Qaddafi has always despised the Sunni Arabs of the Middle East. He has his own ambitions, not nasserian or saddam-husseinian, but rather to be the Leader of Africa, if necessary starting with the Maghreb.
His entire career has been marked by a contempt for the Arabs of the Middle East — particularly for the daggers-and-dishdasha Al-Saud, with xanadu yachts and with the grandest of grand with those Monte-Carlo or London or Malaga months of non-stop gambling and drinking and call-girling for those estivating emirs. All of this Qaddafi despises. He sees it as their betrayal of “the Arabs,” and the echt arabische noble bedu whom Qaddafi, tenting tonight on the old camp ground of the Libyan desert (he eats up that stuff), likes to think that he, Muammar Qaddafi, Last of the Great Arabs, and possibly now Founder of a Fatimid Caliphate, embodies.
It’s all preposterous, of course. But it is in such preposterousnesses that the Arab Muslims live. Saddam Hussein, King of the Arabs, was preposterous. Gamal Abdel Nasser, King of the Arabs, was preposterous. The brutalities follow one upon another — the “Palestinian” terrorists bending down to lick up the blood of Wasfi el-Tal, the Iraqis who watched the spectacle, or even joined in, as the body of “strongman” Nuri es-Said was dragged through the streets of Baghdad in 1958 after the coup of Qassem, still half-clothed in women’s garments in which Nuri had attempted to flee, or the televised showing of Qassem and his bodyguards when they were subsequently murdered, or the killing of King Fahd, or the murder of Sadat on the reviewing stand as he celebrated the “great victory” of what the 1973 war (a war in which only the Americans prevented Ariel Sharon from destroying the Egyptian Third Army), and all the rest of it — all the meetings of the Arab League, all the support for Saddam Hussein as long as he was only killing Shi”a and of course Kurds (why should Arabs care when Arabs kill Kurds, or Berbers, or black African Muslims?)and all the rest of the nonsense and paralysis of it all. Well, it’s enough to make even a Qaddafi outraged, not morally, but rather practically. The Arabs of the Middle East are to him an ineffective joke, and he’s not having it. He’s having the Fatimid Caliphate, and he’s going to solve the Sunni-Shi”a split by an appeal to history, to that Shi”a-led Caliphate.
It’s a fantastic suggestion. And a suggestion that will echo in the press of Egypt, where Mubarak and others in his family-and-friends plan have been warning for many months about the meretricious never-to-be-trusted Shi”a, who in their eyes are close to Infidels — why, in Mubarak’s remarks one hears a slightly toned-down version of Al-Zarqawi’s denunciation of the Shi”a as “Rafidite dogs.” Loyal commentators in the Cairene press have followed suit.
Oh, this scheme or dream of Qaddafi is wonderful. It will scare the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They have been worried about, or claiming to worry about, Shi”a efforts to proselytize among the Sunni Arabs of Syria. Their fears were, earlier, exaggerated. They were trying to exaggerate the claims of a “Shi”a crescent” for their own purposes (just as Iraqi Shi”a had inveigled the Americans, for their own by-now clear purposes, to remove Saddam Hussein).
The Sunni rulers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and elsewhere want two things.
First, they want the Americans to make sure that the Sunni Arabs in Iraq are not forced to acquiesce to the new Shi”a-dominated order, by remaining for as long as possible to pressure the Shi”a regime and to attack and disarm the Shi”a.
And secondly, they want what they have always wanted and always will want — and they are adept at reframing their request to exploit whatever worries the Americans may harbor at any one time. What they have always wanted and want now is even more American pressure on Israel to surrender its legal and historic rights, and to make still further territorial and other concessions, rendering itself still more vulnerable than it already is to further Arab pressure, and to a future Arab military assault on an Israel weakened by diplomatic, economic, and demographic undermining. The farcical “Peace Plan” of the Saudis (the kind of thing only a Tom Friedman could take seriously) offers up as “moderates” the Slow Jihadists of Fatah. They are ready to make a deal with the Americans. They are presented to the American government and to the ever-compliant Europeans as being so very different from the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, when in fact they differ only in tactics and timing as to how to achieve the same desired result. And they use the need to keep the Arab masses happy by “showing progress” in the “peace process.”
In the old days Qaddafi was content just to be one more melamaniacal despot, a kind of desert Kim Il Sung, peddling his new form of government, the “Jamhariya,” as set out in his Third Way, in that Little Green Book, which told the world How Permanent Happiness Can Be Achieved If Only Everyone Listens to the Great Leader, Muammar Qaddafi.
Many were excitedly convinced in 2003 that because of the American invasion of Iraq Qaddafi had changed utterly. He gave up his attempts to acquire nuclear and other weapons, but it was forgotten or overlooked in all the excitement that those projects had failed and there was little tangible to give up (though information about A. Q. Khan may well have been of horse-out-of-the-barn value). They not only forgot that Qaddafi was famously mercurial, but that he remains a Muslim, and a megalomaniac with more-than-steigian dreams of glory.
Thank God that his Dreams of Glory now take the form — the breathtaking even if only polemical temporary form — of the restoration of a Shi”ite Fatimid Caliphate. The very idea is going to make the Al-Saud and Mubarak and the assorted plucky little kinglets and sheiklets of the Gulf very unhappy indeed, and more determined than ever that the Shi”a in Iraq must not prevail, must never be allowed to dominate what for 500 years was the center of Islamic Civliization, and the site of fabled Baghdad, madinat al-salaam.