On his show Friday night, Bill Maher, called it “the Shia-Sunni Throwdown.” That’s pretty much what it is. Two major Muslim factions that hate one another are at war. It’s been going on for centuries. The Bush/Cheney Administration’s decision to invade Iraq put us smack in the middle of it and left us there. And it’s only getting worse.
The United States is now allied with Iran (Shia) in the fight against ISIS (Sunni), with some air support coming from Saudi Arabia which is Sunni, but heavily allied with the U.S. The Sunni Saudis hate the Shia Irainians, but they are allied against ISIS, which threatens all of Iraq, which is also mostly Shia. Got that? Iraq and Iran, are Shia. The Saudis, are Sunni, but they are allies in trying to put down the ISIS revolt, which got started because the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein, who was the lynchpin which kept the region from flying apart into factions and devolving into widespread warfare.
Skip over to Yemen, where Shia Iran is in support of Shia Houthi fighters, who have overthrown the government of Saudi (Sunni) supported President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
So the Saudis (Sunni) and Iran (Shia) are allies in fighting ISIS, but they oppose one another in Yemen. They are fighting on the same side against ISIS, but they are on opposing sides in Yemen. That’s complex in and of itself. It becomes even more tangled when Israel enters the picture.
Six nations are attempting to cut a nuclear power control deal with Iran. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, opposes the pact, even before knowing what the final agreement will say. He does not want it and appears eager to spread conflict in the Middle East and North Africa by getting the United States involved, either directly or in support of some kind of military action against Iran – which is what the United States hopes to avoid with the deal they and five other nations are trying to reach with the Iranians.
It’s difficult to determine precisely what Netanyahu wants. Apparently his plan is to eliminate the Palestinians by driving them into the sea and over the border into Jordan, along with the military annihilation of Iran, ISIS, Syria, portions of Iraq and anybody else he and his supporters on the Israeli right find disagreeable. In other words, widespread ongoing slaughter as opposed to ongoing negotiations for peace. It’s important to remember that not all Israelis agree with Netanyahu’s position which is doing serious damage to Israel’s image in Europe and the United States.
And now comes the Arab League, agreeing in principle to form a joint military force to fight Jihadis, like ISIS and the uprising in Yemen. However, there is no certainty as to how many members of the Arab League will commit resources to the effort, which already had numerous countries including the U.S., Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Kurds and the Saudis involved in the fight against ISIS.
It’s the mother of all holy wars, an unholy mess, and that’s precisely the reason Baby Bush’s daddy, George H.W. Bush, withdrew American troops after pushing Saddam Hussein back into Iraq, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. A very smart move by Bush I. If only junior had inherited some of those smarts.
Yes, our troops have been in the region since 1991. That’s 24 years, not counting incursions during the two world wars or the European crusades, which may have greater meaning for Middle Easterners who sometimes tend to take a longer view of things.
As his nation’s “strong man,” Saddam, held the Iranians in check. In addition, because his regime was secular, he was able to maintain a balance between the Shia and the Sunnis, something the United States destroyed when the administration of Bush II and Dick Cheney, decided to invade with the goal of overthrowing Saddam and “democtratizing” the Middle East, leaving the United States stuck there ever since.
Perhaps this new military alliance coming out of the Arab League will open the door for the U.S. to finally withdraw from the region, ending a futile effort of more than a dozen years to impose a military solution on a problem that’s both religious and political – which increasingly appears to be one and the same – both in the Middle East and in other parts of the world as well.
The American military solution has not worked. There is no good reason to believe that it will work. It is time to leave. It is time to let the Shia and the Sunni solve their own problems. U.S. planning has been idiotic with regard to culture and history in the Middle East, just as it was in Vietnam.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we keep doing this? For profit? Bravado? Some combination of the two? Are we really so arrogant as to believe that we can solve anything, simply through the application of military power?