Bassem Chit

Sectarianism and the Arab revolutions

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What explains sectarian divisions such as the Shia-Sunni divide in the Middle East?
Lebanese socialist Bassem Chit rejects claims that sectarianism is a "pre-modern" force and argues it is rooted in the pattern of capitalist development and crisis in the region.

There is a growing debate over the role of religious sectarianism in the Middle East since the outbreak of the Arab Revolutions. Most writing on the issue deals with the question from a cultural perspective. One of the most striking examples of such an approach is the debate surrounding the supposedly Shia-Sunni divide, which many authors treat as an extension of a conflict over who should have assumed power following the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 CE.

Letter from Lebanon

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What are the forces in this month's election and what are the prospects for the left? Bassem Chit reports

The elections in Lebanon have always been a peculiar affair involving electoral alliances between sectarian parties. But the elections on 7 June have international resonance. For the first time in Lebanon's history the opposition movement headed by Hizbollah could form the next government.

Letter from Lebanon

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Recent events exposed the weakness of the US-backed government and both the strength and limitations of the Hezbollah-led opposition, argues Bassem Chit.

Lebanon's 14 March coalition government has been an ally of US and European imperialism since it took power in 2005. The coalition capitalised on popular resentment against Syria's 29-year occupation to push for a neoliberal, pro-imperialist agenda. The government increased the role of "domestic intelligence" agencies in coordination with the US, and formed an armed militia under the guise of private security companies. They hoped that these security companies would become powerful enough to match Hezbollah. So the government could wage Israel and the US's war on the resistance.

Lebanon: Some Things That Money Can't Buy

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The US's attempt to "democratise" the Middle East - or, to put it bluntly, to create puppet regimes - has had two spectacular failures recently.

In Iraq this democracy has created sectarian chaos, while in Palestine the US-backed elections produced a victory for the Islamic movement Hamas - not exactly what George Bush had in mind when he mapped out his grand plan for democracy in the region.

But the US administration thinks that Lebanon could be the silver lining of some very dark clouds. Last month George Bush stated in a meeting with Lebanese prime minister Faud Siniora that "there is no question in my mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example for what is possible in the broader Middle East".

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