It started in 1979 when the US wanted to undermine the Soviet Union — its enemy back then. Luring and funding tens of thousands of Muslims from across the Arab world to fight the “atheist” enemy — the USSR — that occupied Afghanistan, the US created its own and real enemy, Al-Qaeda.
One would have thought that following the 11 September attacks the current US administration would have made some revisions to destructive and self-destructive US policy. Even if the message hadn’t yet reached Washington’s decision-makers back in 2001, the disaster they created in Iraq — which only fuelled and expanded Al-Qaeda — should have been an obvious warning sign for the Americans, but it wasn’t.
Ten days into the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp showdown with the Lebanese army the situation remains as volatile and dangerous as it was when fighting erupted 20 May. Meanwhile, we are confronted with a deluge of revealing information on what Fatah Al-Islam — the guerrilla group based in the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp — is and who created it.
If we are to believe the facts presented by leading investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, this extremist Sunni group seems to be the making of the Lebanese government, specifically the Sunni political movement of Saad Al-Hariri and the United States, with the help of Saudi Arabia. The objective? Countering the powerful Shia Hizbullah resistance group. Result? Fatah Al-Islam got out of hand and will not now submit to be controlled by anyone. In fact, its leaders are now saying they will lead the war on America.
Washington’s policymakers do not seem to understand that this strategy is not working, hasn’t worked, and never will. That they are spicing up this decades-old approach by playing on the sensitive issue of sectarianism in a desperate bid to win their battle with Shia Iran is only an indication of their short-sightedness and ignorance of the dynamics of the region.
Dividing the Arab world into “moderate” and “extremist” countries, “Shia crescents” or “Sunni blocs”, is playing with fire and underestimating the impact of such harmful policies on our peoples.
Before arming an extremist Sunni group in a Palestinian refugee camp, the US and its allies who assisted in the making of this problem should have examined its dangerous consequences first.
Hizbullah was created following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It has remained since then and expanded into a very powerful army enjoying popular support because Israel continued to occupy parts of Lebanon. It will not cease to be a resistance group until the reasons that led to its creation — Israeli occupation and belligerency — cease to exist. Creating and arming a Salafi extremist “Sunni” group like Fatah Al-Islam does not counter Hizbullah because Fatah Al-Islam was not founded on legitimate reasons.
These are unfortunate times for us Arabs. Sectarian divisions and the spectre of civil wars now mark our region, resulting from US policies. As we mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 defeat (Naksa) and the 59th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe (Nakba) of dispossession, it is clear that we will continue to face troubled years ahead.