Night Watch

Syria: President Bashar Asad Monday called for a battle against Wahhabism, the political and religious theology embraced by the Saudi Arabian government that backs the Sunni uprising against his regime.

"President Assad said that extremists and Wahhabi thought distort the real Islam, which is tolerant," state news agency SANA reported. He underlined the role of men of religion in fighting against Wahhabi thought, which is foreign to our societies, according to Asad.

Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative Muslim tradition, which is predominant in Saudi Arabia and whose intolerant precepts govern Saudi religious, civilian and political life. It is a sect of Sunni Islam, whose leaders profess has no sects.

Comment: Asad's remarks during a meeting with religious clerics from Lebanon are a response to Saudi King Abdallah's accusation that Asad is "destroying his country."

The Ba'athist government in Damascus is disparaged in the West and in the Sunni countries of the Middle East because many of its leaders, including Asad, belong to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. In fact, Syria has a secular government based on the principles of pan-Arab socialism-Ba'athism, not Islam. That explains its tolerance for many religious denominations, including Sunni Islam, Zoroastrianism, Shiia Islam and Christianity among others.

Asad does not often attack the calcified religious underpinnings of the Saudi kingdom. In the context of King Abdallah's accusations, Asad's call is a summons to revolution to overthrow the House of Saud. It will not generate a revolution, but it will resonate in some areas, such as the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, most of whose population is Shiite, not Wahhabi Sunni, and is treated as second-class citizens.

The message behind the message is a reminder that destabilization and revolution can occur in Saudi Arabia, possibly more easily than in Syria, once it starts.

Lebanon-Saudi Arabia-France: The Saudi government promised $2 billion in aid to assist the Lebanese armed forces to improve security. France almost immediately chimed in that it would sell advanced military equipment to the Lebanese armed forces.

Comment: This might be a farce, butfor the gravity of the situation. Saudi Arabia is working with France to build influence in Lebanon that is independent of the US. The Saudis also want to strengthen Sunni and Christian resistance to Lebanese Hizballah. Arms assistance always works, sort of. The French will help for strategic and obvious economic reasons.

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