Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sheik condemns Hezbollah

In an illustration of just how many divides there are in the Mideast, a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has issued a fatwah against Hezbollah.

This isn't what one might hope: a moderate cleric taking a stand against terrorism or Islamic extremism. The cleric in question is a Sunni Wahhabi Arab fundamentalist -- a group that is generally part of the problem rather than the solution when it comes to Islamic terrorism.

No, this is an example of a Sunni Arab deciding that Shiite Persians are worse than Israeli Jews in this particular instance.

As Israel and Hezbollah turn back the clock in Lebanon, simply listing the divides provides an idea of what the region is up against:

1. Islam/Judaism and Islam/Christianity.

2. Within Islam, Sunni/Shiite.

3. Within those two, fundamentalist sects like Wahhabism and Salafism that often consider "heretic" Muslims to be a bigger problem than non-Muslims.

4. Arabs and Iranians (Persians) both dislike Israel, but they also dislike each other. And everyone dislikes the Kurds. And never mind the dozens of other religious and ethnic splinters like the Maronite Christians and Druze in Lebanon.

5. Tribal divides within ethnic groups.

6. The usual political divides driven by regional or economic interests.

Given that level of parsing, I would venture to say that there is very little one can do in the Middle East that won't end up drawing opposition from a majority of the region's population; their interests are simply too atomized.

When there are a limited number of players and compelling mutual interest, much can be achieved -- witness the Egypt-Israeli peace accords. But as long as the region remains as divided as it is, progress will come in small steps. And it doesn't take much to backslide into a past that nobody seems to want but few have the influence and willpower to avoid.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean
I think you missed point number 7,
British and French meddling in the colonial times, and American geopolitical interest( read oil) in the post-war era.
Egypt-Israel accord has stood the test of so many years, not because of the common egyptians' support, but the money that flows to prop up the Mubarak regime.
If I make a parallel comparison, india and pakistan are not fighting wars, not because there are not enough war-mongers in the military regime in pakistan, but because indians are overwhelmingly against it and any Indian goverment that gets into a war , the ruling party/coalition is certain to face irrelevance at the polls.
I was hopeful that you would have more insightful postings on the war in the middle east and the role (or lack thereof)of America .
GK

7/21/2006 6:34 PM  

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