Battleground Middle East: The Shia, the Sunni and the Kurd
By Mohsin Raza Malik
May 13, 2015
Following the Saudi-led ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ against Houthi militants in Yemen, things are rapidly deteriorating in this already-troubled part of Asia, the Middle East. As a matter of fact, this region has now become the most volatile, chaotic and turbulent part of the world. This is the region where the US has proactively fought its so-called War on Terror following the 9/11 incident. This is the region which has also become an active theatre of many complex Fourth Generation wars, participated by violent non-state actors like Al-Qaida, ISIS and PKK etc. This is the region which has experienced many instant political revolutions in the name of the ‘Arab Spring’. Now, it is being feared that the proxy war between two arch rival countries in this region will turn into a full-fledged armed conflict on the issue of Yemen.
There have also been certain conspiracy theories relating to the intended agenda of some international power players to redraw the geographical boundaries of many countries in accordance with its desired goals in this region. Sometimes, these conspiracy theories appear close to reality. Presently, in line with these theories, we can observe a clear division of Iraq into three ethnic-cum-sectarian parts; the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurd. Aimed at improving Arab-Israeli relations and seeking a pacific settlement of the Palestine issue, there has once been a so-called Middle East peace process. But, in the New Middle East, Iran’s alleged nuclear program has become the only major issue that is a “grave threat to the peace and stability of this region”.
The 1967 Arab-Israeli war was instrumental in determining the nature and dynamics of intra-Arab and Arab-Israeli relations in this region for the next four decades. Following the shocking defeat suffered by the Arab countries in this war, these countries somehow got united against the state of Israel. A multilateral Muslim forum like OIC was formed primarily to safeguard the interests of Arab states in the Middle East region. The next important event in the Middle East was the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which substantially influenced the politics in this region. Post-revolution Iran took a hardline position against the Jewish state and the imperialist policies of the US in the world.
Iran also actively raised a voice for the Palestinians rights and their freedom. To express solidarity with the Palestinian people, the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan is observed as the Al-Quds day in Iran every year. Palestinians are predominately Sunni Arabs. It is a great paradox that an Ajam (Non-Arab) has become the strongest proponent for purely an Arab cause while most of these Arab countries are standing with Israel to oppose Iran. At present, the GCC countries and Israel are somewhat strategic allies as far as their Iran policy is concerned. Iran has paid a heavy price for its anti-Israel and anti-US stance. It has been fighting a bloody war with Iraq for almost eight years. It is facing worst type of economic sanctions for many years.
The 9/11 incident provided the casus belli for the so-called War on Terror in this region. The US got a sort of license to kill after this incident. On this very pretext, the US has invaded Afghanistan, and justified its military manoeuvring in Iraq. This incident has also legitimised its physical presence in this region indefinitely. The 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war was another crucial event in this region. It was an asymmetrical war in which a small militia comprised of few thousands fighters inflicted a humiliating defeat on the greatest military power in this region. Consequently, the Israeli Chief of Staff had to resign over this. It should not be forgotten that all the Arab countries were jointly defeated by Israel in just six days in 1967, but the Hezbollah could not be defeated by Israel in this 34 day long war. As Hezbollah is a pro-Iran Shia militant outfit, therefore the Iran-Israel confrontation was substantially escalated after this war. Israel started considering Iran and all pro-Iran elements in this region as the greatest threat to its very existence.
The revolutionary waves of so-called Arab Spring were also another great destabilising factor in the Middle East. It primarily effected the countries of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Ironically, all these revolutions overthrew only the Anti-US regimes in this region. The pro-US GCC countries have somehow managed to save themselves from theses revolutionary movements. Owing to the strong opposition posed by Russia and Iran, the US had to give up its plan to topple the pro-Iran government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria through military force in 2013. However, as soon as US abandoned this plan, there emerged ISIS, the militant outfit to accomplish the same objective in Syria and Iraq. The sudden rise of this large, well-equipped and organised outfit raised my eyebrows.
The very concept of Jihad has undergone significant transformation in the Middle East region following the 9/11 incident. Previously, the operations of Jihad were confined only to disputed areas like Palestine. Now, a lot of militants are readily killing the Muslim in these areas in the name of Jihad. They are destroying schools, attacking innocent civilians and demolishing mosques and holy sites. They are trying to marginalise Iran which is the only active anti-Semitic force in this region. Ironically, we couldn’t witness anything as jihad against the unabated brutal military incursions by Israel on the innocent Muslims in Gaza last year. Nor did the GCC countries form an overnight alliance against Israel to protect the Gazan Muslims, as they readily did in the current Yemen crisis.
There has been a significant paradigm shift in the pattern of Arab-Israeli relations in the Middle East. The previous Arab versus Israel model has been replaced by another Arab-plus-Israel versus Iran model in this region. The OIC has become a nonfunctional and toothless body which cannot play any positive role in setting things right here. Saudi-Arabia has been instrumental in transforming the very concept of ‘Pan Islamism’ into the ‘Pan-Gulfism’ by replacing the OIC with the organisation like GCC as far as this particular region is concerned. Similarly, owing to mutual conflicts and differences among its permanent members, the UN can hardly play its mandated institutional role to stabilise this region. So far, it has been a silent spectator in the current Yemen crisis. Since the instability of this region has a direct impact on international peace and security, therefore there should be some serious and sincere efforts to bring durable and sustainable peace in this region.