30 Dec 2013

A Sarajevo moment for the Middle East?

Saudi Arabia’s vast gift to the Lebanese army of $3bn represents a very significant step in the continuing Sunni-Shia conflict being fought out in and around Syria. 

Mourners carry the body of Lebanon’s murdered finance minister, Mohammad Chatah.

Not many of us had a clue who Mohammad Chatah was when news broke two days after Christmas that he had been assassinated in a car bomb attack in Beirut. But it turns out that this former finance minister was still seen as a potential prime minister. Less note was made, in the moment of his death, of the fact that he had grown up in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have seized upon his death, and pro-Shia Iran-backed Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in it, as a significant stepping-up of what they perceive as an out-and-out Sunni-Shia war. Without wishing to sound hysterical in a region in which hysteria is rife, this could prove to be something of a “Sarajevo moment” (for it was in the assassination of the archduke of Austria in that city 100 years ago, that history judged was the start of world war one).

Taking sides

Enter the French. By chance, France’s President Hollande is on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia. Hey presto, the Lebanese army, formerly largely equipped with American weaponry, is to buy French. The $3bn Saudi gift to re-arm Lebanon’s army is to be spent exclusively in France.

Intriguingly, the one western power to stand out against the recent diplomatic opening with Shia Iran has been France.

Questions are bound to be raised as to whether western powers are now beginning to take sides in this harrowing religiously entwined war. Saudi and Qatari cash has been alleged to be funding some of the more radical fighters and jihadists who continue to pour into Syrian rebel lines.

Indeed, western analysts have long been concerned about the sources of Sunni radicalisation extending from Pakistan in the east, across Afghanistan, into Yemen, Somalia, and other parts of Africa.

Make no mistake, the news out of Lebanon, France, and Saudi Arabia represent a significant moment in a crisis that continues to spiral out of control.

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7 reader comments

  1. Alan Hanson says:

    Questions raised over western powers taking sides? Given the media silence concerning anything that may hint at western involvement, will it come from you? Unfortunately investigate journalism doesn’t extend to compliant corporations or governments.

  2. Steve says:

    I wonder? UAE pulls out of BAE Eurofighter Typhoon deal The UAE was choosing between the Eurofighter and France’s Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft for the order

  3. Ray Cannon says:

    Sounds like President Hollande was cleverly expoliting Saudia Arabia’s current anger with the USA (for letting Assad off the hook) by selling then French arms!

  4. nehad ismail says:

    The assassination of Mohamad Chatah is not the first nor is it likely to be the last political assassination in Lebanon. All the fingers are pointing to Syria, Iran and their Lebanese client Hezbollah. Hezbollah is actively helping the Syrian regime in the fight against the rebels and the Free Syrian Army
    The list of victims of alleged Syrian assassinations in recent years included Rafiq al-Hariri, former prime minister, who was assassinated in a massive bombing in Beirut on 14 February 2005. At least half a dozen Lebanese politicians and journalists were liquidated by Syrian agents including Samir Kassir a journalist killed on 2nd June 2005. George Hawi, a former Communist Party leader and anti-Syrian politician, was killed by a bomb planted under his car on 21st June 2005. In October 2012, Aljazeera and the Global Post compiled lists of the victims of Syrian assassination campaigns in Lebanon which included: Elias Murr, deputy prime minister and defence minister, survived a car bombing that targeted his vehicle as he drove in north Beirut. May Chidiac, prominent TV anchor-woman, of the leading anti-Syrian TV station LBC lost an arm and a leg from a bomb placed under her car on 25th September 2005. Gibran Tueni, a prominent anti-Syrian newspaper editor and politician, was killed by a car bomb on 12 December 2005. Pierre Gemayel, the industry minister and a prominent Christian politician, was shot dead by gunmen in a Beirut suburb on 21 November 2006. Captain Wissam Eid a senior police intelligence officer was killed by car bomb, along with a bodyguard and at least four others in Hazmieh, a Christian neighbourhood on the edge of Beirut 25 January 2008. The common link between the victims is that most of them were opposed to the Syrian regime . As regards the Sunni radicals, the Syrian regime is tacitly welcoming them to justify its war against the Free Syrian Army. These Islamic groups have been infiltrated by Syrian and Iranian intelligence and are collaborating with the regime against the secular rebels.

  5. Neil Craig says:

    “Questions are bound to be raised as to whether western powers are now beginning to take sides in this harrowing religiously entwined war.”

    An example of C4 coverage Orwell would have appreciated. There is a bit in 1984 where Eurasia changes sides and immediately asserts “we have always been at war with Eastasia.

    The fact that we supported our al Qaeda allies in this war up until a couple of months ago is simply retroactively non-existent
    (as apparently was the fact that we had been at “war” with these terrorists up till then)
    (as indeed, throughout the “war on terror”, was the fact that the CIA created al Qaeda and were allied to them throughout both the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the later wars against the Yugoslavs)
    (as indeed, throughout the Yugoslav wars, it was forgotten that the “democrats” in Croatia and Bosnia were unrepentant genocidal Nazis who we had fought in WW2)

    It simply doesn’t matter who our ruling class want us to bomb as long as there is somebody to provide a distraction, while the parasites steal from us.

  6. icansee4miles says:

    Thank you Saudi Arabia, for taking the hard-and right-path to stop the expansionism of Iran. If we listen to the apologists of aggression like this feckless writer, America can expect Iran to achieve their long term ambitions to crush the Great Satan-the United States of America.

    Iran’s Hezbollah is busy spreading their fanatical religion in South America, to Mexico and the borders of the U.S.A.; Iran’s next move will be to use suicidal truck drivers carrying Iran’s nukes (they won’t stop developing the bomb) to cross the Mexican border and to journey into the heart of every major U.S. city. They won’t need missiles to take out the U.S.

    Once it gets its nuke, Iran will hold a knife to the throat of the Arabian Gulf’s oil producing countries; it will be an existential threat not just to the West, but to the entire world.

    Saudi Arabia knows this; Israel knows this; Lebanon’s subjugated population knows this; Syria sadly knows this. In Bahrain today (31 December 2013) the police uncovered a massive cache of explosives and weapons, offloaded from an Iraqi ship in the Arabian Gulf, and they caught 13 terrorists, trained in Iran, in a speedboat headed away from Bahrain towards Iran. This occurred after 2 bombings in less than two weeks over the Holiday Season critically injured 4 policemen.

    And Bahrain’s hands to defend itself are tied by the American Embassy in Bahrain! If someone uses lethal force, or threatens to do so, they are shot dead in the U.S.A. (hooray!) The U.S. Embassy has pressured the Bahrain Government to turn the other cheek in dealing with these Fifth Column criminals; and those days are drawing to a close.

    You want the truth? Amazon Kindle’s new thriller The Bahrain Protocol spells out the frightening reality of the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Middle East; and the creation of a new partnership to take on-and take out-the New Islamic Persian Empire. Those countries that are the bulwark between freedom and Shia hegemony are Saudi Arabia-and Israel.

  7. Seemi says:

    West never left middle east . West continues it’s proxy wars through Saudi Arabia , Israel , Qatar …Iran has to consistently defend her self against the West and its allies in Middle east .

    If one count the deaths due to suicide bombing by Al Qaida, ISIS … in Middle east and other muslim countries , more than 95% of the thousands killed are Shia muslims which the West , Saudi arabia …do not believe have the right to exist . Iran , Hezbollah is only defending the rights of Shia Muslims to live like others

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