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    Middle East
     Oct 30, '13


SPEAKING FREELY
United States eyes a Shi'ite-led West Asia
By Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

The tumultuous Middle East is going through a bloody transition where it is increasingly difficult to draw a line between friends, foes, allies, and adversaries, through its origins can be found on the regional map and the creation of nation-states by victorious Western powers after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The actions of the United States-led Western block helped shape present-day Sunni monarchies and despots around the pivot of the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and two secularist non-Arab regional powers, Turkey and Iran. They stabilized the Middle East



with the help of their allies in order to extract the region's mineral resources.

While Iran after Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution stepped out of the Western regional alliance, recent talks between with the US and Iran are signaling its re-entry. On the other hand, Turkey, a longtime partner of the US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization, under the moderately Islamic leaning AK Party is appearing to be leaving its US hegemonic alliance.

In the process of establishing regional hegemony, Western powers eliminated all the challengers that tried to defy the status quo that has guaranteed the easy flow of oil. The rise and fall of Iran's former prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and Iraq's former president Saddam Hussein were in the same trail.

A pivotal moment in changing the balance of Sunni-Shi'ite power was the hanging of Saddam on December 30, 2006. Saddam was not hanged on just any day but rather at the start of Iraqi Sunnis' celebration of Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice), a major Islamic holiday. In many experts opinion, this was done as an intentional slight to Sunnis and to demonstrate a marked shift of power in Iraq, from Saddam's Sunni rule to the post-2003 Shi'ite regime.

The rise of Islamic-leaning political parties in the Sunni Middle East is posing the greatest challenge to United States backed pro-status quo block. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Libya, Hamas in Palestine, En-Nehda in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco, Al-Islah in Yemen, and the AK Party in Turkey; all these moderate Islamic leaning political parties are challenging the decades-old regional balance.

The populist revolts of the Arab Spring, where many Western backed pro-status quo despots were overthrown, has posed a significant challenge to the durability of the status quo. The United States-led Western block succeeded in turning around the revolution in Egypt with the help of the powerful military and feloul [those connected with the former Hosni Mubarak government] by staging bloody military coup a against democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi, yet the sustainability of military regime is highly questionable amid daily reports of massacre and torture. Many Islamist movements, from Turkey to Tunisia, believe that the West has adopted a hypocritical attitude towards Egypt - as it was the case in Algeria.

Tunisia, where the Arab Spring of 2011 started, is also witnessing intrigue against the anti-status quo En-Nehda Party, forced to resign from the government by leftist groups and those in favor of the status-quo after it won the first free and fair elections in the country's history.

Saddam's last words were especially important: "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians." Not only were his executioners merely agents of neighboring Shi'ite Iran, but by pairing "Americans" and "Persians" he also asserted that Iran was acting in concert with the United States.

The United States was perfectly willing to intervene militarily in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi, a Sunni. But despite intense pressure, Washington has held back on the question of intervening in Syria where the regime is dominated by Alawites, a Shi'ite offshoot. Israel, too, seems to favor the maintenance of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

It is pertinent to say that in Lebanon, Israel has not killed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general, but in Palestine and elsewhere many top leaders Hamas have been killed at the hands of agents from the Israeli secret service. The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad can hit leaders all over the world but cannot find a leader right next door? The answer must be that Israel and Hezbollah might have some backdoor understanding.

US rapprochement with Iran will pave the way for the emergence of a new alliance where Iran, Iraq, al-Assad's Syria and Hezbollah will be the new allies of United States and West with Zaydi Shi'ites in Yemen and Ithna-Ashari Akhbari Shi'ites of Bahrain.

Washington foresees the inevitable collapse of the decades-long status quo and is working to create a new Shi'ite-based Middle East where Shi'ite-led regimes will be its future allies. The days of axes of evil and resistance are now numbered as the new alliance between the US and Shi'ite regimes emerges in the energy-rich region.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami is a New Delhi-based geopolitics and geoeconomics analyst focusing on West Asia and North Africa. Bilgrami is a researcher on Shi'ite-Sunni relations and its impact on the Islamic world.

(Copyright 2013 Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami)





 

 

 
 



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