Behind the News by Malek el Khazen

Sunni shift of Policy – Lebanese election no change – New Strategies in the Middle East Regions btw Israel – Arab governments and Iran

 This article purpose is to point to your attention the shift in the Sunni position in Lebanon and the region overall. The upcoming election in Lebanon is only important for Lebanese but will NOT make a difference in the region. In fact, the real fight will be in the Christian cities and very few cities that are not Christian dominated. The Sunni Majority will still be under the Future movement control which has very close ties with Egyptian and Saudi-Arabia governments. The Chi’a majority will still be under Hezbollah and Amal control which has very close ties to Iran and Syria governments. You will still find Christians allied to both camps regardless the election results. And this will maintain equilibrium. The biggest change is that if the Christians that are allied with Hezbollah and Amal win election instead of nominating Hariri as head of the Gornment, Mikati most likely will be the nominee (currently allied with the Future movement). So all of these articles pointing to the regional importance of the Lebanese elections are not correct because if you analyze the situation very carefully the only change will happen is in the Christian regions and this is ASSUMING that CHANGE will happen. And from a regional perspective there are no major differences between Mikati and Hariri.
In fact, I will list number of facts later in the articles and you will notice the Egyptian Government (who is a main supporter of the current Lebanese Government and the Lebanese majority Coalition led by the Future movement) lead a fierce campaign against Hezbollah during the month of April until the beginning of the moth May. The Egyptian Gov have arrested some Hezbollah members, this is not new for some members of Hezbollah to get arrested in Egypt (previously  in 2008 they were other members that were arrested) but what is new is the media campaign that Egypt has pursued against Hezbollah and Iran in a second plan through Hezbollah. They went so far in mocking the leader of Hezbollah. After President Mubarak meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the media campaign against Hezbollah leader completely stopped. But what is important to note is that after this meeting the Lebanese Internal Security Forces lead by Riffi who is very close to the Future movement is leading the arrest against the Israel spies in Lebanon. So as you can notice there is a shift of strategy with the Sunni in the region. In fact, just notice Egyptian government lead a campaign against Hezbollah then this campaign completely stop after the meeting of Mubarak and Netanyahu and their allies in Lebanon (The Lebanese government controlled by the majority coalition Future movement) after this meeting instead of continuing targeting Iran and Hezbollah spies are NOW targeting Israeli Spies in Lebanon. This strengthens Hezbollah position and weakens Israel position greatly. Why this shift of the Sunni strategy in the region in a so short of time from targeting Hezbollah spies to a shift targeting Israeli spies? Yes Egypt government has clear links with the Sunni Majority in Lebanon. So let us not try to assume that what is currently happening in Lebanon is not at the least I could say supported by Egypt. So the question is why this shift of strategy of the Sunni governments in the Middle East and suddenly getting very close to Hezbollah and Iran by leading the arrest of the Israeli spies in Lebanon?
Having clarified the following, now we should ask ourselves why VP Biden did visit Lebanon especially that this has happened only after 2 weeks of the visit of Hillary Clinton to Lebanon. What is important to note is that Vice President Biden did NOT visit any other country in the Middle-East during this trip EXCEPT for Lebanon. So the visit was very well intended to Lebanon. The timing is surprising! 2 weeks after the visit of the US Secretary of State, this proves that there was a MAJOR shift and UNEXPECTED change in politics (which I have described in the above paragraph ie. Sunni shift). If the purpose is to show strong support they would not have needed to send Hillary Clinton and then Biden. Biden would have been enough. But because of the Government action in Lebanon and arrest of the Israeli spies which has put both the US and Israel in a weaker position they felt that they needed to send VP Biden. Let me explain the US are currently waiting for the results for the next Iranian election and then after Iranian election will try to initiate dialogue with them (regardless the results) and trying to convince the Israeli government for a two state solution. Israel government rejects both US proposals dialogue with Iran and also 2 state solutions. To add to this another front is also opening against Israel where the Sunni Government in the Middle East just has shifted their strategy and leading the arrests in Lebanon against the Israeli spies which also will make it a lot HARDER for the United States to convince Israel in a 2 state solutions and this will furthermore make it harder to convince Israel while Hezbollah is strengthening on their borders. Israel mistake in my opinion was its rejection of a 2 state solutions and just concentrating their war against Iran without offering anything in result to the Sunni governments and this was outlined during the meeting of Mubarak and Netanyahu. So the US felt it needed to visit Lebanon to first show support to Israel and the Sunni government in the region by meeting specifically with the 14 March coalition (Hariri,, Geagea, Jumblatt and Gemayel) and letting them know that Hezbollah is still on top of the US agenda and its aim in weakening the organization and also trying to strengthen their Sunni allies in the region. Another point also is to understand why does these Israeli spies arrest started happening at this timing and maybe trying to limit them? It is important to note that just after 8 more days of the visit of VP Biden that another ally of the US (Azerbaijan) has arrested Hezbollah spies but the main difference is that Azerbaijan has no direct relation to the Middle-East Governments or influence on them. So the US may be trying to send another message to Israel informing them that their goal is still weakening Hezbollah by still trying to put up pressure on all of their allies to continue weakening Hezbollah even if the Sunni Governments may be shifting in the Middle-East. A key visit will be the visit of President Obama to Egypt this week. In the core I believe the purpose of the visit is a lot more aim to change the perception and views of the Arab citizens  in regards to the United States rather then the concentration of addressing policies at the government level which usually happens at the lower levels of the government. They will both insist on a 2 state solutions in Palestine, Free elections in Lebanon and President Obama will reject what has happened in Abu Gharib jail and Guantanamo water boarding by taking responsibility and apologizing and assuring them that they have learned from their mistake and ready to move forward for a new relationship with the Arab world. But this is all in the surface, hence nothing new at least for the near future for the Middle-East except less alienation from the people against the US but this may not mean more support. Currently each country is outlining its strategy, the US would like the concentration on a 2 state Solution, Israel would like the concentration on Iran and stengtheining their borders. The Arabs government would like to strengthen their allies (president Abbas, Lebanese 14 March coalition, Iraq and weaken the Iraninan influence in the Middle-East and extremist positions in their countries) And Iranian would like also to strengthen their allies and influence in the region.
Finally, before listing all of the facts and questions we have to ask ourselves, why did the Sunni shift strategies so quickly? One of the possibilities is that they may have some data or at least strong evidence in regards of Hariri crime that may inculpate other Lebanese Parties and this is why they are stopping all of the Israeli spies to build up their reputation and CREDIBILITY being ABOVE politics and be ready for the second phase of arrest which will be a complete different group and politics? Note, the arrests were not use at all for elections purposes. This could be one possibility hence Der Spiegel and the explanation of Walid Jumblatt in Kalem el Ness to Marcel Ghanem on May 28th and advice from Jumblatt to Hariri that finding the truth in Hariri death may be enough and no action should be pursued because in some cases the truth may be so damaging that it is better just to preserve the country. The second explanation of the shift of strategy of the Sunni in the region is that they needed to pressure Israel on a two-state solution in the region and have the US still concentrate and FULLY support Lebanese current coalition and prevent any interference from Syria and Iran on behalf of one party.
All of the election is very important but it is only important LOCALLY for Lebanese. At the regional level there will be NO CHANGE. Mikati or Hariri head of government is not a change even KARAMI is not a change (remember the position of Karami during the clashes btw Chi’aa and Sunni last year or his position when he resigned from the Government in 2005 which alienated the Chi’a Majority at the time!) What is a change is the approach of the current Sunni Majority to the current Chi’a Majority. The only ones that are going extreme and fighting are unfortunately the Christians but fighting for what I am not sure. I know they are NOT fighting for local issues but rather fighting for Iranian or Saudi interference. Regardless who will win, the superpower will still have the ABILITY to interfere in Lebanese politics. I hope this will change but it will NOT change anytime soon. While the major players and representative of these groups Sunni and Chi’a in Lebanon are creating STRATEGIES and building up their alliance and Christians fighting for the so-called democracy.
Over the month alone, there has been a wave of reports and major differences in politics in Lebanon and Middle East as a whole. An important action is the exposure of "Israeli spy rings" in Lebanon by the General Riffi (internal security forces) team. German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that a UN inquiry committee concluded Hezbollah, was behind the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri; Hezbollah rejection accusing Israel involvement in the article. A senior Hezbollah official charged that Israel is seeking to assassinate the organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and threatened that doing so would ignite a regional war; Egypt uncovered a Hezbollah cell in its territory, they used the media and then after the meetings of President Mubarak and PM Netanyahu no mention of this cell anymore on the media. Visit of VP Biden to Lebanon, a message to their Israeli allies?
1-      Netanyahu is elected Prime Minister of Israel 31st March 2009
2-      49 men accused of planning attacks in Egypt including Hezbollah Member Sami Shihab was a Hezbollah member who was on "a logistical job to help Palestinians get (military) equipment".
3-      Fierce Egyptian Media Campaign against Hezbollah accusing them of destabilizing the region
4-      Sheikh Nasrallah rejects the accusations but admits a Hezbollah member was in Egypt supervising aide to Hamas group
5-      In late 2008, Egyptian security services exposed a Hezbollah network which operated on Egyptian soil. Immediately following the exposure,
the affair was hushed up and received no media coverage. The difference is that the arrests of April 2009, the Egyptian government decided to make public the exposure, the network members’ interrogations, and the implications of Hezbollah’s activity on Egyptian soil. The government has portrayed the plot as an Iranian "plot" to destabilize Egypt and further Iran ‘s strategic objectives, being part of its drive for Middle Eastern hegemony. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, was described in the Egyptian press controlled by the Egyptian government regime to being an Iranian agent and referred to him, inter alia, as the , "Iranian agent", and "militia leader in the Iranian party of Lebanon".
6-      PM Netanyahu and President Mubarak meet in Egypt in May 11th
7-      No more media Attacks in Egypt against Hezbollah leader
8-      Arrests during the month of May were carried out following strict and precise coordination between Lebanon ‘s Internal Security Service and Hezbollah with each party responsible for the arrest of one cell." Hizbullah arrested a cell that included three people. The arrests were carried out after a meeting on April 15 in which its liaison officer for internal security Wafiq Safa presented information on the cell that was keeping surveillance of Hizbullah members in Lebanon.
9-      Specialized counter-espionage unit was created within the ISF (internal security forces), with specially trained officers taking over a role that was previously fulfilled by the Lebanese Army is now LEADING the arrest during the month of May.
10- Security Forces (ISF) Ashraf Riffi the Lebanese achievement is the result of a new security plan in Lebanon.
11- President Obama meets PM Netanyahu. In the US president remarks specifically called for a two-state solution, which of course has been U.S. policy for years. Netanyahu talked about wanting to start peace talks with the Palestinians immediately, but he didn’t use those magic words "two-state solution." The Obama administration is taking the issue of negotiations or engagement with the Iranians very seriously, and putting a very specific timeline on this would be the best way to undermine those negotiations On Iran, there are a lot of subtle differences even though both leaders were talking in a friendly way. The Israelis have been urging a deadline on any discussions with Iran about halting its nuclear program. Obama did not seem to be too interested in a deadline, but he said that we ought to have a pretty good idea by the end of the year on where these talks are going.
12- Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, grieving over the death of his 12-year old grandson, has canceled his upcoming trip to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington. There was no re-scheduling for the meeting. It is important to note that President Obama will visit Egypt during the first week of June.
13- The arrests that were led by Ashraf Riffi (under the Lebanese government direction)  in general have not become an election issue
14- VP Biden May 22 Visits Lebanon. Historic visit. No VP of the US has visited Lebanon since more then 2 decades. VP Biden visited only Lebanon no other countries in the Middle East during his trip. So It is very clear that the purpose of the visit was to send a clear message.
15- Der Spiegel reports links May 23rd between Hariri Murder and Hezbollah
16- In its statement Sunday May 25, Hezbollah said the Spiegel report was aimed at influencing the outcome of the parliamentary vote and to "deflect attention from the news about the dismantling of spy networks working for Israel." And also accused Israel of being behind this article and propaganda.
17- In an interview May 28th on Kalem el Ness with Marcel Ghanem, PSP leader Jmblatt advise majority leader Hariri that the possibility of finding the truth in Hariri death may be enough and he would advice the Future Party no action should be pursued to prevent more bloodshed after learning the Truth.
Questions and Analysis
Many Facts, but also many unanswered questions remain.
1-      One of the basic principles in setting up espionage networks is that cells should not be linked in any way, so that the discovery of one does not lead to the kind of wider collapse that seems now to be taking place. It seems all of the cells in Lebanon are linked? Is it a failure from Israel Government and creation of their spies’ agency?
2-      The Netanyahu government utterly rejects the Palestinian-Iran tradeoff proposed by the Obama administration – and reaffirmed by US National adviser Gen. James Jones Sunday – that a two state-solution would diminish Iran’s existential threat to Israel.
3-      Was Israel and Egypt trying to unify against Iranian expansion in the region? Until the meeting between PM Netnyahu and President Mubrak? And then this has proven that all talks has failed? And this lead also to the cancellation of the visit of President Mubarak to Washington? Or is Egypt sending a message to the US and Israel through the arrest of Israeli spies in Lebanon?
4-      Why did the media campaign against Hezbollah completely stop after the meeting of President Mubarak and PM Netanyahu?
5-      Why was there a shift in the region from Egypt to Lebanon? Where the Sunni majority in Lebanon are leading the  arrest of the Israeli spy networks (headed by Riffi) while 2 weeks earlier in April the government In Egypt (known for close ties with the 14 march coalition) were leading media attacks and spy arrest against Hezbollah and accusing them as Iranian agent and Iran expenson.
6-      Why did VP Biden visit Lebanon? Was this to get more insights on the spy rings that is obviously weakening Israel role against Hezbollah and strengthening Iran position with close collaboration between Sunni and Chiia in Lebanon? Or was the visit purpose also to send a message to the Israeli government re-assuring them that they are still supporting the 14 March coalition and he will try to manage damage control against Israel spy network and put a stop of their arrest or at least a slow down?
7-      Is there any relation between the shift of the Sunni dominance in the region from Egypt in the beginning of the month where there were fearless media attacks against Hezbollah and then after the meetings between Israel and Egypt the Sunni Majority of Beirut leads the arrest of the spy ring in Lebanon? Is there a contradiction or very quick change of course and strategy of the Majority of Sunni? Is there any connection between the government of Egypt and Lebanese majority coalition?
8-      Are the Sunni governments in the Middle-East trying to send a message to the US rejecting their openness to dialogue with Iran hence strengthening its allies in Lebanon?
9-      Who benefits from the Israeli spies arrest? Did the 14 March coalition tried to get US support back by following these arrests? And/or has very sensitive data in regards of the Hariri Crime and are building a network that will be able to arrest spies from different countries?
10- Is Lebanon the only country in the Middle-East that has Israel spies? What about other countries in the Middle East?
Many questions not enough answers because no Data. But regardless who will win the election in the June 7 election these are all topics that will still have the SAME outcome. Hezbollah will always be represented, Hariri will be represented there might be some minor changes in the Christian arena but no major changes. All what is certain is that powerful countries are trying to create new strategies for each group to increase its influence not in Lebanon but in the region as a whole.