x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The Arabs struggle to resist a good conspiracy theory

The Arab world's has an ongoing affection for conspiracy theories, writes Abdulrahman Al Rashed. Other views: GCC unity to fight divisive groups (Al Ittihad) and terror groups in Lebanon (Abdullah Iskandar).

Some people in the Arab world believe that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was prodded by foreign powers in the Iran-Iraq war and that it was the US envoy in Baghdad who incited him to invade Kuwait, columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashed claimed in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat. Similarly, some argue that Libya’s revolution against Muammar Qaddafi was a foreign act and the toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was also a conspiracy.

Others surmise the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power was the outcome of careful US planning. For their part, the Brotherhood think Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah El Sisi turned against them because of Western interference.

And for three years now, the Syrian regime has been saying the West is manipulating the revolution, while the rebels insist there’s a conspiracy underway to besiege their revolution and keep Bashar Al Assad in power.

“I don’t want to completely deny conspiracy theories since secret security apparatuses from every country take part in operations that are meant to influence situations in a direction that best benefits their own country,” the writer said.

“But there is no denying that conspiracy theories in modern history is exaggerated.”

There is considerable confusion between exploiting major events to alter their course in one direction or another and designing and orchestrating events from scratch. For example, the fall of Iran’s Shah in 1979 was almost inevitable after the unrest in Tehran. The West chose to support Ayatollah Khomeini at the time over his opponents, which strengthened his position, but Khomeini was already a prominent figure, not a western invention.

And when Saddam decided to invade Iran a year after Khomeini seized power, the decision was his alone and it reflected his naive understanding of the world around him. Saddam believed that the fall of the Shah and chaos in Iran would be an opportunity for him to reclaim what he believed to be occupied Iraqi territories. And undoubtedly, the US did take advantage of Saddam’s foolishness especially because he was quite predictable.

“We Arabs tend to use conspiracy theories whenever there is something we can’t deal with or understand,” he concluded.

“Conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow for those who want to justify their failure or inability, but the truth is, when there is a will there is always a way and nothing could stand in our way if we decide to make something happen.

“I’m not saying there are no conspiracies out there. I’m saying they are mostly exploitations of emergent circumstances of our own doing. Nations like Japan, Germany and Turkey were able to rise from the ashes despite all odds and no one was able to stop them.”

GCC must show united front to divisive groups

In the time it has taken for the UAE to reaffirm the importance of the GCC’s solidarity and restate its purpose of protecting the region, Yousuf Al Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood and other entities are trying to drive a wedge in the very unity that makes the GCC so resilient, the Abu-Dhabi daily Al Ittihad said in its editorial on Sunday.

“This is especially interesting when considering that this is a time when many Arab countries have been shaken by the turmoil of the Arab Spring,” it said.

“After three weeks of silence, Al Qaradawi is back, via his weekly sermon and via his live broadcast, to sow discord by criticising the UAE, causing widespread outrage and raising questions about his real intentions.

The UAE has always emphasised that a threat in one of the Gulf nations can very well spill over the borders to the rest of the region, and thus, in unity the GCC finds strength.

The most immediate threat to the stability of the GCC is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is why there must be a clear message sent that the group’s actions will not be tolerated.

As such, the GCC should establish a precedent for other instigators and religious factions to heed: that the Gulf countries are united in their zero-tolerance response to those who aim to be disrupt the stability of the Gulf with deluded, self-proclaimed religious righteousness, the editorial concluded.

Terrorism hit Lebanon before Syrian conflict

Lebanon witnessed terrorism before the Syrian revolution, especially during the conflict imposed by Al Qaeda-inspired group Fatah Al Islam at Nahr Al Bared Palestinian refugee camp in 2007 following Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Abdullah Iskandar wrote in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

When the army confronted the organisation, Hizbollah said that Nahr Al Bared was a “red line” and it would not allow the army to arrest the radical gunmen.

Even when Syrian troops were still in Lebanon, radicals were active.

They ran networks sending recruits to fight the Americans in Iraq, with Syrian security services being aware of that.

When Lebanese forces stopped those radicals because they went too far, some would defend them under the excuse that they were fighting the occupation.

Yet the problem with terrorism is that while it can be used by certain quarters, at some point it backfires on every one.

Hizbollah says it has sent its forces to Syria to fight terrorists, while rivals say it is this that has brought terrorism to Lebanon.

The truth is that Hizbollah must understand that Syria is a conflict between a regime and its people, and rivals must admit that terrorism hits Lebanon regardless of what Hizbollah does in Syria.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk