What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East

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In following the Western press one gets the impression that the Arab (Palestinian)-Israeli conflict is the most important story that needs to be covered in the Middle East.  In reality, however, it ranks third in order of importance when viewed within the stricture of three concentric circles that complete the picture of the current Middle East.  What makes these circles all the more significant is that they all touch upon religion.

The first and most important of the circles addresses the Sunni-Shiite divide and pits the aggressive and revolutionary Shiite Iran against Sunni (Wahhabi) Saudi Arabia over hegemony in the Persian Gulf.  Directly associated with this circle is the attempt by Sunni-Muslim Turkey, led by Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to assume they are the champions of Sunni Islam.

Erdogan’s involvement in Syria, his support of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), his unwavering support for Hamas (Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and his close ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (poised to govern Egypt if and when civilian government resumes), are part of Turkey’s attempt to play the leadership role in the Muslim and Arab world.

The most obvious clash between Sunnis and Shiites has been over control in Iraq. Although Arab Iraq is predominantly Shiite (60%+) it has been traditionally governed by Sunnis (the last one being the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein).  While the 2003 U.S. invasion toppled Saddam and restored majority rule, it created a Shiite-led government that is close to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For Saudi Arabia and the Sunni world this portends a “mortal threat.” And, when coupled with Shiite (Hezbollah) dominance in Lebanon, it appears even more ominous.

The second circle involves the recent uprisings in the Arab world, better known as the “Arab Spring,” which have granted power to Islamists everywhere, and made the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood (or affiliated parties) the dominant political force in Tunisia, Egypt, and now in Syria.  Political Islam has become a potent force throughout the Middle East, replacing nationalism and socialism – which some Arab regimes engaged in for decades.

The intolerance of the MB towards non-Muslims (Jewish Israel for instance), Christians and Shiite Muslims (whom they consider as “errant” Muslims) is connected to the first circle.

The third circle is that of the conflict between Arab countries as well as non-Arab Muslim countries (Iran and Turkey) and their ethnic and religious minorities.  These include the Jewish state of Israel, the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt, the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, and Syria, and the Sunni Baluch minority in Iran as well as the Ahwazi-Sunni Arabs in Iran.

What the three circles have in common is religious and ethnic hatred and intolerance between Sunnis and Shiites, between Arabs and Persians, between Shiite Persians and Sunni Kurds, Baluch and Arabs, between Turks and Kurds, between Arab-Muslims and Israeli Jews, and between Egyptian Muslims and Christians.

Israel, an advanced Western democratic state, gets a disproportionate amount of press and criticism, to the near exclusion of coverage and analysis of intolerant Arab-Muslim states by the mainstream press.  The ease of access Western journalists have in Israel compared to the absence of secure access in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim Middle Eastern states, makes for unfair and inaccurate reporting in the Western media, which results in holding Israel responsible for the lack of regional peace.  Moreover, secular western reporters and editors, who are disconnected from religion, fail to grasp the overarching role religion plays in Middle Eastern conflicts.

Contrary to the reportage written and distributed by Western media sources, conflict in the Middle East is less about territory and almost entirely about religion. True also for the Arab (Palestinian)-Israeli conflict is that its foundation is in Islamic religious intolerance rather than territory or Palestinian victimhood (Palestinian Arabs could have established a sovereign state under the Peel Commission in 1937 over 72% of Mandatory Palestine, and again under the UN Partition Plan of 1947.  They rejected both plans with the demand for all of Palestine or nothing — no compromise with infidels). Palestinian Arab-Muslims seek to replace Israel rather than live side-by-side with it.  And, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is fueled by arms, funds, and propaganda provided by Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians against the Jewish state, still pales in importance, to Shiite Iran’s encroachment and hegemonic ambitions in the Gulf.

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  • jacob

    this is incredibly true and i'm very glad that someone is coming out and actually saying it! the news corporations only care about sensationalizing everything and making israel the root cause of everything. they miss the real point too often.

  • UCSPanther

    The closest the Arab world had to a unified front to Israel was the UAR alliance led by Gamal Nasser in the time leading up to the Six Day War, and that fell apart right. All attempts to reforge such an alliance have failed, mostly due to infighting IE Moammar Gaddafi's hostile relations to Anwar Sadat and their subsequent dispute over Egypt not including Libya in the Yom Kippur war-After the fact.

    Iran may pretend to have a unified front against Israel, but truth is, they are a long ways from having the same type of alliance Nasser was able to forge…

  • SiDevilIam

    My dear Joseph,

    I am Sid Harth.

    To some extent, I agree with you. Religious intolerance, as elegantly described by you, is a two edged sword. Arabs and Israelis are guilty equally. British left this perennial issue for the posterity to resolve. British diplomacy and hegemony over their many clients, including India, was to divide and conquer.

    As to the ancient feuds over the so called, Holy Land, Christians did pretty good job in establishing warmongering as the only mean to achieve land grabbing, Jerusalem, to be specific..

    If Christianity can maintain such anachronistic policy, all these two thousand years, why not Muslims of Sunni or Shia variety?

    Finally, it is their internal (religious, political, geographical) problem. Why America, a secular, democratic country, wants to bloody their regal nose in matters beyond their control?

    Let Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, Mullah dominated Shias of Iran and Iraq, bunch of Jewish fanatics from Israel and their far flung diaspora in the world determine what is good for their souls, Oops, bodies and souls?

    Americans have failed to solve this very problem, a local fist fight kind. I shall tell you why. Americans have arms, not head, that's why.

    …and I am Sid Harth@sidileaks.net

    • StephenD

      I don't know anyone here that cares who you are Sid. You lost it as soon as you attempted moral equivalency between the "Palestinians" and Israelis. You ought to crawl back under your rock and forget this web site. Nobody is going to buy your drivel except the few that also believe America has a “regal” nose, you dolt.

      • Uzoozy

        Normal dominionist person.
        Patestinians should get an homeland, the rest population go to where you came from(porkenstein)

    • PhillipGaley

      Our Dear As Yet ininformed "SiDevilIam":

      Warmongering and war in general—as a way of land grabbing—goes back in time, farther than there was an America, or any Christians, or an Israel, or a Persian Empire, or an India, or an Egypt; it has been very much in the way of life for mankind; and there are some sound reasons thereat: Always in production, there are great lots of bad people—mainly, men—who should be killed.

      But perhaps more importantly, as "The earth is The Lord's, and the fulness thereof.", G0D has an interest in maintaining use of it for purposes of Hid design and intent.

      And by way of illustration, this whole rodeo—the earth, and all which is in it or upon it—was not set up so that, men could sit around, spending the time of their lives in such activities as playing card games and conjecturing about how many virgins there might be in an after-life somewhere.

      No. But because there are great things imitative of G0D, which mankind are to be about, so that, those who are least imitative of G0D, give themselves to base lifestyles, begin killing each other and so forth, so, those who are more imitative of G0D, well, the fear and dread of them falls upon the people of lower estate, and they beat up on them and take the land which had been their's, from them. And while there be many possible such scenarios to be adverted to, for simple expression and economy, may but one or two examples, suffice:

      G0D empowered and used the Mohammedans to wipe out the inferior groups such as those who embraced polytheism, and though not inferior to, but even as centuries before, the Babylonians were empowered and allowed to act as a scourge against Israel—the reasons being fully laid out in the Old Testament laments.

      And for whatever bad might be spoken against "warmongering as the [chosen] means to achieve land grabbing", it's like stirring the ingredients in making cookies—although it is requisite of considerable physical exertion, it gets done what has to be done, and by as efficient a means as may be possible to achievement of the desired end—subjugation of bad people, and grabbing their land, . . . and to all of this, true warriors say: "Let's go!", . . .

      In a word, saddled with the backward evil in the anchor which Islam is, the world or mankind simply cannot move forward in grace.

      Furthermore, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that, for the Western nations' tardiness and general failure to use the power of war for beating up on the bad people, and taking resources from them, we will be appropriately and sadly judged, . . .

      • SiDevilIam

        My dear Phillip,

        I give you three seconds to do me in. If not done, in time, I may send you to a place where the sun don't shine.

        Just kidding. I am honored with your reply, too late and too mushy. Come out swinging, the moment you lay your sleepy eyes on my comment. I ain't got time to wait for misinformed midgets like you.

        I am counting. One thousand one, two thousand two, three thousand three.

        Time's up, Bubba.

        …and I am Sid harth@sidileaks.net

    • jacob

      Genius :
      As to good old USA bleeding its nose, in what concerns ISRAEL, as it seems
      you are painting ALL in the MIDDLE EAST with the same brush and paint, just
      tell me, when has an American soldier ever shed a drop of SWEAT, let alone
      of BLOOD for ISRAEL ????

      Or as certain morons maintain, good old USA liquidated SADDAM HUSSEIN
      for Israel ?????
      Regardless, your Judeophobic skirt is showing and your opinions have the
      worth of wet USED toilet paper

    • Tom W.

      As a Jew, I'm down right insulted that you think the middle east has a problem because of 'Jewish fanatics'! As a Jew, I have a different world view and that is the outside world powers have been arrogant in constantly invading the land which God bestowed upon HIS nation of Israel. Beginning with the Greeks and Romans up to the present day, outsiders have invaded Canaan, instituted laws to restrict Jews rights to live, work and pray on their land. Outsiders have destroyed Jewish landmarks, historical sites and synagogues (both ancient & modern). Outsiders have had the gall to divide the city of Jerusalem into quarters, restricting Jews to once was their ancient capital city which even today, no nation will recognize it as the capital of Israel. And as far as you disparaging the Jewish diaspora, once again this situation of Jews living outside of their homeland is a direct result of multiple foreign invaders trying to conquer territory, removing the law of Moses from its people and renaming this land! No Jews aren't fanatics, it's just people like you who feel their entitled to rearrange the land of Israel as you see fit! We Jews have a earned the right to resent you but that doesn't make us fanatics!!

  • steven l

    The West hate both the Jews and the Muslims, but much more the Muslims than the Jews.
    The West fear the oil/gas Arab lobby and does not give a sh.. about powerless Jews.
    As De Gaul stated: this domineering small people who brought and bring so much to humanity! Jealousy!

  • Kerim

    Recommended reading about the subject :

    Who is the regional leader of the middle east: Iran, Turkey or Al Jazeera Channel?

  • JEM

    . Excellent article, Western leaders and the media are largely secular and have little insight into the spiritual and religious aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If they did, a more effective policy toward the region would be possible. It looks like we are doomed to stumble along into the future which is becoming more and more dangerous

  • Emanuel

    Those who do not know the region, this article makes sense even though it is loaded with absurdities such as Saudi Arabia (a monarchy) and Iran share the desire for restoration of the Calipahte. As for the situation in Syria, it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Israel's wish to have it destabilized for its steadfastness against the Zionist state.

    • stern

      Oh brilliant! So Syria is seething because of Israel? What an amazing deduction. Assad slaughters his citizens when they protest his brutality, and it's Israel's fault. Please provide us with the thinking that led you to this conclusion. I for one would be most interested in understanding how you arrived at this conclusion.

      • Blaze Pascal

        It's not Israel's fault, it's George W Bush's rault, or it could be the colonialists, or the crusaders…. I forget.

    • DuncanIdaho

      Emanuel, if you don’t much about history I suggest looking up the history of the Alawites and how a small minority is able enforce their dictatorial rule. I am also sure both the Saudis and Iranians would love an Islamic empire as long as they were at it’s head.

  • Ben

    True that the ME conflict has the religious base particularly for the Christian West. Arabs inspired by German nazies and other European anti-semites see the conflict as the western imposed one,though not the most importaint. Israel and Christian Zionists worry Christian fundamentalists who prefer to have the agressive Muslims as rulers there.

    • Blaze Pascal

      holy smokes Ben get some sleep

  • 080

    Why do we concentrate on the Israelis? It makes obscure of losing decades long retreat in the Middle East. We are now hanging by a thread.

  • Blaze Pascal

    Thank Allah for the Sunni-Shiite divide!! It may be the only thing that saves us in the end.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Erase Israel and all of Israeli influence and what is left, Camel dung, flies and
    human debris and evil as in the days of Noah………………………….William

  • Attila The Hun

    This is the most accurate description of ME ever seen in the media. What the The west
    does not understand is, even Israel disappears the problems of the ME will not go away, Somehow the antisemite western left has forgotten the middle ages where Islam slaughter million of Christians.

  • bob mino

    I wonder what the religious situation was in Libya? For a supposed christian nation, the effect of the u.s. help in all of the middle east countrys has led to attacks on Christian churches throughout the area.

  • Guest

    All well and good, great article. Except it shoots itself in the foot and negates its entire premise when the author calls the Arabs "Palestinian Arabs". They are not "Palestinian" anything. There is no such thing as a "Palestinian".

    I am sure the author realises that without this big lie that Palestinians exist (and therefore have a right to the land), none of the "Palestinian-Jewish Conflict" would even be happening. Tell the truth about it, and the core of their house of cards comes tumbling down – no other issues pertaining to the "Palestinian" conflict even exist without any Palestinians, do they.

    Start telling the truth, come from that angle, and there will never be a need for any of the politics surrounding "Palestinians", or wars, or rights, or land being given away, or anything else. The entire issue falls apart.

  • Osama Bin Laden
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