The Middle East always has been in turbulence in varying degrees of intensity for more than half a century. However in the beginning of 2012, the Middle East is virtually sitting on a gunpowder keg which could explode any time not only drawing the region in a bloodbath but also impacting heavily on the global security environment in a big way. In evidence today is the growing confrontation between Iran and the United States and Israel which has the danger of breaking out in an armed conflict. Also in evidence is a virtual civil war like situation in Syria where the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are fanning the flames to bring about the regime change of the incumbent President Assad.
All the Gulf Kingdoms are ruled by Sunni Arab monarchs but within borders of each of these kingdoms are Shia Muslims majorities residing who are under spiritual and political influence of Iran.
Middle East turbulence therefore today is as much a product of external involvement of outside powers as it is of internal sectarian divides. Iran is a monolithic Shia Muslim state, in fact the world’s most largest and powerful Shia state, is the example of a nation which has come in the military crosshairs of external powers like the United States and Israel who perceive that Iran’s self-professed civilian nuclear program is actually geared towards creation of a nuclear weapons arsenal.
A potential nuclear weaponized Iran is perceived as a grave threat by United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. United States perceives that Iran armed with nuclear weapons would upset the regional balance of power crafted by the United States. The United States also fears that with Iran’s nuclear weapons would set up a nuclear weapons arms race in the Middle East.
Israel feels existentially threatened with Ian in possession of nuclear weapons and its monopoly of nuclear weapons as the sole nation in the Middle East. It also fears that an already adversarial Iran sworn to wipe out Israel would become that much more aggressive.
In the case of Saudi Arabia its opposition to Iran arises out of a tussle for regional leadership. Saudi Arabia with its stupendous oil riches looks upon itself as the regional power coupled with its status as the Custodian of Holy Places of Islam. But Saudi Arabia seemingly is unaware that it has no natural attributes of power status like large population and military manpower base. It depends for its security on the United States and Pakistan.
Turkey till recently enjoyed good relations with Iran but Turkey’s own regional leadership power status aspirations seem to have overtaken what it earlier felt on Iran, or was it just using Iran for political signalling to United States when USA was not happy with Turkey over various issues.
Syria stands drawn into the regional power games as it enjoys very good relations with Iran and this factor coupled with Syrian hold and influence over the Hezbollah in Lebanon alongside Iran poses grave military threats to the security of Israel. Both the United States and Israel coupled with Turkey and Saudi Arabia wish to see Syria strategically de-linked from Iran.
In the Middle East today what one is also witnessing superimposed over the regional power-play is the struggle between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, particularly in the Gulf Region oil-rich Arab monarchical kingdoms. All these Gulf Kingdoms are ruled by Sunni Arab monarchs but within borders of each of these kingdoms are Shia Muslims majorities residing who are under spiritual and political influence of Iran.
So what does one have overall in the Middle East is an explosive mix of regional power struggles interwoven with religious sectarian strife, political discontent and political suppression all primed to be ignited by one little incendiary spark. This incendiary spark most likely would arise from the intense brinkmanship between the United States and Israel on one side and Iran on the other.