10/12/2004

The Middle East in Detail

I've been doing some thinking and solidifying of late. I've been learning allot about the conflict in which this nation now finds itself. I certainly do not have access to the experts on the Middle East that the President does, but through my studies there seems to be a certain logic that I am deriving from the tactics we've taken in the Middle East that is not apparent if you do not know some background. It was initially an article over on the Hammorabi blog titled "The Role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq" that spawned this research effort.

The first thing you have to understand is that we are dealing with two major sects of Islam, the Shi'a and the Sunni. I'm sure most know that, but what most do not know is that there is a third important sect. This is a sect of Sunniism known as the Wahhabi's. There are other sects to be sure like the Ismailis, the Sufis and the Baha', but these are not the major players in this conflict1.

Next you have to understand that the Shi'a and Sunnis have been at each other's throats since 661AD when a final schism occurred because of a disagreement in succession following the death of Mohammed in 632AD2.

The Shi'a represent the minority of Muslims numbering about 100 million, while the Sunni's number around 800 million.

The Shi'a are mainly in Iraq, Iran and parts of Afghanistan, while the Sunni make up the majority of the rest of the "Arab" world.

Any true investigation into the Islamic terrorist phenomenon would reveal that the Wahhabi's are the ones behind it. The Taliban were Wahhabi-Sunni's. The Wahhabi are the ones who are proponents of Sharia law. Their system of beliefs is that the Koran alone must be the sole authoritative source of Islamic belief. They reject the Hadith(the commentary from the prophet Mohammed that is intended to accompany the Koran). It is the Hadith that moderates some of the extreme portions of the Koran, such as the portions talking about the Muslim's responsibility to kill the Jews. Interestingly enough, the Wahhabi are relative new-comers to the world of Islam, founded by Muhammad ibn Abdul al-Wahhab in the 18th century. There are some claims that we have the British to thank for these Whack-jobs. It would appear that an agent named Hempher was hired to stir up fundamental religious sentiments that would cause problems for the Ottoman Empire and Al-Wahhab was the result3.

Here's where this gets interesting. It would appear that al-Wahhab, turned up on the doorstep of the al-Saud's. They were trying to carve their own chunk out of the Ottoman Empire. Together these two succeeded. The al-Saud's possessed the muscle and al-Wahhab presented them with the moral authority that legitimized their dynasty.

Just an interesting side note here, the al-Saud's support the Palestinians against the Israelis but in truth wish to see the destruction of both groups since they consider both heretical. This is because while the Palestinians are Sunni's like the Saudis, they are not Wahhabi-Sunni's. As a result, the Saudi's are only too happy to see continuing turmoil and bloodshed in that part of the world. Every person killed regardless of the side is their enemy.

For a moment, let's turn our attention to the Shi'a. There are two rival sects there. They are known as the "Seveners" and the "Twelvers". The Iranian Ayatollahs belong to the "Twelvers". The Imam al-Sistani belongs to the "Twelvers". The dsitinct difference is a question of ethnicity. The Iranians are Persians and the Iraqis are Arabs

Basically what we have are three competing views of Islam. All are militant to some extent but the most militant are the Sunni/Wahhabi's and the Persian Shi'a.

Ok, so I know what my liberal readers are thinking. They're thinking, "See I knew that Saudi's were the cause of all of this" and in that thought they would be partly correct. The other bad guys are the Persian Shi'a in Iran and the Sunni/Wahhabi's in Syria. The other Sunni/Wahhabi governments have been toppled (Hussein and the Taliban) . All of these governments present a willing source of terrorists to attack the United States.

So why did George Bush select Afghanistan and Iraq out of all of the possible places to take action?

There are several very good reasons. The first rests in the military challenge to topple the regimes. The Taliban never presented any real challenge to our military might. I remember reading an account from Mullah Omar's driver where he expressed his astonishment that, no sooner would they call for tanks until the tanks started exploding as they started to move. Afghanistan was not going to present a big hurdle to our military and did not.

So we moved into two countries that had Shi'a majorities being repressed by Sunni/Wahhabi governments. It made sense from a military perspective.

The second consideration is geography. The placement of these two countries breaks up the geographical continuity of the areas in question. It separates the Persian Shi'a and the Sunni/Wahhabi's with a buffer zone of democracy. Afghanistan separates the Shi'a in Iran from the Sunnis in Pakistan. Iraq separates the Shi'a in Iran from the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and Syria. Divide and conquer if you will.

So why didn't we bite the big bullet and take on the heavy hitters (Iran, Saudi Arabia & Syria)?

The first consideration here is survival. Our country (and most of the world for that matter) is completely dependent on oil from the Middle East. Iraq's oil production was already faltering because of the sanctions that were placed on them after the first Gulf war. An attack there would have less of an impact on the world's economy. We are now feeling that lessened impact, hence the expensive gasoline. The impact of hitting Saudi Arabia or Iran would have been catastrophic! You have to have an economy to pay for the gas that goes into your war machine (we'll get into you liberal's economic deficit woes some other time, one subject at a time please).

The second consideration was the cost in lives it would have taken to remove the regimes in these other countries.

Iran has a very strong military4. Its military hasn't been subjected to the pounding that Iraq's was during the first Gulf war. The cost in lives to take out the Ayatollahs would have far exceeded the 1,000+ that we've suffered in Iraq.

Besides, there are other options to waging war to accomplish the desired end in these other places.

Iran is teetering on the precipice of revolt. Demonstrations are common place and a very strong movement toward democracy is palpable on the streets5. With the added impetus of democracies on the eastern and western borders of Iran, that movement could only be bolstered.

Saudi Arabia is being pressured toward democracy and moderation as well. Members of the al-Saud ruling family have been pressing for reform, among them Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Plus the Saudi's have been pressured by their cousins to the north, the al-Sabbahs in Kuwait (arguably the most liberal Muslim regime in the area). Again, the momentum for change here too could only be affected for the better if a democracy were installed in Iraq, as the Saudi's too have a repressed Shi'a minority. By far, though the major reason for not attacking Saudi Arabia is the detrimental economic impact that such a move would portend. Finally, the terrorists themselves wish to see the removal of the al-Saud dynasty. This is after all one of al-Quaeda's professed goals, so that further motivates the Saudi's to begin curtailing their support of these radicals.

So that lets Syria. Early on in the war, Syria was talking tough and George Bush silenced them with the mere threat of invasion. I believe that Syria was left out of the equation simply because it was the less desirable choice between Iraq and Syria. Plus it did not have several of the other components that Iraq had. For one, Iraq had an extant Kurdish insurgency and a suppressed Twelver-Shi'a (the less severe of the two Shi'a sects) majority.

Syria is however a very large state sponsor of terrorism. In Syria the roles however are somewhat reversed. While they do have a Ba'th party just like in Iraq, the ruling party here, the al-Asads are 'Alawi's. The 'Alawi sect is a derivitive of the Shi'a, but is quite distinct unto itself as they have incorporated a large portion of Judaism, Christianity and pagan beliefs in with their Shi'a Islamic beliefs. The majoroty population of Syria is however Sunni's.

So at this point my liberal readers are going to ask, "Why didn't we just stop with Afghanistan, as arguably the demonstration of a successful democracy could be achieved there alone?"

There were several considerations to protract here.

First off, there was (and still is) the question of "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Prior to the war, everyone all around the world knew for a fact that Iraq had WMD's. There was no question in anyone's mind about this; not ours, not France's or Germany's or anyone's for that matter. So, recently some reports have surfaced that there wasn't any WMD stockpiles in Iraq. Well if the first batch of intelligence reports were wrong, why is this one suddenly so dependable? The fact of the matter is that there are still lingering questions as to whether or not these stockpiles existed. I've listed a few pieces of evidence that they did (and still do) exist already on this blog. What we do know for a fact is that Saddam was maintaining the ability to resume production of WMD's after international scrutiny was raised. No report has questioned that fact. We also know that he was actively pursuing offensive missile systems with ranges in abeyance of the limits placed upon him by UN resolution.

Next, we have the fact that Afghanistan is quite geographically remote in the over all scheme of things. Iraq's placement in the heart of the Middle East makes it's conversion to democracy even more unignorable.

Thirdly, we had the alliance between Iraq and France (and others). If France had been able to deliver on their promises to have sanctions lifted from Iraq, Saddam would have been hell-bent to reinvigorate his WMD programs and actively rebuilding his military, making a later strike into the area more costly in lives.

Lastly was the on-going humanitarian crisis that was occurring in Iraq. The bodies now lying in mass graves in Iraq has been conservatively estimated at 300,000 - 500,000. That means that around 37 people per day were being killed. While the terrorist strikes in Iraq have been deadly, they do not reach that level -and- the Iraqis have the prospect of it ending when security is finally achieved. If Saddam would have been left in power there would have been no end in sight! Remember here that an estimate of 30,000 deaths prompted Clinton's intervention in the Balkans. Later we found that the actual number killed was only about a third of that estimate. Saddam was Milosevic on steroids.

I know the democrats are convinced that capturing Osama bin Laden should have been our emphasis, but that would not bring about an end to the problem of terrorism. Do you think that by capturing this one guy, that the terrorists are suddenly going to lay down their bomb vests, pick a flower and join you in a rousing rendition of Kum-Bay-Yah at your peace rally? A more realistic view is that his capture would have served to make him a martyr for his Wahhabi cause. What has been done is that we have silenced bin Laden and allowed him to wane into obsolescence. He's become a non-issue. When was the last time you heard a peep out of him?

The only way to solve the terrorism issue is to bring about a fundamental change in the political environment of the Middle East. Oddly enough by doing so, you also make the resolution of another Middle East problem far more probable; that problem being the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The Arab world does not want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. They'd rather have the Palestinians kill the Israelis, who are their enemies and conversely, they like to see the Israelis kill the Palestinians, who are also their enemies. By removing the Sunni support for the Palestinian terrorist groups, you also defuse the tension in that area and the final result would be an Israeli state existing next door to a Palestinian state, with animosity perhaps remaining, but at peace with one another none-the-less.

Blogger Angela said...

This was an informative and enlightening post for me to read. We have so much to learn about the culture and the ideologies from all the sects over there. I wonder why the news media isn’t doing enough to try and educate more people? What can you tell me about the Hammorabi1 Blog? I want to find out more about the author and the location and expertise of this individual. Thanks.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:14 AM  
Blogger The G-man said...

Hammorabi is run by an Iraqi Shi'a who posts under monicre "Sam". I've watched his blog for some time now and then moved to verify the things he posts from other sources. While his point of view is at times colored by is religious beliefs, the articles he posts are corroborated by news articles. He seems to be a pretty good reflection of your average moderate Shiite in Iraq.

10:00 AM  
Blogger The G-man said...

btw, I would be careful about out-ing too much information you might happen to glean about Sam's identity or location as it might well put him in grave danger if the extremists were able to locate him.

10:03 AM  
Blogger The G-man said...

By the way, this al-Wahhab guy mentioned in the article wrote a book titled "Kitab at-tawhid" (or "Book of Monotheism") in 1736. Does this ring any bells? It should it is no coincidence that al-Zarqawi chose a name that included the word "Tawhid" for his terrorist organization, it is a nod all the way back to al-Wahhib.

10:13 AM  
Blogger The G-man said...

Please note there will be some on-going edits to this post as my Islamic readers correct me on the finer details of Islamic rivalries and history.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Thanks for the clarifications G-man.

'Sam' if you are reading please know that I appreciate your blog and the information that you have shared with all of us.

THANK YOU!!!! :)

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the shrub isn't smart enough to put that much thought into all of this

9:56 PM  
Blogger Carter said...

I have to agree with anonymous. You put a lot of research, it seems, into this. However, the story you tell makes it sound like we attacked Iraq and Afghanistan to set up bases there. These bases would allow us to build a democratic middle east, that it would spread.

However, Democracy is just like communism. Both are flawed, and they only spread if the populace accepts it and prefers it. Back during the cold war, we were afraid of communism taking over the world, and eventually the US. It never would have happened! The people of the US will never accept communism.

Your story puts alot of pre thought into our actions, which we are now realizing we were wrong in so many arenas.
First, we believed Iraq would lay down their weapons, and the people would greet us with roses. Which is unlike your version where we thought Iraq would be a hard battle.
Second, There Are no links of terrorism between al queda and saddam.


Well I could go on, but the main point is if this is why we went to war, then we did the Bush regime try to sell us on this WMD reason? Why couldn't he try to say the truth?

And if the mass killings in Iraq is the reason, then why is genocide still prevaliant in Sudan? (Don't give me your "Bush doesn't want to start another unpopular war" reason, because he already has repeated and repeated how he won't put his actions before a "world test".)

Blog ya later

1:58 PM  
Blogger The G-man said...

So your contention is that the Iraqi's and Afghani's don't want freedom and democracy. Is that what I'm to understand?

If that's so, why was the turn out to the elections in Afghanistan so high?

Why are the Iraqis clammoring for the elections to go on despite the security concerns? (I had a cite to back up that last contention, can't locate it now, I believe it was mentioned on the Hammorabi blog as well, that stated that 80% of Iraqi's wanted the elections to occur on schedule and that a similarly high number intended to vote.)

3:43 PM  

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