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September 21, 2006  (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Rudakov

THE "PAPAL SCANDAL": AN ADVANTAGE FOR WASHINGTON AND AL QAEDA

The Moslem-Catholic conflict to weaken Iran and save the Lebanese "Cedar Revolution"

The recent scandal around the Pope’s "Bavarian speech" – today, probably one of the most famous of all speeches ever delivered by Romes pontiffs for the last five hundred years, has aroused various kinds of response: some of the audience experienced an unpleasant surprise; others expressed joy; third sides displayed an essential and expectable Schadenfreude.

For Benedict XVI and his powerful team of conservative cardinals, the reaction to the speech turned an unpleasant surprise. It is an open secret that modern Europe’s "multicultural" and "post-liberal" political class treats Benedict and his circle as highly annoying and worrisome figures. The Eurocrats from Brussels are extremely irritated with Vaticans persistent reference to the Christian background of the European civilization, as well as with the Holy Sees reluctance to accept legalization of drugs, euthanasia, and gay and lesbian marriages as positive achievements of the humanity. Thus, all those who regard Benedict XVI as a "hawk" and are nostalgic over the late John Pauls "moderate centrist" approach, have now acquired a convenient stronghold for ideological warfare against Vatican – as well as against all the European conservatives who stand for traditional cultural values.

Curiously, one more side, affected with the scandal, is Iran. The squall of protests in Moslem countries, starting as soon as mass media highlighted the ambiguous excerpts from the Pope’s speech, may shake the course of Tehrans foreign policy ship. Shortly before, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah party in Lebanon was close to an accord on joint political actions with General Michael Aoun, the leader of the most powerful political group representing the interests of the Maronite Christians, who are under Romes clerical jurisdiction. Obviously, Aoun and Hezbollah will now have to walk an extra mile towards a political deal.

In their turn, Aoun’s opponents from the Phalanx, who reject any deals with Hezbollah, have acquired a new trump card. This means that in the Palestinian autonomy, Iran is losing the last opportunity to persuade President Mahmoud Abbas for a compromise with the Hamas movement, Tehrans ideological partner.

It should be stressed that though that the Arab Christian community in Palestine has dramatically shrunk for the last twenty years, it still constitutes a significant part of the nation. This explains why Mahmoud Abbas still follows Yasser Arafat’s tradition of attending Christian worship in Bethlehem during Christmas. But after a certain "Monotheistic Lions" group (previously unknown and scarcely existing in reality) hurled bottles with combustible at the Christian churches of Nablus, Hamass activists are likely to face more difficulties in their efforts to find common language with secular politicians from Mr. Abbass Fatkh party.

The disaccord between the Catholics (the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem enjoys a high popularity in the autonomy due to his Arabic origin) and Moslems is likely to emerge as a new factor of tension between the key players of Palestinian politics. On the other hand, this freeze in their relations strengthens the positions of Washington which has been trying to impose its own design of the future government upon Mr. Abbas.

"The papal scandal" creates problems for Iran on the global scale as well. We know that the official Tehran is seeking to expand partnership with the left-wing regimes of Latin America, especially with the continent’s present “top revolutionary”, Hugo Chavez. Assume that the Ibero-American leftists dont belong to zealous Catholics, being slightly interested only in the "Theology of Liberation" doctrine, the followers of which have always had rather complicated relations (up to threats of excommunication) with Benedict XVI. Still, an appeal for a physical assault on the Pope, coming from distant parts of the Moslem world (such as Somalia), may strongly affect at least Mahmoud Ahmadinejads public contacts in countries where the Catholics constitute a majority. On leaving the Venezuelas capital Caracas, Irans President tried to explain to journalists that he "respects the Pope" and bears him no grudge since he had "corrected his statements". In his turn, Irans religious leader, Ali Khamenei, expressed his "deep regret" over the words of the Pope, indicating that they "are favorable for those who are pursuing a policy of world domination, seeking to unleash a Christian-Moslem clash".

The implicit person meant by Khamenei is easy to guess. The largest benefits from the unexpected conflict will be definitely derived by the United States. Regarding the above referred reasons, the conflict, firstly, contributes to the US efforts in Lebanon where the "Cedar Revolution" is in the same shambles as its "orange" version in Ukraine, and secondly, supplies the White House with a pretext to extort new concessions from Mahmoud Abbas. Besides, the scandal creates a convenient information context for a double pressure upon the European nations and Russia over issues concerning Iran’s nuclear program and possible sanctions against Tehran.

One more side, gaining profit from the conflict, is represented by the oil-rich states of the Arabian Peninsula. Those are predominantly the very regimes which used to sponsor Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, along with secessionist movements in North Caucasus; which still invest in the Civil War in Iraq and foster a new version of Taliban in Somalia. (Curiously, the complicated theological lecture of the Pope has attracted excessive attention in Somalia, a country still involved in a civil war, lacking Internet communications, and acquiring even a written language as recently as in the 1970s.)

The central objective of the mentioned [Sunni] powers, for whose establishment the infamous Al Qaeda represents rather a highly effective advertising brand, is to overtake ideological leadership in the Islamic community, and to introduce an effective system of mass manipulation, preventing their rivals (first of all, Iran and Syria) from accumulating influence to an extent, sufficient to challenge Arabia’s totalitarian monarchies.

After Hezbollah’s triumph in South Lebanon, the relevant forces found themselves at the brink of an ideological defeat, as the initiative in the Islamic community was spectacularly overtaken by the Shii leaders. However, due to Benedict XVIs fatal phrases, they managed to regain everything they had lost in the earlier months.


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