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March 27, 2013

Meet Saudi Arabia's Sectarian Entrepreneurs in Syria and Lebanon

March 27, 2013

March 27, 2013

When Adnan Al Arour, a Saudi based Syrian Salafist Sheikh, rose from total obscurity into fame since the Syrian revolution started, another figure was promoted in neighboring Lebanon: Sheikh Abdul Rahman Dimachkieh.

The Syrian regime exploited Al Arour rise to taint Syria's revolution with Salafism, thus increasing his popularity among the revolutionaries, while the Lebanese version of Al Arour, remained obscured.

The secret behind Al Arour's rise to prominence lies in his team's media savvy techniques. Al Arour's YouTube videos are now viral, a quarter of a million uploads, and increasing. His Twitter account, @AdnanAlarour, now has nearly a million followers, close to international media outlets, which suggests there is a dedicated team running it.
The Saudi TV channel broadcasting his program, al Wesal TV, is not alone in promoting Al Arour. There are other channels working in what observers see as a coordinated media strategy to change the face of Syria's revolution, and with it, the whole Arab Spring, back to the regional conflict's state funded media discourse (GCC vs. Iran, Sunni vs. Shiite). Some secular Syrian opposition members think Al Arour is helping turn Syria's revolution into a full blown Sectarian conflict. Such a conflict, they say, would serve the GCC and Iran's interest in changing the discourse over the Arab Spring into a Sectarian one, thus relieving all sides of an imminent domino effect in case the revolution quickly prevails. For these members of the opposition, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have a vested interest in prolonging the Syrian conflict.

Al-Arour, previously a sergeant in the Syrian Army, became an Imam in Saudi Arabia, which also provided him with ample TV time on Saudi based Islamist channels. He provides funding to Islamist groups fighting on the ground in Syria, and also visited the country's freed North, to "bless" a newly formed umbrella military council.

For Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Dimachkieh seems more of an Al Arour prototype. He has called on the country's Sunnis to kill Syrian soldiers on the border, and all Hezbollah members trying to cross to help the dying regime.

Similar to Al Arour, Dimachkieh has a wide presence on Social media, while his Twitter followers are 130 thousand. The Avatar on his Twitter account is that of the Lebanese Free Army, a copy cat of Syria's defectors. The English Summary on his account reads as follows:
I'm with the Syrian liberated army until Lebanese regime will be liberated from sabbordination to Hizbullah & Iran

While he remains an unknown figure in Lebanon, Dimachkieh's presence has not gone unnoticed by Shiites and Iran's allies. They ran a smear campaign, in which they used the below document (unverified), that claims he was expelled from Lebanon's Azhar university for his alleged indecent behavior. They accuse him of being gay, which is punishable by death in Islamic sharia. The accusations lack credibility, and are both one-sided and reminiscent of the Syrian regime's smear campaign against Sheikh Adnan Al Arour.

What needs to be inspected is the Saudi government's involvement in supporting and coordinating both Sheikhs, providing them with funding, technical support and above all, safe haven.

(Above: Dimachkieh's call to Lebanon's Sunnis)


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