The current uprising in Syria is a perfect example of the Sunni-Shiite divide and the Iranian-Saudi rivalry, as well as Turkish (Sunni)-Iranian (Shiite) rivalry over Islamic championship. Iran is allied with the Syrian Alawi-led regime of Bashar Assad, and the Alawis are an off-shoot of Shiite-Islam. The Alawis are despised by the Sunni majority which is supported by the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab League and Saudi Arabia, as well as non-Arab Sunni Turkey.
In Lebanon the Saudis have supported the government led by Sunni Saad Hariri, while Iran supported the Shiite Hezbollah. In the Arab Gulf states and most recently in Bahrain, the Iranian regime incited the majority Shiites to rise up against the Sunni ruler. Sunni Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the Sunni rulers. The Iranians have also incited the majority Shiites in the Hasa province of Saudi Arabia.
For centuries, the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the Persian Empire clashed in battles over territory and faith. Today, the two modern nations seek to export their respective model of a Muslim state to Central Asia. And, whereas in the recent past Turkey presented itself as a model of a secular Islamic republic, under Erdogan it is portraying itself as a Sunni Islamic Republic. Iran touts itself as a genuine Islamic Republic.
A nuclear Iran would change the balance of power in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-ruled Gulf sheikdoms, as well as Israel, view a nuclear Iran as an existential threat.
Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran may be bitter rivals but they share in common the desire to implement Sharia law globally, and both these rivals support the restoration of the Caliphate. In more contemporary and immediate terms they both express hatred towards the Jewish state and the West. And, both regimes have contempt for the secular Arab regimes (Iran makes Syria the exception).
To the extent that the Palestinians have any value in the Muslim world, it is that they are on the front-lines of a war against the infidel and despised Jews. Used as pawns in this war, they have otherwise been shunned and discriminated against throughout the Arab world. So, for example, in Egypt, Syria, or Lebanon, Palestinians are regarded as aliens and therefore do not have the right to vote. In Jordan (where the Palestinians form the majority population) and in Israel (Arab-Israelis) alone have Palestinians become free citizens, able to vote and participate in national life.
It is high time the Western media reflect these realities in their coverage of events in the Middle East. The media has largely ignored the intense religious rivalry in the region, and the historical antipathies between Arab and non-Arab minorities. Likewise the media has overlooked the Kurdish and Baluch quest for national self-determination. The media have minimized the intolerance of the Islamists in Egypt towards the Christian Copts, and they have failed to emphasize the religious motivation of the Arab-Palestinian in rejecting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.
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