Thursday, May 17, 2007

The second coming of Saladin

Political repression, social inequality and economic disaster across the Middle East are the consequences of decades of "divide and rule" imperialist meddling followed by rapacious rule by local elites. Yet the potential for unity in the Muslim world is not a chimera. Who will be the 21st century equivalent of Saladin, the greatest warrior of Islam? Such a one is needed to reunite the ummah.

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"......The new Saladin might be the son of a Palestinian refugee victim of the Nakhba ("catastrophe") 59 years ago. He might be a computer wizard too sophisticated to be tempted by al-Qaeda's Salafi-jihadism. He might be an angry young man straight out of the "sanctions generation" in Iraq - deprived of everything while he was growing up, courtesy of the "international community".

.......He won't be the pampered son of the Sunni business aristocracy in Damascus showing off his Porsche Cayenne. He won't be a billionaire international playboy posing as politician a la Saad Hariri in Beirut. He won't be a gas-dealing executive in gas nirvana Qatar.

Conditions are more than ripe for the advent of a new Saladin - after the Nakhba, the 1967 lightning Israeli victory against the Arabs, the failures of pan-Arabism, the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israeli attack on Lebanon, the limited appeal of Salafi-jihadism, the non-stop stifling of nationalist movements by Western-backed brutal dictatorships/client monarchies......

The new Saladin knows how the US and Britain initially supported the Muslim Brotherhood - and then the Brotherhood supported the birth of Hamas. He knows how the US and Britain initially supported Iranian clerics - especially the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - against the shah. He knows how the US and Britain initially supported the Taliban. The aim was always to stifle any form of progressive, secular movement by socialists, communists or Arab nationalists.

A possible Saudi-Iran entente is still a dream. There is the parallel emergence of a coalition of top members of the "axis of fear" - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan - with Turkey and, of all players, Israel. Common objective: the containment of Iran. And not only Iran, but also Hezbollah and Hamas. King Abdullah was persuaded of this strategy by notorious Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka "Bandar Bush", former Saudi ambassador in the US for 22 years, a close friend of both Bush and Cheney, and now the head of the Saudi National Security Council.

The strategy was in fact masterminded by a pedestrian version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Cheney; Bandar; US deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams; and former US ambassador in Iraq and Afghan jack-of-all-trades Zalmay Khalilzad. What the popular masses in the Middle East think about this is of course irrelevant. In majority-Sunni Egypt, for instance, the most popular politicians are by far Hezbollah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Khalid Meshal from Hamas, and Ahmadinejad. Two Shi'ites and a Sunni amply supported by Shi'ites......

The soul of Saladin may be impatient for an heir. So are hundreds of millions in the ummah. What rough warrior, its hour come out at last, slouches toward Jerusalem, Damascus or Baghdad to be born?"

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