In Syria it is basically a West-versus-Russia strategic struggle converted into a Sunni-Shia war, in which the Sunnis i.e. Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt (up to a point) and much of north Africa – have aligned themselves against the Shias – the Iranians, the Alawites, Hezbollah, and a minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia. No one talks of the oppressed Shia majority in Bahrain under a Sunni ruler. Sunni Uighurs and Sunni Chechens are now getting on the job training and experience in terrorism in Syria. So are many European Muslims.
Use of terror and terrorists was all planned and executed seriously from 1979. Let us roll back our memories.
When questioned if he had any regrets in supporting Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan during 1980s, Zbigniew Brzezinski in a January 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, replied, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” “Nonsense −” responded Brzezinski when asked “If Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.” Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser.
To Le Nouvel Observateur’s query, “When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?” Brzezinski replied, “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?
“The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
Brzezinski admitted that on July 3, 1979, unknown to the public and the Congress President Carter secretly authorized $500 million to create an international terrorist movement that would spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia to destabilize the Soviet Union. This was called ‘Operation Cyclone’.
“Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means.” − Patrick J. Buchanan
“The United States has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly,” and is thus “partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon.” − Robert Drefuss.
Hugely wealthy and petrodollar rich Saudi Arabia’s clout under an upstart and medieval Saud dynasty aligned with most obscure and backward Wahabism can be felt everywhere. Its wealth and religious support owing to its being the Guardians of holy cities of Mecca and Medina to US led West in Afghanistan helped unravel the Soviet Union. Pakistan and most Sunni Muslim states depend on its largesse and suffer from collateral damage from its evil designs. Pakistan is now a failed state under the guns of terrorists and opium addiction (which has penetrated India’s Punjab too). Over more than two decades, Saudi Arabia has lavished around $100 billion or even more on the worldwide promotion of the violent, intolerant and crudely puritanical Wahhabist sect of Islam that the ruling royal family promotes abroad.
No one dare criticize it.
Vancouver Sun recently reported
“The Saudis began exporting Wahhabism in the early 1970s when the country’s oil wealth began growing at an ever-increasing rate.
The amount the Saudi royal family, both by government donations and the generosity of individual princes, now lavishes on Wahhabist schools, colleges, mosques, Islamic centers and the missionary work of fundamentalist imams around the world is extraordinary.
In 2003, a United States Senate committee on terrorism heard testimony that in the previous 20 years Saudi Arabia had spent $87 billion on promoting Wahhabism worldwide. This included financing 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges and 2,000 madrassas (religious schools).
Various estimates put the amount the Saudi government spends on these missionary institutions as up to $3 billion a year.
This money smothers the voices of moderate Muslims and the poison flows into every Muslim community worldwide.
Key figures in the September 2001 attacks on the United States were radicalized at mosques in Germany.
Britain is now reckoned by some to be the worst breeding ground anywhere for violent Muslim fundamentalists.
Indian newspapers recently reported Saudi Arabia has a massive $35-billion program to build mosques and religious schools across South Asia, where there are major Muslim communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the divided territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Indian police and Central Intelligence officers were quoted as saying their information came from American intelligence agencies
There are unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia and members of the royal family have donated millions of dollars to fund mosques and Islamic centers in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Quebec.
The money, and the emphasis on Wahhabist teaching that comes with it, has caused sharp divisions among Canadian Muslims.”
Saudis and other Gulf states, protected by USA, Saudis since Roosevelt’s commitment in 1930s waste money on arms (in 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait, no defense was put up; the Kuwaiti ruling elite got into their automobiles and crossed over into Saudi Arabia).
Samir Amin talked to Ahram Online (April 2013) on future of Egypt’s revolution. (Samir, now 80, is a leftist intellectual, who lives in Dakar (Senegal); whom the author met a few times during his assignment there, 1978-81).
On real income growth in the Arab region, Samir said;
“At the start, it is important to realize that per capita real income growth in the Arab region in the 70s and 80s was zero, according to statistics published by the World Bank, while in comparison it was seven percent in East Asia, five percent in Southern Asia, and 3.5 percent in South America,” states Amin, contextualizing Egypt’s revolution two years on. Only Sub-Saharan Africa had similar zero growth in this period.
“Real per capita growth in the Arab region remained by far the lowest in the world in the 90s and during the past 10 years, and this includes economic performance in oil rich countries like Iraq, Algeria, Libya and even Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.” Indeed, during this period the region ranked below Sub-Saharan Africa.
The “social disaster” that resulted from this situation, according to Amin, was primarily the result of Arab adoption of neoliberal economic policies (privatization, reduction of state subsidies, trade liberalization, monopoly of multinationals, deregulation of the financial market, etc.). “The uprising in the region was no coincidence, then,” Amin asserts.
“These developments were not due to dictatorship but [were primarily a reaction] to the neoliberal logic implemented over the years,” Amin says. The uprisings, however, both in Egypt and Tunisia, did not manage to change these policies, and thus did not bring about an actual change in the regime, at least yet.
(My Note; How Allah bestowed oil wealth has been criminally wasted and has only benefitted the Western nations and miniscule local ruling Arab dynasties and elites)
US Led Wars on Afghanistan and Iraq
After the collapse of the Berlin War and the dismantling of USSR and the Soviet empire in East Europe and influence elsewhere, puffed up by military hardware testosterone and hubris Washington first bombed and invaded Afghanistan without UN sanction and then invaded Iraq in 2003 in spite of UN opposition. The result in cold figures is below;
According to http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/
Number of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq 1,455,590
Number of U.S. Military Personnel Occupation of Iraq 4,801
(It is estimated that up to 80,000 US troops suffer from the ill effects of the war stress and need treatment. Suicide deaths among former GIs is now larger than on the battlefield)
Number of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered in Afghanistan : 3,348
Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan $1,455,259,200,645
However after the disaster in Iraq war at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony − Zbigniew Brzezinski said on February 1, 2007
“It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:
1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.
2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.
See how the military power mad Brzezinski has changed his tune after US and allied forces have been forced to scurry for cover and exit from Afghanistan, the grave yard of another imperial power and the quagmire in Iraq.
The author has written profusely, predicting accurately the outcome of the US led illegal war and brutal occupation since August 2002.
The author feels that in the inability of US ground forces to defeat the resistance in Iraq and the fatalities and treasure wasted its killing field can be compared to sacrifices of the Soviet Union which destroyed 80% of Nazi war machine in WWII. US now did not dare put its boots in Libya earlier and Syria now. Like cowards it can only bomb from the safety of the missiles, jets, helicopters and drones. Who and how will US hold the ground. It may be noted that it were the troops of the northern Alliance which entered Kabul in end 2001. Most Taliban had crossed into the safety of Pakistan, where its leadership resides in Quetta.
Before NATO led aerial destruction began over Libya, reportedly 10,000 people had been killed in the rebellion against Qaddafi, but after the misinterpretation and abuse of the UNSC resolution 1973, the number of Libyans killed has reached 100,000 not including US Amb Stevens and other US operatives. The country has been destroyed, divided and chaos reigns.
Before the crude bully USA (never mind the color of the nominal US ruler controlled by military-Industry Complex, Banksters and other corporate interests) took over from the British following WWII, London created Muslim League in India and Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, later Hamas was created by Israel in Occupied Palestine, to counter nationalist and socialist movements and parties which had struggled to eliminate colonialism and exploitation.
For details on US-Saudi Axis please read The US-Saudi-Wahabi Nexus!
When the powerful US Vice-President Dick Cheney made a rare long haul to Riyadh in November, reportedly it was to create against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a new US led Sunni alliance in the region, composed of the six Gulf Co-operation Council states, pro-US Arab governments in Cairo and Amman and willing NATO allies with covert support from Israel.
On 12 December the New York Times claimed that according to US and Arab diplomats, Cheney was told that Riyadh might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shias if the United States pulled out its troops. The Saudi King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to any diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran and demanded that Washington encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Saudi position reflected fears among USA’s Sunni Arab allies at Tehran’s increasing influence in Iraq with its ally the Lebanese Hezbollah getting the better of Israeli ground forces coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. King Abdullah II of Jordan had earlier expressed concern about the rising Shia influence and warned of the emergence of a Shia crescent from Iran via Syria to Lebanon. Riyadh also warned of the prospect of a Shia dominated Iraq government using its troops against the Sunni population. Saudi Arabia supports a Government of unity in Baghdad. The New York Times added that the Saudi King told Cheney: “if you retreat and it comes to an ethnic cleaning against the Sunnis, we will feel like we are being dragged into the war”.
The long and bloody 1980-88 Iraq- Iran war was basically a Sunni Shia conflict, in which Saddam Hussein was encouraged, supported, financed by all Sunni Arab governments (except Syria), specially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Emirates and Western powers to neutralize the awesome rising Shia power and its aspirations to transform the Islamic world in the wake of the 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini led revolution in Iran. Millions of Iraqi and Iranian Muslims were killed in that war. Compared to that war, the coming Shia-Sunni conflagration, which could be encouraged by a desperate US led West would be a veritable holocaust for the region and Muslims. And Washington could even succeed but it would be a catastrophe for the world including the energy dependent West.
US-Ibn Saud family–Wahabi nexus;
The Saudi state, proclaimed by Abdulaziz in 1932 was in fact the third al-Saud Kingdom. The first Saudi “state” was founded in 1744 by the first great al-Saud leader Muhammad ibn Saud who made the historic alliance with the religious reformer Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, the founder of “Wahabism”. After its defeat by Egyptian forces in 1818, it rose anew in 1822 and survived as the dominant power in central Arabia. Of 14 successions within the al-Saud dynasty between 1744 and 1891, only three were peaceful. The transfer of power now-a-days is more peaceful.
Abdul Aziz was encouraged by the British to take over Mecca and Medina as Sharif Hussain the ruler of Mecca, great grandfather of King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, was not so pliable to the British demands and interests. Remember the Arab revolt led by Sharif Hussein and his sons, Emirs Faisal and Abdullah, as depicted in film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, which helped the British forces under Gen Allenby to defeat the Ottoman forces in the region. So much for the British gratitude! Of course when Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate, Sharif Hussain offered to take over the mantle.
Massive Saudi Arms Purchases;
During 1990 to 2004, Saudi Arabia spent a whopping $268.6 billion dollars on Arms (United Arab Emirates; $38.6 billion with population of 2.6 million.) The Saudi arsenal has more than 1015 Tanks including 315 high quality M1A2s, over 5000+ APCs/ AFVs, 780 artillery pieces, over 2000 anti-tank missile launchers, over 340 high quality combat aircrafts including F15S/C/Ds and Tornados, with 48 Typhoons (Euro-fighter) to be delivered in 2008. On top of this they own over 228 helicopters, 160 training and liaison aircrafts and 51 transport aircrafts. Saudi navy operates over 27 major combat vessels including missile frigates and missile corvette.
Threats from Within;
Actually the threat to Saudi Arabia emanates from within with many attacks by Al Qaeda with large segments of a conservative population sympathetic to its cause. And the threat does not come only from the Jihadists. There are other sources of threat from within the general population. There were rebellions against the House of Saud by various Saudi groups in 1969, 1972, and 1979. Only approved loyal tribes can enter the military. Until late 1980s Pakistan provided a protection force of 11000 to 15000 troops to the Saudi government. After the relocation of US troops from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and elsewhere, the Saudis are again looking to Pakistan for troops as reported in the Financial Times. The military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is old and broad based.
Majority of planes and other equipment is kept in order by Pakistani personnel with whom the Kingdom has very close defense relations. There have been many reports of Pak Saudi cooperation in the nuclear bomb technology. If Sunni Pakistani metallurgist Dr. AQ Khan could peddle nuclear bombs know-how to Libya and Shia Iran − among others − then why not to Saudi Arabia! There have been many such reports in the German media.
It was expected and logical for an imperial power to create divisions, which US has done successfully.
Civil war in Syria
In Syria it is basically a West-versus-Russia conflict converted into a Sunni-Shia struggle, in which the Sunni – the Gulf monarchies, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt (up to a point) and much of north Africa– have aligned themselves against the Shia – the Iranians, the Alawites, Hezbollah, and a minority Shia population in Saudi Arabia. No one talks of the oppressed Shia majority in Bahrain under a Sunni ruler. Sunni Uighurs and Sunni Chechens are getting on the job training in terrorism in Syria. Of course the schism in Islam is as almost old as itself when Prophet Mohammad lay dead and squabbling began to succeed him as Caliph.
We will come to the west ignited and supported Shia–Sunni civil war in Syria, which has divided the Ummah in two groups.
But just to give you an example. When the “brave and courageous US armed forces” (US defense annual expenditure was US$ 600 billion while Iraq could spare only a few billions and its defenses had been weakened if not destroyed by so called operation Provide Comfort with Turkish acquisition. Some brave awe and shock victory? US intelligence had collected addresses of all prominent Iraqi Baath leaders mostly Sunni and handed them over to Iraq’s Shia groups to take revenge (The Hindu Muslim conflict was also ignited and supported by the departing British colonial power and creating a division of Hindustan in 1947. The enmity created still persists).
What Russian President Vladimir Putin told Obama, Britain’s David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande face-to-face at the recent Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland is nothing less than gripping? Examples:
Putin addressing the table: “You want President Bashar al-Assad to step down? Look at the leaders you’ve made in the Middle East in the course of what you have dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’.”
Putin addressing Obama, Cameron and Hollande: “You want Russia to abandon Assad and his regime and go along with an opposition whose leaders don't know anything except issuing fatwas declaring people heretics, and whose members - who come from a bunch of different countries and have multiple orientations – don’t know anything except how to slaughter people and eat human flesh.”
Putin addressing Obama directly: “Your country sent its army to Afghanistan in the year 2001 on the excuse that you are fighting the Taliban and the al-Qaeda organization and other fundamentalist terrorists whom your government accused of carrying out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. And here you are today making an alliance with them in Syria. And you and your allies are declaring your desire to send them weapons. And here you have Qatar in which you [the US] have your biggest base in the region and in the territory of that country the Taliban are opening a representative office.”
The best part is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel then corroborated Putin’s every word. And Chinese President Xi Jinping certainly would have done the same.
Beware; USA & Allies Stoking Shia-Sunni Divide
President George Bush in his State of Union address.
“We could expect an epic battle between Shi'ite extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country [Iraq] - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.”
“From inside Pakistan's border to the Mediterranean, almost every land (Muslim) is in crisis. Suddenly, all the Western talk of a Sunni-Shia war looks troublingly real”. (One of the many options now on the table.)
US led western talk of a Shia-Sunni war looks troublingly real, although the option is now on slow backburner. The policy of divide and rule is as old as the Roman Empire – a constant guide to the Christian West and implemented ruthlessly during its colonial onslaught on the rest of the world. Evolution of Western nationalism based on a narrow definition of shared religion, ethnicity, language, culture or history after centuries of religious and ethnic wars was then employed to divide multi religious and pluralistic empires and kingdoms in the East and South during its crusade of colonial wars and expansion, masked as ‘civilizing mission’ or ‘white man’s burden’ or ‘saving the soul’ by converting natives to Christianity. Europe and Orthodox Russia became self-proclaimed ‘Guardians of Christians’ or nationalities like Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians and others to divide and break up the far flung Ottoman empire which had reached right up to the gates of Vienna. Religious ‘millets’ had full freedom of faith and Christians and Jews dominated trade and industry in the Ottoman empire.
So from the very beginning as Scott Ritter, a former UN Chief Weapons Inspector for Iraq, revealed after occupying Baghdad and N. Iraq (Kurdistan in any case has been a US protectorate since the end of 1991 Gulf War), US and allied special forces provided information on dethroned ruling Sunni elite for taking revenge, to the Iraqi exiles like Ahmet Chelabi, a convicted embezzler, Iyad Allawi, both intelligence assets of CIA , MIV and others, Shia outfits like SCIRI and Badr corps nurtured, nursed and financed by Iran, opportunists, carpetbaggers and others who rode into Baghdad on US tanks, helicopters and F-16s. Scott Ritter also revealed that the Baathist regime under President Saddam Hussein was quite realistic about West's objectives and had planned Iraqi resistance much before the invasion.
Later, Washington, London and Tel Aviv also looked at the option of dividing Iraq into Iraqi Kurdistan, with almost half of Iraqi oil wealth, which being weak would remain subservient to the West. Its oil can be easily sent to the Mediterranean via the Kirkuk Ceyhan pipe line. Perhaps even a defense alliance could be signed with the Kurds. Washington had in fact planned to have an air base in north Iraq on the pretext of saving Kurds from Saddam's forces in 1991, so an anxious Ankara offered its Incirlik airbase for US-UK jets to patrol over Iraq and bomb it at will.
Of course the grateful Shias of South Iraq, masters of the remaining oil wealth would fall in line. The disenfranchised Sunni rump without any oil as yet, could stew in its own anger. It was most surprising that, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others were surprised by the Iraqi resistance, which they first tried to wish away as composed of dead Enders, disgruntled remnants of the old regime and in its last throes in Dick Cheney’s famous words. Only if they had read long Iraqi resistance to the British colonial rule in 1920s and 30s who finally got rid of the British and killed the Hashemite ruler foisted on Iraq.
The continued divisions in and exploitation of the Arabs and Kurdish problems in the region are the consequences of British policy of divide and rule after the First world war, now being pursued by USA. Like the British then, now George Bush never tires of bringing liberty and democracy to the Arabs. Pentagon even called US led illegal naked ‘shock and awe’ invasion of Iraq as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ - some cheek. Whose intelligence are they insulting? Their own as no one believed them except the info-challenged Americans. And even they have wised up.
Established to cut into the profitable East Indies trade on silk rotes controlled by Arabs and Turks, the British East India company (and others in Europe), having explored new sea routes, first nibbled at the decrepit Moghul empire piece meal and after the Indian war of independence against the English company forces in 1957, most of the Moghul empire passed on to the British crown. In the wake of the rebellion and resistance the citizens of Delhi, especially Muslims, were treated like those of Fallujah, Tel Afar and Haditha, as in Iraq now. It must be remembered that Marathas, Rajputs, Jats and other Hindu kings, who ruled almost independent fiefs accepted the Moghul emperor in Delhi as their sovereign, before he was exiled by the British.
British historians and colonial rulers then successfully sold the theory to Brahmin and other upper castes Hindus that all their problems could be traced to the rule of Muslims. At least like Hindu Aryans and others from central Asia earlier, Muslims from Turkestan and elsewhere made Hindustan their home. When the European traders arrived in the subcontinent, Hindustan’s share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent (in 1750) and after the British had done with India, the sub-continent’s share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of Britain had increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - [Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy]. In these bald figures lie buried multiple famines and deaths of tens of millions of impoverished Indians, when the British exported food even in times of scarcity. It left the people of Hindustan degraded with deficit not only in calories but proteins and physically dwarfed. After 60 years of freedom and no famines Indians have partially recovered their physical well-being and are surging ahead economically and intellectually. (How they dominate the Silicon valley in USA?)
After the Second World War, the British realized that there was no option but to quit the subcontinent. But India being a vital strategic asset, “a base for Britain to continue their domination of the Indian Ocean and the oil-rich Persian Gulf with its wells of power,” it was partitioned, as Mahatma Gandhi opposed to violence and war in principle and Jawaharlal Nehru with his idealism and vision of spreading friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of Asia, Africa, Middle east and elsewhere, would not join Western military pacts. The aim was to retain parts in the North and West of India, “for defensive and offensive action against the USSR in any future dispensation in the sub-continent”.
Britain achieved its objective by using Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a tool to create a weak and hence a willing and subservient allied Pakistan bordering Iran, Afghanistan and Sinkiang, just below the Soviet underbelly. (The Americans would love to do something similar in north Iraq). A retired Indian diplomat has brought to light these British machinations, based on records in London in his book, ‘The Shadow of the Great Game: the Untold Story of India's Partition.’ The author also traces the roots of the present Kashmir imbroglio and how the matter was distorted in the UN to help Western ally Pakistan. (Like UN resolutions now against Iran for its enrichment of nuclear power fuel!) But Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Islamabad now hover between the deep sea and the devil i.e. threat to be bombed back to stone age or a civil war between its troops and Pushtoons and other fierce tribes in its north west region and Afghanistan, if they do not obey US dictates.
Following the Second World War President Marshal Joseph Tito created a composite secular and socialist state of southern Slavs and others in Yugoslavia, with natural affinity to Orthodox Russian Slavs, but after his death and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multilingual state was broken apart by West Europe and USA, by sheer aggression. The last word in this bloody dissolution is yet to be written, now centered in Kosovo, where north European diplomats have ruled as in old colonial era.
When the fulcrum of imperialism shifted from London to Washington and New York after the Second World War, exploitation of the East and South was continued through IMF, IBRD and now after the fall of the Berlin Wall by Globalization and WTO, with struggle over control over energy pipelines instead of over sea trade routes earlier. Western troops would now guard the energy pipelines, like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan one.
Middle East Quagmire!
No wonder Patrick Cockburn said in Counterpunch last month, “The U.S. has a very weird policy − the Shia and Iran are the enemy, suddenly. But the government of Iraq is Shia – it’s led by the Shia and the Kurds. Bush seems to be trying to create a common front of Sunni states − Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan − against the Shia and Iran.”
A fascinating revelation concerns the ‘disappearance’ of billions of US dollars in Iraq to create “pots of black money” for covert purposes - with echoes of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan presidency in the 1980s. And even help Fuad Siniora’s beleaguered pro-western government in Beirut “to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shia (Hezbollah and Amal) influence” by funding Sunni radical groups with ideological ties to al-Qaeda. Walid Jumblatt, the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Druze leader, was quoted telling Cheney to support the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and undermine the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus.
Seymour Hersh revealed last month that US military and special operations teams have escalated activities in Iran, entering from Iraq to gather intelligence etc., confirming allegations made by Tehran. Iran has accused the US, Britain and Israel of fomenting separatist attacks in Arab-majority Khuzestan in the south-west of Iran, in Baluchi province bordering Pakistan and in Azeri and Kurdish border regions.
In Riyadh, the emergence of a “Shia crescent” from Tehran to Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon (and Hamas in Palestine) raises the nightmare of a shift in the balance of power not only in the Arab world but also in the Middle East and beyond “That Iran should control Lebanon through Hezbollah is a red line that Arabia cannot accept,” say Saudi officials. This was also echoed by Hashemite King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the time of the Israeli/Hezbollah war last year. Hezbollah’s victory and crescendo of popularity for Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah and Mahmud Ahmedineijad caused fears of Arab Street turning against the conservative and unpopular Sunni rulers in the region.
The Sunni-Shia Divide
It is necessary to look at the historic Shia-Sunni divide in depth to comprehend the problem and the inherent dangers. Not only Christians, even many Sunnis know little about Shias and their history.
The fissures in Islam are almost as old as the faith itself. In the Muslim community (Ummah) of over a billion faithfuls spread almost all around the world nearly 12 % are Shias. Majority of Shias are Twelvers – believers in 12 Imams (as in Iran, in a majority), but there are others too, like the Ismailis (of Agha Khans, Mohammed Ali Jinnah), from whom emerged the ‘Assassins’ in early 2nd millennium, Alevis in Turkey (around 15%), ruling Alawite elite (12%) in Syria, Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon (over 40%), and Bahrain (a majority), Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. In Iraq nearly 60% of its population are Shias, the rest are mostly Sunnis. There are some very extremist groups too, spread all over the Islamic world.
India has a large Shia population of about 25 million in a total Muslim population of 130 million, making it perhaps the 2nd largest Shia community in the world after Iran. After the US attacks in Najaf in 2004, Muslims of Lucknow (India ), a big Shia center, had declared that Americans were not welcome there.
Tangled Sunni-Shia history
The Shias emerged out of seeds of disunity in the embryonic Muslim Ummah, sown as soon as Prophet Mohammed lay dead in Medina. While his cousin and son in law Ali and the family were preparing the body for the burial, another clan of the Quraysh tribe elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph i.e. Prophet’s deputy, countering also the claims of Ansars of Medina, who had welcomed the Prophet (in Hijra). Abu Bakr’s supporters claimed that he was closer to Mohammed, one of the very first converts to Islam and was from Mecca's Quraysh tribe. His daughter A’isha was wedded to the Prophet.
According to Shias, Prophet Mohammed had given enough indications for Ali to be his successor and cite many hadiths in support of this claim. The Prophet had lived with his uncle Abu Talib, Ali’s father and Mohammed’s only child Fatimah was married to Ali. Ali also became Muslim before Abu Bakr and had decoyed for the Prophet when he escaped from Mecca. Ali was perhaps his most trusted and the closest companion, even though he was much younger than the Prophet.
Ali’s election as the Caliph would have denied a chance to the older generation of power brokers, so they played politics and got their way. Ali was overlooked twice with Omar and Uthman succeeding Abu Bakr in cleverly manipulated successions to keep Ali out. As a result Ali mostly kept to himself and stayed aloof.
Following the murder of Uthman, Ali was invited by the Muslims of Medina to accept the Caliphate; reluctantly, he agreed but only after long hesitation. His brief reign was marked by problems of inheriting a corrupt state, as the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed had been neglected. Ali based his rule on the Islamic ideals of social justice and equality which clashed with the interests of the Quraysh aristocracy of Mecca grown rich through the Muslim conquests. A rebellion was instigated against him. Ali was victorious in many wars, but was trapped into arbitration. He was assassinated by a Kharijite and Mu’awiya of the Umayyads established the dynasty at Damascus.
Ali was a devout Muslim with an outstanding reputation for justice, unlike Uthman or the Umayyad dynasty that followed him, mired in nepotism with worldly and autocratic ways. Many Muslims feel this way about the Umayyad Caliphs except for Omar II. To many it was a betrayal of the Quran, which enjoins creation of a just and equal society as the first duty of Muslims.
Those opposed to Umayyads called themselves the Shia’t-Ali (partisans of Ali) and developed a doctrine of piety and protest, refusing to accept the Umayyad Caliphs, and regarded Ali’s descendants as the true leaders of the Muslim community. This schism became an unbridgeable chasm and remains so, when in 680, Shias of Kufa called for the rule by Ali’s second son Hussein and invited him. Hussein set out for Iraq with a small band of relatives and followers (72 armed men and women and children) in the belief that the spectacle of the Prophet’s family, marching to confront the Caliph, would remind the regime of its social responsibility.
But Umayyad Caliph Yazid dispatched his army, which slaughtered Hussein and most of his followers on the plain of Karbala with Imam Hussein being the last to die, holding his infant son in his arms. This event is now commemorated as Muharram. Both Karbala and Najaf, where Imam Ali is buried are very holy places especially for Shias.
For Shias, the Karbala tragedy symbolizes the chronic injustice that pervades human life. Shia Islam provides spiritual solace and shelter for the poorest and the deprived among the Muslims, as in as- Sadr city in Baghdad and elsewhere in the Muslim world. In almost all Sunni majority countries Shias are ill-treated and persecuted.
Imagery and this Shia passion informed Khomeini’s Iranian revolution, which many experienced as a re-enactment of Karbala - with the Shah Reza Pehlavi cast as a latter day Yazid.
There is no agreement among Muslims on the Caliphs. Shias do not recognize the first three and in many places curse them. For them Ali is the first rightful Caliph and the Imam. For Sunnis, Imam is only a prayer leader and could be any one. But for Shias, he is a spiritual leader with the divine spark and juris-consult (Vilayet-el-Faqih). The sacred Islamic law Sharia enacted under different situations and times has many schools among Sunnis, who unlike the Shias have closed ijtihad, independent reasoning in Islamic Law to meet new situations. The Shia Iranians (Aryans) perhaps created the office of Imam (like Shankaracharya among Indo–Aryan Brahmins) as only an Arab from the Quraysh tribe could become a Caliph. Later the Turks, who came as slaves or warriors to the Arab lands, captured power by the sword and raised the minor office of the Sultan to a powerful one, by now protector of a hapless Caliph. Then Turkish Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul appropriated the title of Caliph for themselves.
After the first dynastic Umayyad Caliphate based in Damascus ended, another branch of Quraysh tribe, Abbasids took over and shifted to Iraq in 750, but after having made false promises of installing the Prophet’s family as the Caliph. Muslim Ummah’s unity under the Sunni Caliph was finally broken when Fatimids anointed their own Caliph first in Tunisia, then in Egypt in 10th century. So an Umayyad prince in Cordoba too declared himself the third Caliph.
Evolution of Shi’ism
There are two things to note. First, political Shi’ism indicates a belief that members of the Hashim clan in the Quraysh tribe are the people most worthy of holding political authority in the Islamic community, but has no belief in any particular religious position for the family. As for religious Shi’ism, it is about the belief that some particular members of the house of Hashim were in receipt of divine inspiration and are thus the channel of God's guidance to men whether or not they hold any defacto political authority. This view was augmented by the Iranians who believe in the tradition that the mother of fourth Imam Zaynul-Abdin was Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sasanian King of Iran.
From the very beginning all the Shia Imams, descendants of Ali, every single one was imprisoned, exiled or executed or poisoned by the Caliphs, who could not tolerate an alternative center to their rule. So by 8th century, most Shias held aloof from politics and concentrated on the mystical interpretation of the scriptures. Says scholar Karen Armstrong “Long before western philosophers called for the separation of church and state, Shias had privatized faith, convinced that it was impossible to integrate the religious imperative with the grim world of politics that seemed murderously antagonistic to it.”
“The separation of religion and politics remains deeply embedded in the Shia psyche. It springs not simply from malaise, but from a divine discontent with the state of the Muslim community. Even in Iran, which became a Shia country in the early 16th century, the ulema (the religious scholars) refused public office, adopted an oppositional stance to the state, and formed an alternative establishment that - implicitly or explicitly - challenged the Shahs on behalf of the people.”
The picture of early Shi’ism was created (as not much is available from records) from the point of view of Twelver Shias, ignoring the Ismailis, Mutazilites or orthodox Sunnis. Modern scholars believe that this picture was retrospectively imposed over the facts by historians of 3rd and 4th Islamic century for doctrinal reasons.
It is only after 6th Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (died 765) that there is any firm evidence that any kind of religious leadership was being claimed for Twelver Imams. He was a well-known and influential figure in the Islamic world. Several of his students later became prominent jurists and traditionalists even among non-Shia Muslims. Jafar as-Sadiq did not make an open claim to religious leadership, but his circle of students evidently looked to him as Imam, including some leading figures such as Abu’l-Khattab, who held beliefs of a ghuluww (extremist) nature regarding him, indicating that as-Sadiq was a focus of religious speculation and leadership in his own time.
Evolution of Islam into Shia and other forms
The number of ghulat groups, increased dramatically especially in Kufa during as-Sadiq’s lifetime. It is therefore useful to consider the origin of the ghulat. When the Arabs arrived in the Fertile Crescent, they encountered ancient civilizations with sophisticated religious systems. Iraq was already the centre of intense religious ferment with the ancient Babylonian religious systems, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Manichaeism, Judaism and various forms of Christianity contributing to a kaleidoscope of religious view points, debates and speculation. Islam by comparison was as yet simple and undeveloped. And with the Prophet already dead, there was no one to whom the Muslims could turn for an authoritative ruling on sophisticated religious speculations being posed by the ancient civilizations. There arose a ferment of discussion around some of the concepts introduced by these older religions and philosophical systems.
In the initial years the Arabs lived in their military camp cities and avoided intermingling with the native populations and their disturbing religious speculations but as more of the native populations embraced Islam, such discussions increased. In this spiritual and religious ferment ideas were injected into the Muslim community and intensively discussed by people interested in such matters which could be considered by the majority of Muslims heterodox concepts and called ghulat or extremists.
Among the ideas injected were such concepts as tanasukh (transmigration of souls), ghayba (occultation), raj’a (return), hulul (descent of the Spirit of God into man), imama (Imamate, divinely-inspired leadership and guidance), tashbih (anthropomorphism with respect to God), tafwid (delegation of God's powers to other than God), and bada (alteration in God's will). But the ghulat needed a priest - god figure onto which to project their ideas of hulul, ghayba, etc., a role admirably suited to the persona of Ali.
While the ghulat adopted Ali and his family as the embodiment of their religious speculation the Shias of' Ali always looked on the ghulat with a certain amount of suspicion. However, the martyrdom of Hussein and the pathos of this event gave the family of Ali a cultic significance. It bestowed on Shias, earlier primarily a political party, a thrust into a religious orientation directing it firmly towards the ghulat, and giving the ghulat milieu a hero-martyr and a priestly family with which they could associate much of their speculations.
Only the hubris laden arrogance of military power US which spends as much as the rest of the world put together on defense, now mostly financed by trade deficit, made the crazy Neo-cons and former scheming and manipulative CEOs like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld believe in their being received with flowers in Baghdad. What does Washington mean when it demands that Tehran and Damascus must help stabilize Iraq i.e. get US out of Iraqi quagmire, so that US can then bring about regime changes there!
I wrote in my article ‘Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey’ of 7 January, 2004, that “while formulating foreign policy options, political leaders also look to history for guidance. Unfortunately, the United States’ history is only two centuries old, and to meet the challenge of terrorism, Frankenstein monsters partly of its own creation, the mujahideen, jihadis, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the US can only recall a long genocidal war against its Native Americans.
“Those who resisted were called “terrorists” for defending their native land and way of life against foreign invaders. There are Hollywood films galore that depict the “American Indians” as savages to be hunted down by the US cavalry. The same cavalry units now force Iraqis daily to lie face down in the land of their ancestors and describe those fighting to free their country from the occupying forces as “terrorists”. The Iraqis, other Arabs and Iranians are the new “American Indians”, and those who collaborate with the Bush administration are like the good Indians who helped the Americans fight and defeat bad Indians.”
In my article of 15 July, 2003 “Iraq’s history already written” I said “US chief administrator L Paul Bremer unveiled Iraq’s 25-member governing council in Baghdad on Sunday. It now looks like the beginnings of the rule by the British Governor Sir Percy Cox in the 1920s, after the British had carved out three provinces of the Ottoman Empire after its collapse in World War I. After a long national resistance, King Feisel II - of a British-appointed dynasty - and his prime minister, Nuri-as Said, were overthrown and killed in a 1958 military takeover”.
Ambassador Peter Galbraith revealed that in January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq, Bush had not yet heard of the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.
“Today the world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude, who may well plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant, and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth. The problem is that his name is George W. Bush, and he is our president”, said Yale Law Prof Jack M. Balkin, on September 22, 2002.
The new first time Black president in US history is a product of Chicago Jewish political machine and is no different than others.
Only the hubris of wars has brought US to its decline and fall.