May 18, 2013
The Mughniyeh Enigma
Posted on Feb 26, 2008
By Scott Ritter
Assessments of this sort put forth by the Bush administration and others fly in the face of reality and fact. Coordination between Sunni and Shiite is anathema for most Sunni fundamentalists, who view the Shiites as apostates; al-Qaida training literature places the Shiite as the second-greatest enemy of Islam, behind Sunni heretics, and ahead of Israel and the United States. Iran nearly fought a war with the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies in 1999, following the Taliban’s massacre of thousands of Shiite Hazara in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, along with several Iranian diplomats and their families. Many of the more extreme elements within al-Qaida are known as “taqfiris,” or those who believe in the repudiation and elimination from Islam of all impure elements. To them, the Shiites are among the most impure. The natural inclination between Shiite and Sunni, especially at the level of fundamentalists, is to oppose one another, more often than not violently. The concept of a “nexus of terror” naturally linking these two forces together is difficult to imagine, let alone document. It would take a compelling cause for any such linkage to be formed, directly or indirectly. Such a cause exists, and it can be defined by one word: Palestine.
The cause of Palestine is not a natural rallying point for most Sunni fundamentalists associated with al-Qaida. For all the language of global jihad, most Sunni fundamentalists are in fact quite parochial, focused primarily on “cleansing” Islam only insofar as it impacts them personally. Thus, an Egyptian member of the Muslim Brotherhood is almost exclusively focused on ridding Egypt of “heretics” such as President Hosni Mubarak, and not supporting global jihad or the Palestinian cause. Similarly, Sunni fundamentalists in Afghanistan are more concerned with establishing Islamic purity in their respective areas than they are with exporting Islam abroad. While there are those elements of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism that do in fact espouse global jihad, they are very much in the minority and, more critically, isolated from any traditional foundation of support. Stateless, these extremists are prone to being isolated from the rest of Islam due to a combination of conditions—their inability to bond with the natural fabric of Islamic society (family, tribe and nation), and the violence of their actions, which are rejected by nearly the entire Islamic world. These stateless jihadists are in fact little more than parasites, and they require a host cause from which they can nourish. Palestine represents such a cause.
Hezbollah began as a radical outgrowth of the Lebanese Shiite militia group known as Amal. In 1979, following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, radical elements of the newly formed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command traveled to Lebanon in an effort to export the concept of Islamic revolution. Many of these Iranians took Lebanese wives and became an integral part of the Shiites of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. The call for Islamic revolution did not catch on, however, and many of the original cadres of Revolutionary Guards were transferred back to Iran when Iraq invaded. The Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982 dramatically altered the political landscape among the Shiites. The Iranians rushed reinforcements to Lebanon to support their Amal allies, until nearly 1,500 Revolutionary Guards were deployed. These forces helped fight the Israeli army to a standstill, and became a critical part of the resistance movement that grew inside Lebanon.
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