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Saudis Blame Hezbollah – But Reuters Explains

First this, from the despondent reporters at Reuters:

Israeli girls write messages on a shell at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, Monday, July 17, 2006.

Saudi blames Hizbollah, Hamas for Israel attacks

Mon Jul 17, 2006

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. ally Saudi Arabia on Monday stepped up its criticism of Lebanese and Palestinian militants, saying their actions had allowed Israel to wage war against their people.

"Some elements and groups have got loose and slipped into taking decisions on their own that Israel has exploited to wage a ferocious war against Lebanon and to imprison the entire Palestinian people," a cabinet statement said.

"Saudi Arabia stands together with the legitimate and reasonable-minded national forces in Lebanon and occupied Palestine to combat these dangers to the Arab and Muslim nation," it added.

Saudi Arabia last week criticized Hizbollah and its backer Iran saying "elements" in Lebanon and "those behind them" were responsible for an Israeli offensive on its northern neighbor to stop strikes by the Shi’ite guerrilla group.

The unusually frank comments have provoked heated debate in the Arab world, where sympathy toward resistance to perceived U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region runs high.

Israel bombarded Lebanon for a sixth day on Monday and dismissed as premature a U.N. proposal for an international peacekeeping force to help end the worst fighting across the Israeli-Lebanese border in more than 20 years.

Israel’s campaign has killed at least 181 people, mostly civilians, and wounded more than 500. It has also destroyed much of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure.

Twenty-four Israelis have been killed in the fighting, including 12 civilians hit in rocket attacks.

The Saudi statement on Monday included an oblique criticism of Washington for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Israel to end a simultaneous offensive in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

"Some countries’ total support for Israeli policies has hindered taking a decision," it said.

But then Reuters quickly provided this instructive analysis:

Iran fear drives Saudi stance on Hizbollah – analysts

17 Jul 2006

By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH, July 17 (Reuters) – Saudi criticism of Hizbollah and Iran for provoking Israel’s blitz of Lebanon is driven by fear of rising Iranian influence in the region, analysts said on Monday.

State media last week quoted an official source as saying "elements" in Lebanon and "those behind them" were responsible for an Israeli offensive on its northern neighbour to stop strikes by Shi’ite guerrilla group Hizbollah.

The comments provoked heated debate over the weekend in the Arab media, where sympathy towards resistance to perceived U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region runs high.

"Saudi Arabia doesn’t want the same chance for Iranian intervention in Lebanon as has happened in Iraq," said Saudi political analyst Dawoud Shiryan.

"It was a surprise that Saudi Arabia took the initiative without waiting for the others (Arab nations). But it fits with their desire to have a role in stopping the military operations," he said, adding Saudi Arabia had become a major backer of the Lebanese government in recent years.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia last year spoke out forcefully about the influence of Shi’ite Iran in Iraq after the Shi’ite majority came to power in Baghdad in elections.

Riyadh has also taken a strong public stance backing international concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

"They look at Hizbollah as an extension of Iran. They cannot believe Hizbollah took the strategic decision (to kidnap Israeli soldiers) without at least the knowledge, if not green light, of the Iranians," said Iraqi analyst Mustafa Alani.

CLERICS AGREE

Saudi clerics, whose strict Sunni ideology demonises Shi’ite Islam, also expressed suspicion of Hizbollah’s motives.

"We should not raise our hand in respect to just anyone who fights the Israeli-American forces," said an editorial comment on the Web site of leading hardline cleric Nasser al-Omar.

"Hizbollah is not fighting on behalf of Sunni Muslims in Palestine or elsewhere, it is a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard let loose to realise an Iranian agenda."

But many Saudis are not so pleased with their government’s response. Saudi Arabia has long been the bane of opposition groups around the Arab world who say Riyadh should make more use of its political and economic weight to ensure that Palestinians regain lands seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Many see Hizbollah and Palestinian groups as fighting to stop Israel and its U.S. ally imposing an unfair resolution.

"He’s a hero," a taxi driver called Badr said of Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "Don’t listen to what they (Arab leaders) are saying in their statements — they are all cowards, and all they care about is keeping their positions in power."

A statement signed by more than 200 Saudi Shi’ites said: "We are shocked at Arab and international silence over what’s going on … We call on all Arabs and Muslims to stand together firmly and courageously by the innocents in Lebanon and Palestine."

Now that’s more like it.

Otherwise the unwashed might have thought this Saudi statement was a success for "cowboy diplomacy." And that things have maybe changed for the better in the Middle East.

And we certainly can’t have that.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, July 17th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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