Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hezbollah, al-Qaida mirror Islamic split - Yahoo! News

BEIRUT, Lebanon - To the outside world, the two groups appear to have much in common: Devoutly Muslim, fiercely hostile to Israel and the U.S., and high on Washington's list of terrorist groups.

Yet al-Qaida in Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah are waging a worsening verbal dispute that threatens to burst into confrontation.

First came a fiery diatribe from al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — just a week before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike — accusing Hezbollah of acting as a protective buffer for Israel.

Hezbollah, generally reserved in its comments on internal Islamic issues, began to react: One of its main political figures told The Associated Press it wasn't his group at all but al-Zarqawi that was the "tool" of United States and Israel.

Hezbollah, al-Qaida mirror Islamic split - Yahoo! News

For once, someone actually tells the truth in the middle of all the diatribes aimed at the current administration about allowing the Iraq situation to turn "sectarian":

The two branches of Islam live uneasily side by side in some countries, such as Lebanon, or in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Other countries have a strong majority of one or the other that dominates, such as strongly Sunni Saudi Arabia whose Shiite minority is mostly politically repressed.

Al-Zarqawi brought all of that to a boil, because of "his personal hatred of Iraq's Shiite population," said Richard Evans, terrorism editor at Jane's Information Group in London.

Of course, we knew his goal, but how do you keep it from happening in the face of three major issues: 1) an existing, centuries old "family feud" that started the day Mohammed died; 2) When the Sunni bedouin tribes had been invading Iraq and settling the western provinces to finally have a Sunni put on the throne of Iraq (Fiesel) by the British; 3) when the Shia saw their Ba'athist oppressors as largely "Sunni" and wanted revenge.

It was probably the simplest plan to implement, contrary to commentary about the genius of Zarqawi, yet, it did take someone from the area who understood that it existed to implement it:

His goal was to create a Sunni Muslim religious-based government in Iraq, and he believed "that could only be achieved with the defeat of any Shiite-led Iraqi government," Evans said. Thus, he tried to kill Shiites in Iraq, which is now ruled by a Shiite-led government.

But this line I thought actually skirted the main issue because no one wants to talk about the "main" issue:

Al-Zarqawi also may have worried that Hezbollah was too popular among Arab Sunnis — that it was his rival for Sunnis' affections across the region — because of its fight against Israel.

It wasn't just the Sunnis' "affection" he was a rival for, but their money as well. It wasn't that long ago that a Saudi telethon raised millions of dollars for the Palestinians; millions of dollars that did not make it to Zarqawi and his ilk. It wasn't that long ago that Zawahiri was begging Zarqawi to forward money to him in Pakistan (100,000). It is recently that the news of Zarqawi's network in Europe came to light. This network was not simply about recruiting jihadists to go to Iraq or to do terrorist acts in Europe, but was largely about collecting monetary donations.

In light of which, I find the question about the SWIFT program being printed interesting. Not just because it brought into the open something many (including the jihadists) had to assume was going on, but because I wonder how effective it was or could be today. Jihadists are not all silly, hopped up fanatics psyching themselves up for a kill. In fact, there are plenty who are well educated and look at the strategic. They learn from each operation just as we do. I think about how many times the MNF-I(raq) would talk about jihadists carrying $3000 or so in cash across the border or raiding a "financier" who had $40,000 in American dollars at his home.

Considering that the Iraq banking system was and is still in dissaray, it is unlikely that it is getting transferred into Iraq. Into Jordan and Syria? Maybe, with people withdrawing it and carrying it. But, the system that I believe is still the most widely used and the least able to be monitored is the Halawa system. Loosely based on the pre-20th century banking system or even the Hospitaler banking system of depositing money in an informal institution, get issued a "letter of credit" and being able to withdraw the same amount on the other end. All without an electronic transfer or trail, without actual funds chaning hands and within an informal network that no one knows all the pieces or actors.

Which tells me that Zarqawi's group was/is in essence hand carrying cash from Europe to Iraq. That tells me that Zarqawi simply did not or could not compete with the kinds of ad hoc cash flow the Palestians were able to get after decades old networks had been established.

Some days I often think that we should let the Sunni and Shia finally duke it out, but I see that war being even longer and bloodier than our own "long war" against Islamist extremists. On top of that, using one to "kill" the other is an old Cold War strategy that, just like the defeat of Russia, might actually end up leaving us with an ugly mess we have to clean up and even uglier enemies.

That's why I'm not sure if I find this news about "infighting" good or bad.

(h/t Sandmonkey)

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