Saudi Arabia is heating up the Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. I think the U.S. government should think long and hard about letting the Saudis draw Americans further into it.
The Saudi Arabian government recently executed 47 opponents of the regime, including radical Sunni jihadists and the Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
I think this means that the Saudi government feels threatened by the radical Sunni jihadist movements, and wants to redirect their rage outward by stepping up the conflict with Iran and with Shiites generally.
Either Sunni jihadists are killed fighting in Syria and other places, or Saudi Arabia’s enemies—Iran and its ally Syria—are weakened.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East involved families who’ve lived side-by-side in peace for decades. Why are they at each others’ throats now?
I thinks that it is because the Sunnis and Shiites are used as proxies in a struggle for political power among Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Iran, Turkey and Israel.
And this is overlaid by an economic struggle for control of oil and gas resources and pipeline routes. It so happens that Shiites, although a minority in the Muslim world as a whole, are a majority in the oil and gas regions.
And all this has been made worse by the murderous and ineffective intervention of my own country, the United States.
But the tragic conflict also is kept going by the need of the Saudi royal family to appease Wahhabi jihadist clerics.
The worst of the jihadists are the leaders of the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh). I don’t think the United States is seriously threatened by ISIS, but I would like to see this hateful movement vanish from the map of history.
I’m not sure, though, what the United States government can usefully do. Given the hundreds of thousands of people who have died as the result of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, I think the U.S. government has zero credibility in fighting terrorism—assuming that fighting terrorism is the goal, and not military hegemony or control of pipeline routes.
A Muslim cleric’s lasting legacy of peace by the Christian Science Monitor editorial board. Evidently Nimr al-Nimr was an outstanding human being, an opponent of political violence and not a proxy for any government.
Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia’s biggest mistake by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.
Saudi Arabia a Force for Stability? Dream On by William Boardman for Reader-Supported News [added 1/8/2016] (Hat tip to expatriate Jack)
One Map That Explains the Dangerous Saudi-Iranian Conflict by Jon Schwartz for The Intercept.
Sunni-Shiite Tensions Are More About Politics, Power and Privilege Than Theology by Shireen Hunter, director of the Carnegie Project on Reformist Islam at Georgetown University
I am not an expert on the Middle East. I don’t speak Arabic or any of the other Middle East languages. I have never traveled to the Middle East. I have never engaged in a meaningful conversation about the Middle East with anybody from that region.
The reason I feel emboldened to write about the region is that so many people I know overlook obvious facts, and instead accept the U.S. government’s version of events at face value (at least when it is controlled by their political party). I welcome comments, especially from those who are better informed than me.