Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Spreading the Discord

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Spreading the Discord

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me this paragraph from Wednesday's New York Times:

"The reality of the current situation is that we are approaching an open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region," said Emad Gad, a specialist in international relations at the government-financed Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "And Egypt will also be a part of it as a part of the Sunni axis. No one will be able to avoid or escape it."

You can read the whole article, but I'll tell you right now it doesn't get any less bleak. The Prez and his advisors are looking to escalate their war and, with Bush's threatening language toward Iran and Syria, possibly expand it beyond the borders of Iraq. They should be careful what they wish for.

The sectarian divisions between Sunnis and Shiites are not finding themselves limited to the various factions in Iraq. Shiite Iran and the government it influences in Iraq are making their Sunni neighbors--such nations as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan--extremely nervous. Those neighbors are starting to use some muscle to reinstate their influence.

Now, fueled by state controlled media in many Sunni Muslim states, a divide, or at least an estrangement, is growing across the Middle East between Sunni Muslims and Shiites. Egyptians, for example, are inundated nearly daily with headlines, commentaries and television reports alleging Shiite transgressions.

An Egyptian-government controlled satellite service, called Nilesat, has been broadcasting across the Arab world Al Zawraa, a television station that shows what is billed as heroic footage of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, American soldiers being killed and wounded, and unflattering images of Shiite leaders.

"Raising the ugly face of Shiites, expanding Iranian influence in the region," read a headline in a recent edition of Rose el-Youssef, a pro-government Egyptian newspaper.

In December, a top religious leader close to the Saudi royal family, Abdul Rahman al-Barak, said that Shiites, whom he called rejectionists, were worse than Jews or Christians.

"By and large, rejectionists are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels," he wrote.

These differences have been present in Islam for centuries, but Bush's bumbling around in Iraq has exacerbated them, brought them back to the surface. The Prez's decisions about Iraq are based almost exclusively on our domestic politics, as if there's no awareness that those choices have consequences around the world. As the animosity between Sunnis and Shiites expands outside of Iraq, will the fighting it inspires spread to other countries as well? The sectarian violence can draw other governments into the morass currently headquartered in Iraq without cooler heads to calm things down. Does anybody have any ideas about where those cooler heads might come from?


At 7:42 AM, January 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where there's a head there's hope.

At 9:49 AM, January 19, 2007, Anonymous Jason Fliegel said...

I'm not entirely sure at this point whether a regional war is a feature or a bug. It may just be that at some point, someone decided that the best outcome for Iraq was a Muslim-on-Muslim war that distracts Iran, Syria, al Qaeda, and the Iraqi militants from their attacks on the west.


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