Thursday 17/01/2019 - 04:42 pm

forbes: Kassem Hejeij"s Story: The Enemy Of My Enemy May Or May Not Be My Friend

Patrick Gros

2016.12.15 07:29

 We all are familiar with the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It has long been a fundamentally simple concept with practical applications until the U.S. government is joined in the equation with any of several Middle East factions. The U.S. application of any process is usually complex and sometimes detached of common reasoning. The Middle East is also historically a long-lasting and complicated quagmire where conflict remains as the order of the day.

Notwithstanding the notion and value of simplicity, and what may be expected in most bureaucratic practice, complex too often becomes complicated; precision becomes calamity, and the entire system breaks down under the weight of its absurdity. We may now be witnessing just such a case with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) special designation of Kassem Hejeij, a generational opponent of the terrorist group, Hezbollah, which the U.S. now condemns as an affiliate of that same Hezbollah. Call it a “Catch 22” or “Double Bind,” but it is a paradoxical dilemma for the government and critically also for Hejeij. Or perhaps call it a crisis of intelligence, a failure of clarity and a succumbing to deception. In any event, the paradigm is confounding.
Multi-Dimensional Becomes Clear As Mud
The theory of “enemy of my enemy” becomes confusing and diluted by the diversity of modern global insecurity and related regional conflicts of interest. In practice, time after time, a particular enemy’s enemy who may now be an ally becomes an enemy in the future. Often the policy is to default to today’s lesser evil and discount tomorrow altogether. However, history has certainly proven that identifying friends and enemies in the Middle East can be unusually challenging, considering all of the shifting parts. Multi-dimensional political, religious and intellectual alliances create a bizarre, but dynamic, volatility and often a moving target. Without linearity, this proverb becomes only a myth.
Opaquely It’s All So Obvious
The U.S. is clearly an enemy of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and ISIS is a declared enemy of the U.S. The U.S. is officially friends with Saudi Arabia, regardless of the obvious cultural contradictions. Yet, the Saudi government sees the U.S. as a friend only when convenient, and many feel the Kingdom may have acceded as certain Saudis financed the 9/11 attacks and then early on also supported the Islamic State. Therefore, the U.S./Saudi relationship is delicate but continues so as to uphold the common perception that the two are friends.
The U.S. enemy ISIS is in a desperate battle with President Bashar Al-Assad and Syria: The U.S. strongly dislikes Assad, considers him an enemy and supports the fight against him. Here your enemy’s enemy is clearly your enemy.
The U.S. doesn’t like Iran, and Iran expresses vocal disdain in its prayers of death for America. Still, Iran is allied with and backing the Iraqi military against ISIS. The U.S. remains committed to Iraq, regardless of Iraq’s alliance and friendship with Iran. Here your ally’s ally is your enemy.
Some of America’s friends support America’s enemies, and some of their enemies are actually their friends, and some U.S. enemies are fighting against other U.S. enemies, whom  Americans want to lose. However, they don’t want their enemies who are fighting their enemies to win.
Should America’s enemies be defeated, these old regimes may be replaced by new leaders that the U.S. likes even less. Ironically all this confusion began when the U.S. invaded a country to drive out terrorists who werent actually there until the U.S. military went in to drive “them” out. (Was the intelligence made up, incomplete or simply wrong?)
While multi-dimensional geopolitical alliances are generally and historically as stable as shifting sand, the bonding of linear domestic partnership is far less ambiguous. With a shared ideology, uncompromised by intervening coalitional conflict, two parties who are resisting the same opposition are best defined and accommodated as allies. Such should be the relationship between the U.S. and Kassem Hejeij.
Benevolent And Yet Condemned
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1953, Kassem Hejeij traveled south as a young man to neighboring Gabon where he soon earned the trust and patronage of that nation’s leaders. Eventually, Hejeij created his success and prospered as a recognized West African Industrialist, developing natural resources and implementing infrastructure projects. In the early 1990s, Hejeij settled in Lebanon, expanded his business, and in 1998 entered politics and was elected president of his hometown of Deir Ntar. For the past two decades, Hejeij has led and maintained his region free of Hezbollah’s political influences. His is the only Southern Lebanon Region not so controlled by Hezbollah. This independence did not come without heroic resistance and oppositional reprisals. If not for the extraordinary benevolence of Hejeij, the people of his region would have suffered greatly from the oppression of Hezbollah’s militant control.
It is commonly recognized that Hejeij personally implements certain responsibilities of the State. He provides employment and career opportunities to his people through his business enterprises in Africa and Lebanon. Using his own wealth, he arranges healthcare and nourishment for the needy. He builds and maintains infrastructure, roads and bridges. It is Hejeij who has stabilized the electrical power supply and provided needed housing. For many of his constituents, he is the government. In May of 2016, after his entire political ticket (again) swept to victory, defeating all Hezbollah and Amal candidates, Hejeij was quoted as saying, “What the people need is deeds, not slogans.” Yet the decades of victories and political independence have produced contempt and even violent attacks towards Hejeij from supporters of Hezbollah. Gunfire erupted in the town and at the home of Hejeij following the latest election. Hejeij’s personal vehicles have also been fired upon even outside his region. Kassem Hejeij has for decades maintained a constant resistance and sometimes even an overt defense against Hezbollah. He is now protected by the Lebanese Military (LAF).
So here we have a perfect storm of contradiction; Hezbollah is an enemy of the United States, and Hejeij is an enemy of Hezbollah. Thus, it would be reasonable that, in such a case, the U.S. enemy’s enemy would be a friend and ally of the United States. However, as such an admission might be seen as a parallel relationship of common interests, we find today that more and more of America’s foreign relationships are based on the perpendicular logic of self-intersecting conflict.
Hence, the U.S. is delivering billions of dollars in cash to Iran, knowing that some of that money will funnel directly to Hezbollah, which will then continue to engage in its well-known lethal opposition to both the U.S. and Hejeij. At the same time, the U.S. is providing cash, weapons, and training to Lebanon and the LAF, knowing and encouraging that some of this money will be used to protect and defend Hejeij against Hezbollah—the same Hejeij that the U.S. Treasury’s OFAC has condemned as a facilitator (Was the intelligence made up, incomplete or simply wrong?) of the same Hezbollah that the U.S. is indirectly financing and protecting him from. It’s all about as clear as mud. Maybe Albert Einstein put it best: “A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.”
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