Dov Bing: Coup fear creates new allies

Robert Fisk's pro-Hizbollah views are well known. If the outcome of the war is not to his liking, he prophesises a new war. He argues unconvincingly that "the ceasefire marks the start of the real war".

He ignores the fact that the Lebanese Army will move 20,000 troops to the area south of the Litani River to the border with Israel.

These troops will be supplemented with some 15,000 new United Nations troops. Some of these may come from New Zealand.

Mr Fisk mentions civilian casualties but, like Hizbollah, fails to note that some 700 or 40 per cent of Hizbollah's fighting force was lost in the battle. Mr Fisk argues that Hizbollah are "increasingly heroes across the Muslim world". As usual he offers no references for this sweeping statement.

Let's examine the views of the Arab press.

Lebanese Huda Al-Husseini wrote in Al-Sarq Al-Awsat: "Lebanon has been taken hostage by Hizbollah, Syria and Iran and Islam itself has almost become a hostage to Iran's aspirations."

Abd Al-Rahim wrote in the influential Egyptian Al-Ahram that "Hizbollah responded to Iran's promptings".

Lebanese Fuad Matar wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "Hizbollah has placed the [Arabs] in a questionable situation, since its operation was meant to serve Iran's interests ... "

Tareq Al-Humeini, the editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat wrote: "Those [Nasrallah and Meshal ] who wish to fight Israel should bear the consequences."

Egyptian Hazem Abd Al-Rahman wrote in Al-Ahram: "All Iran wants is to extend its hegemony over the eastern Arab countries, and it is trying to use Hizbollah as a Trojan horse to achieve his aim."

Ashraf Al-Ajiami for the Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam wrote: "It may be said that the Damascus-Tehran axis which includes Hizbollah and Hamas, wanted to wreak havoc in the region."

Ahmad Al-Jarallah, editor of the Kuwaiti Arab Times wrote: "Forgetting the interests of their own countries, Hamas and Hizbollah have gone so far as to represent the interests of Iran and Syria in their countries."

This brief overview of some of the major publications of the Sunni Arab press have understood the antics of Hizbollah and its Shiite backers in Damascus and Teheran.

This has been the first war in which the Sunni Arab states have expressed their reservations and critique about Hizbollah's motives.

To underscore the concern within the Sunni Arab world about President Ahmadinejad's grab for hegemony in the Middle East, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia flew to Turkey last week and met Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

This was the first time in 40 years that a Saudi king visited secular and democratic Turkey, the erstwhile rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

The Saudis, the Egyptians, Jordan, the Emirates and the Magreb countries are deeply concerned about Hizbollah's adventurism. They are aware that in Syria the Alawites (Shiites) are in charge with only 16 per cent of the population.

In Lebanon, Hizbollah with about 40 per cent of the population could execute a coup d'etat and take power in Lebanon with Syrian support. It is obvious that the Sunni states want to prevent this development.

The Sunni countries are anxious to contain Iran.

It is ironic that Israel is playing a role on the side of the moderate Sunni states in this new power play in the Middle East.

The least Mr Fisk could do is to let readers know about the thinking of the Sunni Arab press.

* Dov Bing is a professor of political science at the University of Waikato

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