamicAction Front that includedfive pro-SyrianSunni Islamic groups: the two factions ofTripoli’s at-Tawhid movement of HashemMinqara and Bilal Shaaban, al-Fajr forces ofAbdullah at-Tiryaqi, Abdel Nasser Jabri’s Islamicgroup in Beirut, and Zuhair Jaid in the ShufMountains. The front disintegrated shortly afterYakan’s death when cofounder HashemMinqara deemed it no longer viable becausesome of its leaders were simply using it for politicaland financial gain. 17When the fighting raged in Tripoli in May2008 between Sunnis and Alawites, the founderof the Salafi movement, Dai al-Islam ash-Shahhal,exhorted “all committed Lebanese Muslim youngmen to prepare psychologically and logisticallyto embark upon a new period [of armed resistance].”He made it clear that he was not lookingfor volunteers from abroad but “direly neededfinancial assistance.” 18 Later, as the final showdownloomed large in connection with the Haririassassination indictments, Shahhal warnedHezbollah against “inciting Sunni fratricide in orderto render the sect politically irrelevant.” 19 Yetfor all his exertions, he failed to persuade the Saudisto resume their financial support for rebuildingthe Salafis’ military machine.POVERTY-STRICKENSALAFISTripoli has no place on the Lebanese economic,developmental, and tourist map as itsname “has become synonymous with poverty,misery, and deprivation.” 20 With free medical14 Al-Akhbar, Oct. 21, 2010.15 Hana Ulayan, “At-Tayyarat al-Wahabiyya fish Shamal:bayna an-Nahj ad-Dini wal Maghnatis as-Sisyasi,” Harakat at-Tawhid al-Islami-Majlis al-Qiyada website, Dec. 16, 2010.16 In March 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, establisheda narrow security zone, and created the Southern LebaneseArmy (SLA). It dismantled the SLA and unilaterally withdrewfrom the security zone in May 2000.17 Al-Akhbar, Dec. 1, 2009.18 Asharq al-Awsat, May 13, 2008.19 As-Safir (Beirut), Jan. 2, 2010.20 Talal Khuja, “Tarablus bayna al-Qal’a al-Mughlaqa wa-l-Madina al-Maftuha,” Middle East Transparent website, Oct.27, 2010.Khashan: Tripoli, Lebanon / 89

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