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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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The Sectarian Genie: The Sunni-Shi’ite Struggle Released by the Arab Spring

President George W. Bush with Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, April 25, 2002. Saudi Arabia is considered on of the leaders of the Sunni faction of Islam in the struggle against the Shi'a, now led by Iran.

President George W. Bush with Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, April 25, 2002. Saudi Arabia is considered on of the leaders of the Sunni faction of Islam in the struggle against the Shi'a, now led by Iran.
Photo Credit: White House

It could be that also the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, which was signed in March 1979, was to a certain extent a reaction to the revolution of the Ayatollas in Iran that occurred months previously.

The Clash

The clash between the Salafi jihadi Sunna and the Shi’a has lasted almost 1400 years, and did not halt in the last generation either. In recent years there are several arenas in the Arab world in which a bloody clash exists between Shi’ites and Salafis:

In Iraq, since 2003 a fierce struggle has been conducted in which on one side are Shi’ite militias which are funded, armed and trained by Iran and headed by the “Mahdi Army” of Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as public organizations and political parties that do the bidding of Iran. On the other side are Sunni militias, headed by al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers”, which is funded with money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates.

During the past year, Syria has been a fierce arena of battle between the regime, which is funded and supported by Iran, and Sunni Salafi militias that operate with money and weapons from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, all of which countries are Sunni. These states are doing everything in their power to cut off the Syrian tentacle of the Iranian octopus, in order to decrease the Iranian threat upon the Sunni world in general and on the states of the Gulf in particular.

Lebanon, since the beginning of the eighties, has been a boxing arena between Hizb’Allah, supported by Shi’ite Iran, and the rest of the factions under Sunni leaders such as Rafik Hariri. He indeed was not Salafi, but the Saudi regime who supported him was Salafi by its own definition. Not for nothing has Hizb’Allah been helping the Syrian regime to stand against the Sunnis who have been rebelling against it during the last year and a half.

The clash between the sides is exacerbated by the passing of religious laws which serve each side as a means to undermine the legitimacy of the other side. Thus, religion becomes a tool in the conflict whose basis is a family-tribal disagreement between two houses of the Quraysh tribe, over the succession of Muhammad.

There are cases where battle lines are temporarily crossed: Shi’ite Iran and its satellites Syria and Hizb’Allah supported Sunni Palestinian terror organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but after the violence in Syria broke out, the Hamas people had to leave Damascus and cut off connections with Iran, because they could not accept the slaughter of Sunnis under the Syrian regime.

Even mutual visits between the leaders of the two sides cannot bridge 1400 years of mutual hatred and slaughter. Ahmadinejad visited Saudi Arabia; Mursi and Haniyye visited Iran, but these visits do not fundamentally change the hostility between the two sides. Embassies that each side opens in the other side serve mainly as a basis for spying and subversion.

A rivalry exists between the two sides about which of them will conduct a more successful jihad against the common enemy – the West, the United States and Israel. The rivalry stems from the belief that successful acts of terror enhance the popularity and legitimacy of the group. Whenever one side is successful in carrying out an action against the West, it increases the motivation of the other side to carry out a more successful act. The success of Shi’ite Hizb’Allah in removing Israel from Southern Lebanon in May 2000 pushed the Sunni Palestinians to open a second intifada at the end of September 2000, and for al-Qaeda to attack the United States one year afterward, in September 2001.

Conclusions

The Islamization that many observers note these days in the Middle East is an real phenomenon, and the increasing influence of the Islamist parties on political life is palpable and real. But a more important and stronger phenomenon is the escape of the factional genie from the bottle in which it was confined while dictators controlled the region. Mubarak in Egypt, Qadhaffi in Libya, bin Ali in Tunisia, Salah in Yemen and Asad in Syria, all knew and recognized the “factional genie” well , whether in the Shi’ite version or the Sunni version, and took every means at their disposal, principally torture chambers, in order to deal with the factional jihadism which has no boundaries of law or ethics. Today, dictators are taken down one by one, and jihadism is flourishing.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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One Response to “The Sectarian Genie: The Sunni-Shi’ite Struggle Released by the Arab Spring”

  1. The Hadith you starting with is not quite how it is….the meaning of it is, that there will be many groups/sects, and only one of them will enter paradise straight without sighting or experiencing a small time in hell because of the deviations in their faith and actions. If you are a Muslim you will in the end end up in paradise.

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