It’s Islam, Stupid

The Consequences of Syria | World Affairs Journal

What we’re seeing instead is a United States in retreat in the Middle East. So I don’t see what the accommodation would look like. It’s not a grand bargain with Iran, but an American fire sale, with the US virtually giving away its assets. The US is retreating from the region and leaving it in Iranian hands.

This is what Obama’s twin-pillars’ policy is about. In various interviews the president has described a new regional framework, a new geopolitical equilibrium, that balances Iran against the Sunni states in the Persian Gulf. This is precisely the idea the impoverished Brits had when they were on their way out of the Persian Gulf at the end of the 1960s. The problem is that there is no way to balance them—Saudi Arabia is incapable of projecting power without American backing. For instance, Riyadh has no equivalent of the IRGC’s Quds Force, its external operations unit, responsible for Iran’s war in Syria, as well as terrorist operations. Accordingly, when the White House says it’s aiming to “balance,” what US allies hear is that the US, like the Brits nearly half a century ago, are on their way out of the region, and are leaving it in Iran’s hands.

Consider how the administration has effectively partnered with Iran and its allies in Lebanon and Iraq.

This is what a President who is not owned by the Saudis looks like.  Despite all the pressure from Saudi surrogates in the American media, corporate and political structure, Obama is functioning essentially as an ally of Saudi Arabia’s strongest and longest enemy, the Shia regime of Iran.  So much for George W. Bush being helpless to oppose Saudi Arabia.

Now, as to this “regional civil war” concept.  The whole notion tramples on the definition of civil war:

Civil war | Define Civil war at

a war between political factions or regions within the same country.
What is going on in the Islamic world is not a “civil war” in a single country, but a religious war spanning many nations, regions, and moreover a religious war that has been going on between the Shia and the Sunni since 632 AD, nearly 1500 years. 
Anybody who doesn’t understand this doesn’t – and can’t – understand what is going on in the Islamic middle east, where the two sides in an endless religious war are locked in a deadly battle for political dominance of a region whose only real importance is the ocean of oil upon which it sits.
Iran has been Shia – and the heart of the Shia Muslim world – for nearly 600 years now.  Saudi Arabia – with its Two Holy cities – has been the heart of Sunni Islam since the dawn of Mohammed himself.
You cannot, and must not, disregard this historical fact in any analysis you do of current events in the Islamic Middle East.  For instance, take Syria.
If you get your current events commentary from the MSM, you have no idea that all these “democracy” movements did not spring from the earth, pure and yearning for liberty, on their own.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the primary rebel actor in Egypt, is a Sunni organization.  However, while Sunni, it regards the current rulers of the Sunni world – the Saudi Royal Family, primarily – as impious, corrupt, and discredited in the eyes of Islam.   They view the ruling juntas of Egypt in much the same way – because these rulers resist the full implementation of Islam-as-governance in their nations.  What happened in Egypt was more of a civil war, in that it involved political differences (based on religion) engaging in combat in a single nation.  The wellspring of the initial revolt in Egypt was the fact that Egypt had become a failed state, unable to feed its own population, which was actually starving in some areas.  But the “revolution” was almost immediately hijacked by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood for its own purposes, which were the usual – the establishment of a true “Islamic Republic,” that is, a repressive, sharia-ordered theocracy opposed not only to the west and modernity, but to the corrupt and impious leadership of Saudi Arabia as well.
Iran viewed all of this with approval, especially the establishment of the Morsi regime, which threatened to be much more of a headache for Saudi Arabia than Iran, at least in the short term.
Then Saudi Arabia struck back, with sub rosa promises and support of the Egyptian military if it staged a coup and removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power.  This happened. And so, after eliminating the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Saudis then turned to Syria, the next thorn in their side – and an Iranian surrogate thorn to boot.
Magically, popular “pro-democracy” protests erupted in Syria.  Assad struck back with the usual Baathist brutality, and within a few months a full-blown civil was was raging.   And at least one element of that war was the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood among the rebels, which Saudi Arabia could not permit to succeed in overthrowing Assad.  That, from the Saudi’s POV, would be simply jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
Nonetheless, the Syrian civil was was viewed by the Iranians – and rightly so – as a direct threat to them.  They responded with aid to the Assad regime, both by providing diplomatic cover and helping to prevent western intervention on the part of the Syrian revolutionaries, and by providing money, arms, and other forms of aid to Assad.
The response to this from Saudi Arabia was to activate the Sunni terror gangs in Iraq – Sunni, to be sure, but not Muslim Brotherhood adherents, and much more beholden to Saudi support.  Those who think that the Obama withdrawal adhering to the schedule George Bush negotiated as being the cause of this current Sunni “rebellion” in Iraq are both ignorant and naive.  What is actually going on here is great and long-time religious and geo-political enemies wielding various surrogates, new and old, governmental and private, as weapons in their continuing conflict.
Into this inferno, a bonfire lit off by Jimmy Carter’s acquiescence, even encouragement of the deposing of the Shah of Iran, and his spineless response to the hostage taking at our Iranian embassy (which made Iran a huge player in the Middle East almost overnight), America has stumbled and bumbled, because the leadership of the United States seems unable to understand the nature of the millennium-long conflict into which it keeps inserting itself, apparently without any useful strategies or goals, or in fact any coherent understanding of what sort of goals it might reasonably achieve.
So we come to the present.  We have Egypt back in the Saudi pocket under a secular dictatorship supported by Sunni oil money.  We have Iran about to achieve nuclear weapons, which changes the power calculus in the Middle East to a huge extent.  We have an Iranian surrogate government in Syria fighting against a Sunni-instigated and supported rebellion.  We have a Sunni-instigated and supported rebellion in Iraq waging war on the Shia governments of Iraq and Syria. 
This is not a civil war, it is a regional war.  At the moment it is being waged by surrogates of both of the Great Powers in the conflict, but that is the next step: Direct confrontation between those powers.  Which is why the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons is so critical.  Once they have them, then the Saudis will have to call in their chips and get nukes from Pakistan, which they will be able to do by virtue of having financed the Pakistani nuclear development program.
At that point, we will be looking at a direct religious and geo-political nuclear confrontation between two ruthless and unstable regional powers in the middle east.
It is almost a truism that, while civil wars are nearly the worst, bloodiest sort of wars, they pale into insignificance when compared to the demons released in religious conflicts.
We could have avoided most of this, had we taken the proper steps to protect ourselves and the rest of the world in the wake of 9/11.  But for whatever reasons we did not, and now we get to reap the whirlwind.
Posted in Religion, War permalink

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


It’s Islam, Stupid — 6 Comments

  1. What is going on in the Islamic world is not a “civil war” in a single country, but a religious war

    That is a good deal of the reason that worldly, educated, socially-relevant elite types don’t get it. Having disposed of God in their own lives, they fail to grasp the power of belief in the lives, and deaths, of the religious.

    People will do awful things for God. All he has to do is whisper in their ear.

    • People will do awful things for God. All he has to do is whisper in their ear.(emphasis added)

      In point of fact, all that is required for the True Believer of any faith – any ideology, any religion, any “-ism” – is for them to believe that what they hear, whispering in their ear/mind/personal consciousness is the instruction from their personal god.

      This is what makes True Belief – devotion to that “-ism”, above all else, above even Self – in any sort of absolutist system of belief, so very, very frighteningly dangerous…and Islam, for the Faithful – regardless of the particular sect or subdivision – is just that sort of absolutist system.

  2. Wade’s new book a Troublesome Inheritance, has a discussion on religion as a genetic based response that supports the social cohesiveness in a group.

    Interesting theory, (suspending my skepticism) I took a look at the world around me. What groups deny a religion and then act like they have one?: Liberals and their faith in a failed dogma; some libertarians and their adherence to Randian scriptures; Labor unions including some Police and Fire organization appear to fit that mold.

    As in most genetically based propensities there is a wide variation in the intensity of the manifestation.

  3. A few days ago, I think I used “civil war” to characterize this turmoil. It was never meant to characterize the war as internal strife in a Western type of state with Western style borders, etc. It was a characterization of internal war within Islam, according to which Islam and the state are identical – hence, “civil war”.

    This is just semantics to me. I have never thought anything but, “It’s Islam, stupid”, and surely my history of commentary here demonstrates that.

    At the time, I wanted to reply to Bill that I agreed 100% with his response to me, but that it did not reassure me, because the West is less and less modern and more and more post-modern. Islam cannot handle modernity. Post-modernity is another matter. Islam loves it (in its enemies).

    I couldn’t find the time to make the reply because I have been doing a lot of driving.

    Bill, you end his post with “… now we get to reap the whirlwind.” It sounds to me that you too are not feeling that a harmless result is assured.

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