Fouad Ajami Appreciated the Arab World for Its Achievements, and Held It Responsible for Its Failures

Reviewing the posthumous memoir of the great Lebanese-born scholar Fouad Ajami, Hussain Abdul-Hussain reflects on the similarities between his own life and Ajami’s—both came from Shiite families, both attended the same high school in Beirut (many years apart), and both found their ways to America—and on Ajami’s intellectual legacy:

During our time in our ancestral homeland, we learned the same lesson: Arab failure was from within. It was not the fault of imperialism, colonialism, or even Zionism. For Ajami, the price of dissent was often vilification, in particular the accusation that he was a self-hating Arab.

[Once], I subscribed to Arab nationalism. The late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said was my hero. He taught a generation of scholars that “orientalism”—the patronizing Western belief in Arab inferiority—was the midwife of imperialism and the ultimate author of Middle Eastern misfortunes. Then something unusual happened. The United States prepared to invade Iraq, promising democratic self-government to its people. Meanwhile, Said and an overwhelming majority of Arab intellectuals portrayed Saddam Hussein as a victim of Yankee aggression.

In general, Said and his fellow travelers had few qualms about “armed resistance” to imperial oppressors. They lionized Palestinian resistance above all, yet had sympathy for the dictator who had forced my family out of Iraq. Thus, I saw the ugly face of Arab nationalism. [For his part], Said accused Ajami of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions.”

But neither Ajami nor I were ever self-hating Arabs. Ajami loved Arab culture—the language, poetry, music, and cuisine. . . . In contrast, Edward Said “chose” his Arab identity at age thirty and then made a career out of teaching others to blame foreigners.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Arab World, Edward Said, Fouad Ajami, Iraq war

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria