May 18, 2011, - 4:11 pm

Fouad Ajami’s Shi’ite Fantasy: Reality Check on Imam Moussa Sadr & Libya’s Qaddafi

By Debbie Schlussel

Over the decades, my late father would always insist I read the writings of Fouad Ajami, the secular Shi’ite Muslim Middle East expert based at Johns Hopkins.  And for most of that time, Ajami was spot on.  Recently, though, he’s either lost it entirely, or is mesmerized by the rotten “Arab Spring,” which can only be the West’s Winter.  Plus, he’s shown a strong new sympathy for the growing Shi’ite revolution, reminding us all that he is a Shi’ite beneath it all, despite his secular leanings.  Ajami’s fantasy-laden op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal says it all.  Ajami, romanticizing the late (or merely missing, depending on which rumor you believe) Shi’ite cleric, Imam Moussa Sadr, is the work not of an intellectual secularist but of someone in denial about Shi’ite Islam’s wholly consuming obsession with Hezbollah and Iran.  Ajami’s secularism seems to have given way, at least somewhat, to Shi’ite nationalism.  Problem is that the Shi’ite nation, in the eyes of Shi’ites, is the world.

Fouad Ajami’s Shi’ite Revenge Fantasy Over Musa Sadr is Not an American Interest

Unless you know a lot about the Middle East and Islam as I do, you probably never heard of Iranian-born Moussa Sadr.  Most of the dummies and phonies you see on TV parading as “terrorism experts” don’t know about him because they are frauds.  Al-Sadr was the spiritual leader of Harakat Amal, the Amal Shi’ite Militia, which at the time meant he was the top Shia cleric in Lebanon, but, now, Amal is essentially an arm of Hezbollah.  Sadr went missing in 1978, and is probably dead.  My late father said he believed Sadr was murdered either by the Ayatollahs in Iran who might have seen him as competition or by the P.L.O., to whom he was a threat as the Sunni PLO occupied Lebanon and gang-raped, tortured, and murdered Shi’ite Muslims and Christians.  When he disappeared, though, he was on his way to Iran and many believe he was going there to help Ayatollah Khomeini retake power from the Shah.  Al-Sadr was last seen in Libya, where he went to gush all over Muammar Qaddafi.  Ajami believes that Al-Sadr was murdered by Qaddafi in Libya or is perhaps in a jail there.  The Sunni Qaddafi was tight with Yasser Arafat.

But regardless of what happened to Imam Sadr, some things are certain and yet never mentioned in Ajami’s gushing exaltation of Al-Sadr.  Sadr was vehemently anti-Israel and supported Lebanese attacks on Israel.  He made overtures to the Syrian Assad family by making some of the Alawites (the Assads are Alawi Muslims) part of his Supreme Islamic Shi’ite Council and saying they are real Muslims (Sunnis said Alawis are not Muslims, perhaps because they celebrate some of the Christian holidays).  Sadr’s supporters today are all strong supporters of Hezbollah and Iran, and it’s doubtful he would have been any different.  In fact, he would be leading Hezbollah today, or his Amal, which turned on Israel after welcoming the Israelis as liberators from the P.L.O., would be the Hezbollah today, instead of a merged weaker sister of the group.

Sadr-connected charities run by his children and other relatives are apparent conduits of terrorist money.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised for “educating orphans” (of martyrs) and sent to Lebanon, despite only a P.O. Box, and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies look the other way.  All of the money goes to the Hezbollah-controlled South Lebanon.   Ideologically, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Amal and Hezbollah factions, which is why they are no longer separate factions and haven’t been for decades.  Whether or not Sadr was kidnapped and killed doesn’t change that.

Despite Shi’ite Muslim Ajami’s romance of this man, that he is missing or dead makes no difference in the Iran- and Syria-dominated ideological topography of Lebanon, dominated by the same Hezbollah hate that Sadr’s Amal developed and which was eventually taken up by the successor Hezbollah.  Dr. Ajami thinks that this absurd war we are having with Qaddafi is grounds to gain something in addition to $4.00-plus gallons of gas.  He wants blood from Qaddafi over the missing Sadr.  This is his Arab Spring.

And America should have no part of it.  We should never have gotten involved in the internecine warfare of Libya, which has now exceeded billions in costs to Americans, in addition to the billions in higher gas prices, with no Libyan oil production.  If we were going to be involved, it should have been to back Qaddafi and shut this thing down.

But Fouad Ajami is, as I noted, beneath it all loyal most to  his Shi’ite Arab Muslim heritage.  And that heritage is neither American, nor should its goals be American.

Imam Sadr’s presence today in Lebanon wouldn’t help the West or make a difference in Western interests.  In fact, it would probably be a strengthening force for the frightening Shi’ite revolution.  Whatever happened to Moussa Sadr, his disappearance is a distinction without a difference.

That Ajami doesn’t get this makes it disturbing that he is now a senior fellow at Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Hoover Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

Satisfying the vendetta yearnings of Shi’ite Muslims based on their unproven conspiracy theories is not an American interest. How it contributes to stopping the Islamic threat (no, there’s no such thing as “Islamism”) and stabilizing the International Order is beyond anyone who does a reality check.

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16 Responses

On August 27, 2008, Gaddafi was indicted by the government of Lebanon for al-Sadr’s disappearance.

DD: The govt of Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah/Shi’ite Muslims. I only care about what the Govt of the US does. DS

Dr Dale on May 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm

It surprises me that the Hoover Institution would employ such a fantasy prone individual as Ajami. He sometimes hits his mark, but more often obscures such minor accomplishments with pure dross.

Worry01 on May 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Fouad Ajami is a thoughtful and intelligent man. He usually gets it right about the region, unlike the facile and ignorant anti-Israel Tom Friedman.

    I don’t agree with what he wrote here. And sometimes a scholar can simply be very wrong.

    NF: He’s been wrong most of the time lately and is big on the Arab democracy, supporting protesters crap, etc. DS

    NormanF on May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      In light of what you told me Debbie, it does sum up a problem that very enlightened people have today: they assume people in the Middle East want to be like us and when they want freedom it means they want the same things we do.

      Its a dangerous and foolish notion – a form of self-deceptive and narcissistic provincialism. The Arab Middle East is not going to become liberal and more accepting of Israel. It is going to become Islamist and nationalist and more hostile towards the Jewish State.

      And if Ajami and his colleagues in academe can’t see it, we’ll living with their erroneous diagnosis of the Middle East for decades to come. Israel can survive patronizing judgments from academics who don’t have a clue as to what’s really going on. It can’t survive suicidal concessions that serve no real purpose than to render it more vulnerable to future destruction.

      The Arab Spring, to put not too fine on a word on it, is bunk. That’s all that needs to be said about it.

      NormanF on May 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm

The Alawis are not Muslims. But they pretend to be Shiite Muslims when it suits them.

They know if the Assad regime falls in Syria, they are going to be massacred.

That is the way life is in the Middle East when the weak lose.

Is it any wonder Israel doesn’t want to become a good epitaph?

NF: In fact, the Alawis are, indeed, Muslims. They are subsect of Shia Islam. Sunnis insist they are not Muslims, though Sunnis say the same about Shi’ite Muslims. DS

NormanF on May 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Their exact religious practices are secret but in Syria claiming to be Shia Muslim is very advantageous to them given their close alliance with Iran and their patronage of Hezbollah. And their killing of Sunni Muslims is entirely predictable – beyond reasons of clan survival – Islam as you noted as always been at war with itself… often in the bloodiest manner imaginable just as both of the sects in it are at war with us.

NormanF on May 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Good work Debbie.

Jonathan on May 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

It seems like the Islamist conflicts (among themselves) have all the characteristics of mob warfare in the USA.

Dr Dale on May 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I’ve seen him on CNN several times in the last few months and yes he is high on “arab democracy” big time. Most recently, he was calling Obama out to get involved militarily in Syria! He’s lost any sense he ever had. He is a very naive man who was unable to tell the truth about what’s been happening in Egypt since Mubarak was forced out. The Hoover Institution is no longer so impressive. Thanks for this post DS as I did not know much about his background except that he hates Quadaffi.

NancyB on May 18, 2011 at 11:36 pm

What about Walid Phares? Is he reliable?

(This thread was VERY interesting!)

S: No, Walid Phares is another money-grubbing fraud who helped federal prosecutors free Al-Qaeda terrorists, b/c he wanted to remain one of their highly paid expert witnesses. I’ve written about that phony here:

Skunky on May 19, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I didn’t know where to find this info then kooabm it was here.

    Victory on July 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

Al-Sadr was last seen in Libya, where he went to gush all over Muammar Qaddafi. Ajami believes that Al-Sadr was murdered by Qaddafi in Libya or is perhaps in a jail there. The Sunni Qaddafi was tight with Yasser Arafat.

But regardless of what happened to Imam Sadr, some things are certain and yet never mentioned in Ajami’s gushing exaltation of Al-Sadr. Sadr was vehemently anti-Israel and supported Lebanese attacks on Israel. He made overtures to the Syrian Assad family by making some of the Alawites (the Assads are Alawi Muslims) part of his Supreme Islamic Shi’ite Council and saying they are real Muslims

What is the timeline of when this is thought, or claimed to have happened? B’cos during most of the 80s, Gadaffi supported Iran in the Ira war, and was very close to the Assads. In fact, during the early 80s, after Egypt under Sadat & Mubarak were content to be @ peace w/ Israel, Syria was backed by Libya in its hostility to Israel & Egypt. And Hafez al Assad was always implacably hostile to Arafat – in 1983 or thereabout, he had Arafat evicted from Damascus after a meeting, and much preferred to support Islamic Jihad & PFLP.

Gadaffi, like Assad, supported Iraq, and didn’t switch support to Iran until a few months before that war actually ended! But Assad never switched support, and in fact, was one of the allies during Operation Desert Shield. That was not due to any pro-American sentiments in Damascus, but rather, b’cos Assad loathed Saddam. Reason being that while Baathism was a pretentiously secular vehicle for minority Muslim sects to grab power, in Iraq, it happened to be the Sunnis, whereas in Syria, it happened to be the Alawites. Hence the steadfast Syrian support for Iran.

Consistency has never been a factor w/ Gadaffi – one day, he supported Iran, the next day Iraq, and a few months ago, he called for the restoration of the Fatimid caliphate (that used to be run from Cairo) in North Africa. Nonetheless, if he was behind the murder of Sadr, that would have happened after 1989. If he disappeared in 1978, Gadaffi was unlikely to have had anything to do w/ it, and he wouldn’t have been much of a threat to the PLO either in Lebanon, since the Shia hardly had any power there. Khomenei hadn’t come to power by then, so the only regime that might have had interests in eliminating him might have been the Syrians. But if he headed Amal, which was a Syrian puppet anyway, that calls into question their motivation as well, unless they or Gadaffi had other unknown differences w/ him.

Anyway, I agree w/ your original point – all this is internal Muslim bickering, and the West should have no part of it, just as it has no business in the current civil war in Libya, the turmoil in Syria, the revolt in Bahrein or internecine wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just stay out of it, and let Muslims have their usual Alien vs Predator wars.

And may all sides lose! 🙂

Infidel Pride on May 19, 2011 at 3:10 am

Typo above – Gadaffi supported Iran for much of that war, and switched to Iraq towards the end.

Infidel Pride on May 19, 2011 at 3:57 am

All of these “democratic” uprisings in the Middle East are most likely headed to disaster. 5 years from now people are going to be longing for the days of Moubarak just as the people of Iran had buyer’s remorse shortly after the 1979 revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood is co opting the support of the secular liberals just like Khomeini did to overthrow the shah. History is repeating itself.

Jonathan on May 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

Very interesting piece, Debbie! I am reading one of Ajami’s books now — he has an amazing knowledge of the region and was on the ground in the Iraq war — however I always wondered how far his sympathies with the Shia would cloud his common sense — and let’s face it — academics lose common sense BIG TIME…

I think you have nailed it! Thanks!

wk on May 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

The “West’s Winter”!
Yes, the current “Arab Spring” is merely the inevitable product of too many “Arab Offspring”. We ignore this at our peril.

Preposteroso on May 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

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