Last week we reported that the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Shaykh Khaled bin Ahmad bin Muhammad Aal Khalifa, tweeted that Israel has a right to defend itself, in response to the flap over the two Israeli drones that violated Lebanon’s airspace, one of which carried explosives and took out an Hizbollah office in south Beirut. In this context, the Bahraini FM stressed that since Iran “has declared war against all of us,” implying that any attack against any of their IRGC entities, their Lebanese Hizbollah, their “popular mobilization” militias in Iraq, or their Houthi arm in Yemen, constitutes “self defense.”
This week, according to www.al-jazeera.net, the Bahraini FM has doubled down by directly accusing Hizbollah of escalating the situation by attacking Israel (in reference to Hizbollah’s taking out an Israeli military vehicle this weekend). Then he took it a step further by accusing the Lebanese government itself of being complicit in the escalation. This would stem from the fact that the “Lebanese government” (which includes Sunni and Christian members) is essentially hostage to Hizbollah).
Therefore, according to the Bahraini FM’s reasoning, the Lebanese government is responsible and “any aggression by one state against another is forbidden by International Law” and is subjecting its citizens to the subsequent danger.
The Foreign Ministry of Bahrain then issued a formal statement ordering all of its citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately.
The above statements by the Bahraini FM were also reported on the Saudi-owned www.al-arabiyya TV, a day later.
Israel sharing sensitive Counter-Terrorism (CT) intelligence with its arch enemy, the terrorist entity of Hamas? Ridiculous! Or is it? According to an article published by
al-Monitor, a Washington, DC-based news entity founded by a Christian Arab-American from Lebanon/Syria, that is exactly what is happening. The author of this al-Monitor article is one Shlomi Eldar, an Israel-based journalist who for the past two decades has covered the Palestinian Authority and Gaza for Israel’s TV channels 1 and 10.
Here is how this has come about: Israel and Egypt have been sharing intelligence information for several years. At first this intelligence information included CT on Hamas, which both countries considered to be a terrorist group. Egypt had declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist group in 2013 with former General as-Sisi assuming the presidency of Egypt’s nominally civilian government. Since Hamas was founded as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Hamas was automatically included in that designation.
Furthermore, Egypt has been having trouble with Hamas in terms of cross-border smuggling of weapons, drugs, and jihadis. As a part of this Egypt-Hamas contention Egypt had closed its border with Gaza and joined with Israel in enforcing an embargo on it. Egypt had also accused Hamas of aiding the anti-government protests and terrorist activities in Egypt’s Sinai.
So, what gives? What led to both Egypt and Israel altering their positions on Hamas? Or vice-versa?
For one thing, according to Mr. Eldar, Hamas has been moving closer to Egypt in order the get the embargo eased. Egypt, for its part is wanting to woo Hamas to get its aid and cooperation vis-à-vis the ongoing CT war in the Sinai, and beyond that, to entice it on board a possible future pan-Palestinian peace deal with Israel.
However, as Hamas has moved closer to Egypt, including pretending to disassociate itself from the mother ship, the MB, in order to please Egypt, a note-worthy splinter group has declared Hamas to be a “traitor” to the “Arab-Islamic-Palestinian” cause and has begun conducting car bombings and other terrorist acts against the terrorist group Hamas!
The name of this splinter group is bayt al-miqdis, which in Arabic means “The House of Holiness” and is a name for Jerusalem. This term also refers to an Islamic prophecy contained in the ahadeeth referring to a massive Islamic army that will march out from Khorusan (an area in SW and central Asia including Afghanistan and parts of Iran, Pakistan and other Central Asian countries). This army, it is said, will bear the “black banners” and will reconquer bayt al-miqdis for the Muslims. Most Palestinians believe that when this Latter Day army reaches their region that they will become the vanguard, the spearhead, of this army as it destroys Israel and takes over Jerusalem.
Hamas, consequently, fears that this bayt al-miqdis organization will out recruit it and become a major threat to its hold on power in Gaza. Thus its acceptance of CT intel from Israel, the very entity it has vowed to destroy. But, of course, it can’t admit to itself that it is doing so. This is where Egypt enters the equation according to Mr. Eldar. This bayt
al-miqdis group is the primary group causing Egypt headaches in the Sinai, and so, as Hamas has recently moved closer to Egypt, it and Egypt are now sharing CT intelligence on bayt al-miqdis and “inadvertently” as Hamas accepts CT intel from Egypt among that CT intel is intel Israel has provided to Egypt. Egypt, for its part, passes along Israeli CT only that intel agreed upon by Israel. “The very essence of a paradox” says Mr. Eldar. “The relationship between Israel and Hamas is tangled and complex, with all sorts of remarkable twists and turns.
This paradox also underscores two age-old adages: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (at least temporarily), and “politics makes for strange bedfellows.” Frankly, Egypt, Israel, and Hamas all in bed together is about as strange as it can get. Welcome to the modern Middle East.
Over the weekend, and immediately after the G-7 meeting in France, Japan hosted the Japan-Africa conference. Egyptian talk-show host ‘Amru Adeeb reported on this conference for his al-hakaya (The Story) show as a vehicle for boasting about Egypt’s importance. Mr. Adeeb first beamed with pride over President as-Sisi’s hob-knobbing with the world leaders of the planet’s major powers, then flying directly to Japan to represent the entire continent of Africa as this year’s president of the Organization of African States.
According to Mr. Adeeb, Japan has pledged to invest some $20 billion U.S. in Africa, in hopes of competing with China for Africa’s allegiance.
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com