Monday, April 23, 2007

Fanning Sectarian Fires in the Middle East

by Conn Hallinan
Foreign Policy in Focus

"In 1609, a terrible thing happened: not terrible in the manner that great wars are terrible but in the way that opening Pandora's Box was terrible. King James I of England discovered that dividing people on the basis of religion worked like a charm, thus sentencing the Irish to almost four centuries of blood and pain.

If the Bush administration is successful in its current efforts to divide Islam by pitting Shi'ites against Sunnis, it will revitalize the old colonial tactic of divide and conquer – and maintain the domination of the Middle East by authoritarian elites allied with the U.S. and the international energy industry.

Its vehicle, according to the New York Times, is an "American-backed alliance" of several Sunni-dominated regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, "along with a Fatah-led Palestine and Israel." The anti-Shi'ite front will also likely include Turkey and Pakistan......

Suddenly, rhetoric like the "eastern tide" and the "Persian menace" have begun appearing in official newspapers in the region, although the average Arab does not view Iran as a threat. A recent Zogby International poll of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) found that roughly 80 percent of those polled considered the United States and Israel the biggest threats to their security, while only 11 percent listed Iran. Further, fewer than 25 percent believe Iran should be pressured to halt its nuclear program, while 61 percent think Iran has the right to a nuclear program even if it results in nuclear weapons.....

The real U.S. target may be a good deal bigger than simply the Shia Crescent. "Could it be that the U.S. endgame is to weaken Islam from within," asks Lebanese writer Jihad Azine in An-Nahar, "and divert attention from targeting U.S. interests to targeting the Shia?"....."

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