Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Al-Qaeda (and US) eclipsed by rise of Iran

By Mahan Abedin
Asia Times

"More broadly, the Islamic Republic's growing geopolitical weight (stemming in large measure from the ouster of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein) reinforces its ideological revival and motivates Iran's supporters across the Muslim world. Al-Qaeda and Salafi-jihadis are clearly losers in this intensifying dynamic. The problem is not so much their extreme ideology, but their comparative lack of organizational infrastructure and other resources. While Hezbollah has emerged as the most sophisticated guerrilla organization in the world, the Salafi-jihadis are still struggling with the basics. This is a reality that not even the most sophisticated al-Qaeda propagandists can dismiss lightly.

More broadly, the resurgence of Islamic Iran is likely to boost the fortunes of moderate Islamists across the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood's steadfast support for Hezbollah throughout the latest conflict is indicative of the tacit alliance between the Islamic Republic and the oldest and largest modern Islamist movement in the world. This is yet another dynamic that works against the interests of the Salafi-jihadis, the regime-friendly Salafis in Saudi Arabia and ultimately the House of Saud itself.

In the final analysis, al-Qaeda and the Salafi-jihadis more broadly are proving to be ephemeral and increasingly marginal forces. They are inherently limited by their extremism, lack of vision and resources and isolation from mainstream opinion.

Meanwhile the forces that pose a real threat to American hegemony in the region are increasingly on the ascendant and are set to completely dominate the political landscape of the Middle East in the not too distant future. The Americans are unlikely to be able to reverse this complex and intensifying dynamic. Being increasingly isolated from grassroots opinions in the Middle East, the Americans view force as the preferred option. But that has severe limitations, and can even be downright counter-productive, as evidenced by the latest Hezbollah-Israel conflict."

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