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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘sunni’

ISIS Seizes Key Syrian, Jordanian Border Crossings

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria captured key two border crossings on Sunday — including one that leads from Iraq directly into Jordan. The other is a crossing into Syria.

Jordanian officials have been dreading this possibility for weeks and monitoring the situation across the border for some time.

The terrorist group has also seized four more towns, further broadening the wide swathe of territory already under its control. That band of ISIS-controlled land now spreads from nearly all of northern Iraq, to the eastern part of the country, and beginning to bleed down to the south, and into the west – where Jordan lies.

Beyond Jordan, ISIS hopes to eventually reach the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza and then finally Israel. Less than a month ago, terrorists from the group kidnapped a Turkish consul in Tikrit and 80 Turkish citizens. Many are still being held hostage.

The terrorist group’s dream of carving out an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or an Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) as it is called in Iraq, is rapidly advancing.

A top military intelligence official in Iraq told CBC News on condition of anonymity that the militants’ objective is Baghdad, “where we are working frantically to bolster our defenses.” But the Iraqi military is badly outgunned, he admitted. “I will be honest with you,” he said. “Even that is not up to the level of what is needed. Morale is low.”

Jihadists from neighboring Arab nations – as well as from European countries and even from as far away as the United States – are being drawn to the battle as flies to honey and are traveling to join the conflict, as in the past they traveled to fight in Syria.

Those who have already acquired their objectives in Iraq are now supplying their fellow jihadists in Syria with weaponry won in recent battles to fight in the civil war across the border – or at least, until there is no border.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has served in office since 2006, has not given any indication he intends to step down. But as he did in Cairo, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent signals he no longer supports the Iraqi leader during the crisis, although he agreed t osend 300 military advisers to retrain Iraqi troops. Obama also said he might consider air strikes to support the Iraqi military, but did not make any commitments.

With Iran opposing American involvement, it seems likely Obama will drag his heels as much as possible, fearing to intervene and offend Iranian sensibilities.

The new Iraqi parliament, set to meet by the end of this month, is expected to elect a speaker and a new president. The president-elect will then ask the leader who wins a simple majority of the 328-member parliament to form the new government.

During the most recent election, al-Maliki’s ‘State of the Law’ party won the most mandates – 92 – but it is not enough to pull a majority for a new coalition government, especially in light of the current crisis.

American Muslims Attacked During Hajj

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

American Muslims who traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform what they understand to be their obligation according to the Pillars of Islam were attacked by other Muslims wielding knives and other weapons.

This year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj, took place last week, Oct. 13-18. More than 10,000 American Muslims are believed to have participated in their pilgrimage.  For several who went on the trip from Detroit, the experience was traumatic.

A group of Shia Muslims traveled with Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of Dearborn. Qazwini is the head of the largest mosque in metropolitan Detroit.

One of the many prescribed rituals that is part of the hajj is to travel to the Saudi Arabian city of Mina, 3 miles east of Mecca, where the pilgrims throw a prescribed number of pebbles at Shaitan (“Satan”), represented by three stone walls.

Hundreds of thousands of tents are set up in Mina, in order to accommodate the pilgrims.

After the Detroit Shias entered a tent in Mina reserved for Australian, American and European hajj participants, the violence began.

The American Muslims recounted being approached by a large group of people they later learned were Lebanese Sunni Salafist Muslims. According to an account in the Detroit Free Press,

The Salafis asked one of the Shia men if he was Shia, recalled Seyed Mothafar Al-Qazwini, a nephew of Imam Al-Qazwini. “He responded ‘yes.’ He was immediately attacked by three men, one grabbing him in a choke hold, the others punching him in the face.”

Al-Qazwini said the leader of the Salafis then shouted “Kill them all. Kill the Shia.”

In addition to the physical violence, the American victims reported the perpetrators screaming that they were going to rape all the Shia women who did not leave the tent in 15 minutes.

The Sunnis also referenced a 7th century battle in Karbala, Iraq between Sunni and Shia Muslims in which a Shia leader and family members were murdered by Sunnis.

“We will make this day like the day of Karbala. We will kill all your men and take your women as captives,” the Detroit Imam reported.

“During the attack, the men reportedly shouted “Our [holy pilgrimage] will be complete once we have killed you, ripped out your hearts and eaten them, and [then] raped your women,” according to a report in the Washington Times.

Al-Qazwini complained about the disinterest showed by the Saudi police in the complaints filed by his group.  He also said that a video of the incident taken on his phone by a member of the group was erased by the Saudi police.

State Department officials told a Detroit journalist that the hajj and interior ministries in Saudi Arabia “have confirmed that they are investigating” the incident.

Iran: Neither Lunatic State Nor Rational Actor, But Rational Aggressor

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The United States now estimates it will take one year for Iran to get nuclear weapons; Israel says some months.

Is Iran a Lunatic State or a Rational Actor? It is neither; it is a Rational Aggressor.

“One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama’s presidency,” says Time Magazine, “is whether he can peacefully resolve  America’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons’  program.

Ridiculously wrong.
 
One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama’s presidency is whether he can successfully resolve America’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons’ program.

Time continues that the Obama-Rouhani handshake “would  be the most important…handshake since the historic grip between Rabin and Arafat….””

Also wrong. Remember that while it has still not been admitted by the United States, that event 20! years later was a failure costly in lives. Israel must satisfy seemingly monthly American demands by releasing terrorists who murdered Israelis.

The handshakes of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with Hitler (the Munich agreement) and of the Nazi foreign minister and Stalin (the Nazi-Soviet pact) were also a historic grip, at the time peaceful but not ultimately successful.

Time continues, “It would only be a symbolic act, to be sure. But when it comes to international diplomacy, symbolism can go a long way.”

But it is not a mere symbolic act but the start of a foolish deal that Iran will break.

So is Iran a lunatic state or a rational actor? A hell of a lot more rational than U.S. foreign policy is today, as apparently has been the Muslim Brotherhood’s policy and trickery. After all, the UN just elected Iran as Rapporteur for the General Assembly’s main committee on Disarmament & International Security without Tehran having to do anything.  And Obama will blame Congress for diplomatic failure if it increases sanctions. In fact diplomats doubt Iran will actually do anything anyway.

That’s not moderate but radical in a smart way.

More politely, Iran is a rational actor in terms of its own objectives. The issue is to understand what Iran wants. Policy is always best served by truth, and the truth is best told whether or not people like it. Iran is an aggressive, rational actor.

Remember: The problem is not that Iran is eager to use nuclear weapons but that the Obama Administration is not going to apply containment properly and credibly.  And that encourages Iran’s non-nuclear aggression and terrorism.
 
The hysteria over Iran, however, had also better get under control, even as the real, very threatening situation should be understood. Armchair theorists from far away may want to provoke a U.S.-Iran war. This is a bad idea.

The fact is that the history of the Iranian Islamic regime does not show suicidal recklessness. A key reason for this is that the leaders of Iran know they can be reckless without risking suicide. In other words, Iran did face threats from the West commensurate with what Tehran was doing. Therefore, the risks it took were not suicidal. If apparently suicidal rhetoric does not produce suicide but serves a very specific purpose, that rhetoric is not in fact suicidal.

What, then, did Iran want?

Its basic goal was to be as powerful a regional hegemon as possible–including control over Syria and Lebanon. It would like to take leadership of all Muslims in the area. Today, however, it is clear that the Sunni Arabs reject Tehran’s leadership and will fight against it.

In other words, the ultimate extent of Iran’s zone of influence could only include part of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, southwest Afghanistan, Bahrain, and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. That is the maximum, and Iran is far from achieving that goal. And it will probably never achieve it.

Iran’s influence is limited by the location of Shia Muslims. Not all Shia Muslims favor Iran, and pretty much all Sunni Muslims oppose it. Therefore, whatever the outcome is in Syria–in other words if the regime wins–Iran will at most keep its current levels of influence. But if the regime wins, the Sunnis will hate Iran even more and will fight against it harder.

So Iran still wants to get the most power without fearing reprisal.

Nuclear weapons are a defensive shield to carry out conventional aggression.

As I’ve insisted for many years, it is increasingly clear that Iran will get nuclear weapons. We should start discussions in that framework. The recent brilliant decision of the Iranian elite–who is not only more ruthless but strategically smarter than Western leadership–to pick a national security insider, who is at best a slightly moderate extremist, as president guarantees it.

The question is only: when will Iran get nuclear weapons? The evidence seems to show that this is several years away. (It would be interesting if that development was too late to affect Syria’s civil war, and such will probably happen.)

Why will Iran certainly get nukes?

First, the West isn’t going to take strong enough action to stop it because the alternatives are deemed–perhaps accurately so–too risky. No surgical Israeli strike is going to stop it, and Obama will never support such a strike. Of course, there is a great deal of indifference about the potential victims and lots of greed about the money to be made from Iran. The sanctions may seem tough, but there are more holes than cheese.

After Ahmadinejad, though, there is perhaps a better money-making climate. His successor will further soothe Western willingness to battle on this nuclear issue.

And of course they just don’t care that much about potential genocide in Israel.

Second, with international support at a low point, the logistical difficulties, and a U.S. president who is incredibly reluctant, Israel is not going to attack Iran to stop it from getting nuclear weapons. What Israel should and will do is to make clear it will attack Iran if there is any reason to believe that Tehran might launch nuclear weapons. It will build up a multilayer defensive and offensive system.

This is not mere passive containment but would mean assured massive retaliation.

Note that there is more than one potential victim of Iran’s nuclear weapons. People, including the Israelis, talk a lot about Israel. Yet the Sunni Arab states are increasingly involved in shooting situations with Iranian proxies. Unlike Israel, they won’t do anything and perhaps can’t, except to beg the United States to take strong action. But the U.S. won’t do so.

And of course everyone can just hope everything will turn out all right.

A rare piece of good news, however, is that before the “Arab Spring,” it was conceivable that Iran might become leader or hegemon of the Arabic-speaking world. Israel-bashing was an important tool to do so. Now the Sunni Muslims have their own successful–even U.S.-backed!–Muslim Brotherhood movement. They not only don’t need Iran any more, they fight against Tehran.

Pushed on the defensive with more limited prospects–and knowing the Israel card won’t work–Tehran has lots less incentive to stake its survival on that issue. The nuclear weapons arsenal isn’t intended for a big bang to get revenge on Israel, it’s intended to keep the current regime in power against a growing number of enemies.

Put bluntly, Iran won’t waste its nuclear weapons on Israel or, as they might put it in Tehran, to give Israel an “excuse” to attack Iran. No pile of quotes from Iranian leaders to the contrary changes anything.
The key factor is not an appeal to the “international community” to protect Israel. Israel’s power rests precisely in old-fashioned credibility and deterrence:

Only Israel can credibly destroy the Islamic regime.  And the Islamic regime in Iran knows that. 
 
Israel was so important in Iranian verbal declarations precisely because Israel could at one time be turned into a card that strengthened Iran’s appeal with the Arabs and the Sunni. Iran certainly had very few other cards. But the Sunni and Arabs don’t care about this, given the big change of the last two years. The Israel card–as shown by the Syrian regime’s failure with it–is worthless.

Note that while Iran has been the leading sponsor of international terrorism and poured invective out against Israel, Iran did not notably take any material action against Israel beyond terror attacks and its sponsorship of Hizballah, Hamas, and Syria–which were its allies at the time. Compared to Arab efforts in the second half of the twentieth century, this was not very much.

In other words, against Israel, the Tehran regime talked a big game but did relatively little.

On other issues, too, Iran did not act like a country bent on suicide. Against its Arab enemies, it did not take considerable risks. Iran could wage a proxy war against America in Iraq, because the United States didn’t do very much about it.

All of the above in no way discounts an Iranian threat. Yes, of course, Iran sponsored terrorism and sought to gain influence and to spread revolution. Yet it did not attack a single country in open terms of warfare. Remember, Iran was invaded by Iraq. And when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself was persuaded that the United States was entering the war against him, he quickly ended it, though he said that doing so was like eating snakes and scorpions; but that was necessary to preserve the regime.

Iran is the kind of aggressor who was once described by Winston Churchill as a thief who went down the street rattling doors to find one that was open.

Second, Iran sought to defend itself by threatening antagonists with total destruction and by obtaining the ultimate deterrence, nuclear weapons. This does not mean one should sympathize with Tehran since, after all, it sought nuclear weapons to ensure its defense while it continued aggressive policies.

Iran can also complain about American encirclement. Of course, if it did not follow the policies that were being practiced, there wouldn’t be a U.S. motive for any such efforts. The point, however, is that the claim that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons so it could destroy itself by attacking Israel is just not demonstrated.

Thus, Iran is not a demonic, crazed, kamikaze country. It is simply a typical aggressor who wants to have insurance against having to pay the price of such continued activity. North Korea and Pakistan sought nuclear weapons for the same reason, and it is working for them.

Let’s approach the issue in another way. Suppose Iran helped the Syrian regime win the civil war. Would the danger to Israel be increased? No, certainly it would not be from a nuclear standpoint. Assad would reestablish control over a wrecked and tottering country where the damage would take years to rebuild. But the problem is that Iran will be more secure in defending itself which means it will be more aggressive, but now with nuclear weapons.

The use of nuclear weapons loses whatever the possession of nuclear weapons gains.

Iran would be relieved at the Syrian regime’s survival but would not be better able to carry on a (nuclear) war against Israel. The Sunnis would be prepared to cooperate with the United States against Iran and even, covertly, with Israel up to a point. Indeed, the ability of Sunni Islamists to attack Israel would be reduced because of their obsession with the principal danger.

Again, I don’t want Assad to win in Syria. I believe that Iran is a threat. I think Iran will succeed in getting nuclear weapons. I don’t think the Tehran regime consists of lunatics who cannot wait to immolate themselves in a fiery funeral pyre. They want to stay in power for a long time. Israel has an alternative of preemption if necessary. But the United States will never help stop Iran’s getting of nukes.

This analysis should be conducted in a sober fashion. I believe, indeed I see clearly, that Israeli policymakers understand these issues. We should remember that Iran is not an insane state and that there are threats other than Iran in the Middle East.

The problem is not that Iran is eager to use nuclear weapons but that the Obama Administration is unlikely to apply containment properly and credibly. And then its version of containment might fail.

Will Hezbollah Terrorism Save Israel from Delusional Peace with PA?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

“All of Palestine, from the sea to the river, must return to its people,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in Beirut Friday night in a rousing and inciting speech against the American-led “peace process.”

“No one in the world, no king, prince, sayyid, leader, president or state has the right to give up a single grain of sand of Palestine’s land,” he stated adamantly.

Supporters of Israel “want us Shia to exit the Arab-Israeli conflict and to get Iran out of the conflict,” Nasrallah declared in his public speech in 11 months.

“Call us infidels, call us terrorists, call us criminals, say what you want, try and kill us anywhere, target us any way you want, we are the Shia of Ali and we shall not abandon Palestine.”

His speech came one week after the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, under the guiding if not manipulative hand of the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama has out-maneuvered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into accepting a process that has an end goal of forcing Israel to accept virtually all of chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ demands, with the probable exclusion of allowing the immigration of several million foreign Arabs claiming Israel as home.

Nasrallah’s threatening speech indicates Israel may be in the macabre situation of Hezbollah terrorist attacks thwarting a so-called peace agreement that would leave Israel dependent on written promises to act as a security from a new armed Arab state within Israel’s current borders.

A deal between Israel and the PA would make the United States a renewed power in the Middle East and would pose a direct threat to Hezbollah.

“Americans and Qataris have tried to push the compass away from this priority (Israel) by inventing other enemies” to incite Muslims against Shi’ite, Nasrallah said in his speech,

“There are a lot of terms being used deliberately against the Shia, and the side standing behind this language hopes that the Shias will curse and insult our Sunni colleagues,” he said. “But the two groups are on the same side, they are both fasting during Ramadan.”

Nasrallah spoke Friday on International Quds ([Jerusalem] Day, devoting a large part of his speeches to his harshest-ever descriptions of Israel and echoing remarks once made by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel is “a cancerous growth” that must be eliminated, according to Nasrallah.

“The only solution is to destroy it without giving it the opportunity to surrender,” he added, For good measure, he tossed in the United States as a prop for his declared war on any American-led agreement between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“We say to America, Israel, Great Britain and their regional tools, we say to every enemy and friend … we in Hezbollah will not abandon Palestine and the people of Palestine,” Nasrallah stated.

The Next Bloodbath : Lebanon

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

During the past two years we have become accustomed to the seemingly endless bloodbath in Syria, which has become a boxing ring for the many forces that are tearing it apart, while tearing its citizens apart in the process as well. But now the flames of the Arab Spring are threatening its western neighbor, Lebanon, the most democratic Arab or Muslim state in the modern Middle East. The Lebanese political system, which is built on a delicate balance among many sects and political bodies, has been directly influenced in the past two years by the events in Syria, because several Lebanese bodies are deeply involved in the Syrian tragedy.

Many have written about Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, and one may assume that this involvement – together with the terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria – was the basis for the EU’s decision to declare the military arm of Hezbollah as a terror organization. Hezbollah is the target of harsh criticism these days, both by Sunni groups that identify with the rebels against Asad in Syria, and by the Shi’ites who fear that the Syrian Sunnis will bring its revenge to Lebanon. However, Nasrallah does not listen to his opposition and continues to carry out Teheran’s instructions to help Asad survive at any price, even at the price of the lives of hundreds of Hezbollah fighters.

The Sunnis do their part too, by trying to attack Hezbollah in it’s own domain, in Lebanon. To date we have seen missile strikes on Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut, which is the Hezbollah stronghold, as well as a car bomb that exploded there in mid-June. Supporters of Syria are also targets of Hezbollah’s opposition: In the beginning of the week of July 21, a Syrian journalist of Kurdish extraction named Mohammed Dhirar Jammu, a supporter of the Asad regime, was murdered in the Lebanese city of Sarafand.

But lately reports have begun to appear in the Arabic media that a new Sunni front, the Lebanese branch of the Syrian group Jabhat al-Nusra, is steadily strengthening and consolidating in Lebanon. Jabhat al-Nusra, which also has branches in Iraq, is part of the global system of al-Qaeda-inspired organizations that translate into practical terms the teachings of bin Laden, which are based on the ideology of his mentor, Palestinian Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.

First of all, the full, official name of the organization is “Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahal al-Sham” – “The Defensive Front for the People of Greater Syria.” The term “Greater Syria” expresses the organization’s rejection of the division of the modern Middle East into modern states – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel – because they were founded by Christian-European colonialism in order to serve its own interests. The “al-Sham” region includes West Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Land of Israel, which the Arabs call “Filastin”. Therefore, Israel must keep a watchful eye on this organization because it is theoretically possible that the Muslims in Israel will want to open branches of the organization in Israel as well. And this actually almost happened, but then was blocked when Sheikh Nazem Abu Islim of Nazareth was arrested, tried and imprisoned.

Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon

The Christian writer Luna Khuri describes the structure of the Lebanese branch of Jabhat al-Nusra in the Elaph Internet site. The head of the organization is Muhammad al-Rish from Tripoli, whose brother, Samer abd al-Rahim al-Rish, was one of the leaders of the Jund al-Sham organization (Greater Syrian Army) and was killed last month in the battle of the Crusader fortress Krak des Chevaliers, near Homs. Muhammad al-Rish’s immediate task is to defend the budding development of Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon from attacks by the Lebanese military, which are carried out against it by instructions from Hassan Nasrallah.

In mid-June of this year, the Lebanese army eliminated the Sunni Salafi sheikh, Ahmad al-Asir in Sidon, and captured a truck full of military equipment near the town of Arsal, in Lebanon’s  Bekaa Valley. This town is apparently the logistical center of the Jabhat al-Nusra organization in Lebanon, because of its location on the border of Syria and Lebanon. Its local commander in the town was Khaled Hunayd, who was killed by agents of Lebanese military intelligence. The present commander took a lesson from this event, so he now operates incognito, heading a group that includes approximately 200 fighters under the spiritual leadership of Sheikh Mustapha al-Hujairi – called Abu Takia (the turbaned one), who issued a fatwa – a religious legal ruling – that allows killing soldiers of the Lebanese army.

The ‘Arab Spring’ Culminating in a Bloody ‘Sushi’

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Among scholars of the Middle East, the term “sushi” is used as shorthand for the expression, “Sunni-Shi’a.” Anyone interested in the history of Islam knows that the seeds of the Sunni-Shi’a conflict were planted the moment Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, closed his eyes forever, in the year 632 CE, without leaving a mechanism for choosing a successor to lead the nation. The conflict that developed as a result, has become an open, bloody battle over the years, and it has been a thread in the fabric of Islamic history throughout all of its 1400 years. This conflict is being expressed on many levels: personal, familial, political and religious. The battle between the two factions of Islam is “for the whole pot,” and it continues to this very day.

In modern times, attempts have been made to bridge over the conflict and to find common ground between the factions of Islam, in order to create a sense of calm between the factions, on the basis of which it will be possible to manage states such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where the two factions live side by side, Shi’ites and Sunnis.

Even the Egyptian Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the Mufti (religious arbiter) of the Emirate of Qatar, has spoken and written about the need to find a way to “bring the schools of thought closer together,” as if Shi’a is another legitimate school of thought, in addition to the four Sunni schools: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali. In the good, old days, they used to call the Shi’a faction the “Jafari school,” after one of the fathers of Shi’a.

The rapprochement year between the Sunni and Shi’a was 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah managed to create the impression that it had won a “divine victory” over Israel. After all, Hasan Nasrallah had survived despite 33 days of heavy Israeli attacks, some of which were aimed at him personally. Hezbollah was compared favorably with the armies of the Arab countries, which had failed in all of their attempts to destroy the state of Israel, and were defeated by Israel’s army in only six days in 1967.

As a result of the Second Lebanon War, Hasan Nasrallah declared in every public arena—especially on his al-Manar (“the beacon”) television channel—that the victory belongs to the whole Arab and Islamic nation, creating for himself the image of being the only leader in the Middle East doing the right thing, ignoring the objections of the infidel West and its paltry servants, meaning most of the rulers of the Arab states. Bashar Assad declared that Hezbollah’s way is the only way to fight and the only method that can defeat the Zionist enemy.

During the war, in the summer of 2006, great crowds across the the Middle East erupted in emotional demonstrations where pictures of Hasan Nasrallah were held high, and those who wanted to make a point also carried pictures of Bashar Assad, the great supporter of Hezbollah. It was convenient for everyone—including religious figures such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi—to ignore the fact that Hezbollah was a Shi’ite group, backed by Iran, because if the Sunni Hamas movement ended up in the same boat as Hezbollah, what evil could possibly have sprung from the Lebanese “al-Muqawama wal-mumana’a” (“Resistance and Defense”) movement, which supports all of the “liberation movements” regardless of religious sect?

The al-Jazeera channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement, embraced Hezbollah and dedicated many hours of positive programming to it, and in many Islamic societies—including Israel’s—more than a few people crossed over from the Sunni side of Islam to the Shi’a. Only a small group of Saudi religious authorities were not overcome by the waves of sympathy for Hezbollah. They always had a jaundiced view of the Shi’ite dominance of Lebanon, as well as its influence on the collective Arab discourse.

But enthusiasm for Hezbollah has not survived the storm buffeting the Middle East ever since December 2010, known romantically in the media as “the Arab Spring,” as if presently in the Middle East the birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the butterflies are fluttering, people are smiling and there is an air of rising optimism.

Who’s More Dangerous: Sunni or Shia Islamists?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

There is a passionate, but somewhat academic debate, over the following issue: Which is the greater threat, the Sunni Muslim Islamists (Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza Strip, and perhaps soon to be Syria) or the Shia Muslim Islamists (Iran, Lebanon, at the moment still Syria)?

I would say the answer would be the Iran-led Shia bloc. But two reservations: the margin isn’t that big and it also depends on the specific place and situation.

To begin with, Iran is still the greatest strategic threat in the region. It is moving as fast as it can toward nuclear weapons and it is still the main sponsor of terrorism. At the moment, it is still, too, the most likely state that would initiate an anti-Western war, though that possibility is smaller than often believed. It has lots of money.

What has gone largely unnoticed is that it is almost the middle of 2013 and the Obama Administration has barely begun negotiations with Iran that will probably drag on without success for a year or more. In addition, after Iran’s June elections, which will presumably pick a radical who is less obviously extremist than current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the U.S. government and mass media will probably proclaim a new era of Iranian moderation.

Iran is also the main backer of Islamist revolution in Bahrain (where it has failed); Lebanon (where its Hizballah clients are the strongest force); and Syria (where its regime ally is in serious trouble).

One final point is that Tehran is having some success in drawing the Iraqi (Shia) government into its orbit. Baghdad is certainly cooperating with Iran on defending the Syrian regime, though one should not exaggerate how much Iraq is in Iran’s pocket. At any rate, nobody would want the Iraqi regime to be overthrown by the al Qaeda terrorist opposition.

So a strong case can be made that Iran is the greatest threat in the region.

On the other hand, however, a Great Wall of Sunnism has been built to prevent the extension of Iranian influence except for Lebanon. The Sunni bloc contains few Shia Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood, the even more radical Salafists, and other Sunni Muslims (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, for example) have said that the Shias are a worse threat than Israel.

Perhaps the fear of Iran provides some common cause with the West. But this is also a scary proposition since the Obama Administration’s promotion of Sunni Islamism (Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and even Turkey) could use this point as an excuse. Perhaps America could be said to be building a united front against Iran, but at what price? Turning over much of the Arab world to repressive, anti-American, and anti-Semitic Sunni Islamism as Christians flee?

There is also another weakness of Sunni Islamism, however, that also makes it seem relatively less threatening. In contrast to Iran, the Sunni Islamists do not have a wealthy patron comparable to Iran. They can depend on money from Qatar and to some extent from Libya, but they have fewer resources. Sometimes the Saudis will help Sunni Islamists, but only if they tone down their warlike and anti-Western actions. There is no big banker for Sunni Islamist destabilization of the Middle East.

Equally, they do not have a reliable source of arms, in contrast to the Shia who have Iran and also at times Russia. True, in Syria the Sunni rebels have U.S. backing to get weaponry and arms from Libya and elsewhere paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Yet Syria is an exceptional case. The Saudis are not going to finance the Muslim Brotherhood and its ambitions. Bahrain has declared Shia Hizballah to be a terrorist group even while the European Union refuses to do so.

So arguably one could say that the Shia Islamists and Iran are a bigger danger. But a second danger is a U.S. or Western policy to promote Sunni Islamism as a way to counter the Shia, a strategy that has intensified regional dangers and the suffering of Arab peoples. Then, too, there’s the fact that al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamist organization, and the al Qaeda forces are getting stronger in Syria.

One would have to be very foolish to want to see Sunni Islamism make further gains, to overthrow the monarchies in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Bahrain, as well as the Algerian regime. One would also have to be foolish–but here the Obama Administration is so–to want to see Muslim Brotherhood regimes succeed in Egypt, Tunisia, the Gaza Strip, and Syria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/whos-more-dangerous-sunni-or-shia-islamists/2013/05/20/

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