The Past and Present of Shiite-Sunni Conflicts Beyond its Rationality -Sohrab Hussain

Cover Story

Conflict between Shiite and Sunni in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and invasion of Saudi Arabia on Iran backed Houthi sectarians in Yemen, help fuel a resurgence of conflicts in Middle East and are now a hot issue in the world politics. The root of this conflict is interconnected with the primary era of Islamic revolution in the land of Macca and the death of last caliph Hazrat Ali (R) as a result of intrigues. In early Islam, after the death of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Shiitepeople separated from the mainstream Islam with the belief that only the descendants of Mohammad (PBUH) are the owner of caliphate. Still whole Muslim world is split into these two branches. Recent resurrection of Iran and its interference about internal issues of Sunni-majority-Muslim countries of middle east, at last the attack of SaudiArabia in Yemen to restrain the ShiiteMilitia from forming the government, opened the doors of discussion which is a must to decide whether we should protect the life of innocent Muslims or cherish Shiite-Sunni-conflict.Why does this Muslim’s schism exist and what is the culprit behind it? Attributing to the age-old conflict of Shiite-Sunni is tempting to pave the way for today’s ongoing strife, major conflicts in the region have since devolved into seeking revenge for past oppressions or a struggle for geopolitical control over the other neighboring countries.Geographically, Iraq links several of the Shiites communities in the Middle East. On one side are the Shiites of Iran and the Persian Gulf. On the other side are the Allawis – and thus pseudo-Shiites leadership in Syria by Bashar al-Assad – and the Lebanese Shiites, including Hezbollah. In 1991, first Shiite-Sunni conflict happened when Shiite of northern and southern Iraqi Kurds began an insurrection against Sunni leader Saddam Husain. Being feared by rise of Iran, a neighboring Shiite- country, he stared stern crackdown and massacre and killed thousands of Shiite innocent people. Then the attack of USA in 2003 in Iraq in the name of anti-terrorism movement brought a multiple and dramatic dimension in this historical conflicts. Then USA formed the government of Nuri-al-Maliki backed by Shiite citizens of Iraq. This government backed by America tortured and killed thousands of Sunni Muslims with the help of America. Consequently, now we can see another military wing named IS (Islamic States) which is formed by Sunni rebels. They formed this armed organization as a reaction of being suppressed by the Shiite government over a decade. Interestingly, Bush administration formed a Shiite government in Iraq though it imposed economic blockade on Iran, which was supporting and training that newly formed Shiite Iraqi government. The strategy of Bush government was to spark the fire of revenge between Shiite-Sunni by establishing a Shiite government.Recently, after the insurrection of Houthi rebels in Yemen to oust the government backed by Saudi Arabia, Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden and then Saudi Arabia started airstrikes to suppress the Hauthis trained by the Iran. Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen in its northern part is Shiite majority area which is threat for them and current government of Yemen. But this analysis identifies neither the actual stance of Saudi Arabia nor stance of Iran. If Saudi Arabia started airstrikes in Yemen for good cause they could not remain silentwhen Israel killed thousands of innocent people in Palestine. In some cases Saudi Arabia is suspected in helping Israel. Moreover, Saudi government provided economic support to the military government of Abdel Fattah el-sisiin Egypt to oust the elected president Mohammad Morsi, who was also a Sunni leader. Question comes, why the Hauthis is more reliable to Iran then all other Sunni Muslim countries and who is responsible for that- whether historical context of conflict or anti-Shiite mentality of Sunni since the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979?This revolution was a cataclysmic moment in Middle Eastern history and an inspiring one for downtrodden Shiite everywhere. The invasion of Saddam Husain in Iran and the bankroll of the Arab-Sunni-Gulf states instigated Iran to sway in the Shiite minorities of Sunni-majority-gulf states. Then Iran started to communicate and train all Shiite minorities of Gulf States to strengthen their newly formed Islamic state. Historical conflicts of Shiite-Sunni and ungracious behavior of Sunni-states to newly revolutionized Iran influenced Iran government to strengthen Islamic-Shiite community in Gulf. When Iran thrived by facing off the economic blockade of western it became a headache for Saudi Arabia. Similarly, when Islamic revolution was brought in Egypt and Morsi government came to power, who did not support Arabian Kingdom over the Muslims of middle east, the Saudi Arabia donated billions of dollars to oust the Morsi government to safe its own crown. The position of Saudi Arabia is totally different regarding Palestine issue and Hamas government. They explicitly oppose the Hamas government though they are Sunni. Actual strategy of Saudi Arabia is to protect the kingdom as well as to enhance its power over Iran for geographical and historical reasons.The strategies of both countries in relation to Palestine are same though it is almost contradictory to Iranian ideology. Basically, Iran supports Hamas government for hot relation with Israel which is a great threat for both Hamas and Iran though Hamas criticizes the policy of Iran in relation to Syria government and Hezbollah who are Shiite as like as Iran. Over the last two years, in light of the situation in Egypt and the ouster of President Morsi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, there has been a freeze in Saudi-Hamas relations. On March 7, 2015 Saudi Arabia declared Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a terrorist organization, which is the parent movement of Hamas under article 2 of its charter. Being influenced by Egyptian revolution, some Islamic groups tried to oust Saudi Kingdom claiming Islamic democracy in the land of Mohammad (sm). As Arab Spring shook the Arabian kingdoms, the political figures of Saudi Arabia became afraid of losing the power and they blamed the Muslim Brotherhood. In Syria civil war, Iran and Hezbollah are in favor of Basar-al-Assad’s government for ideological and geographical reason. If Syria falls to the Sunni Arab revolutionaries, the latter will have a grudge toward both Iran and Hezbollah for supporting the Baath government, and will likely cut the latter off from resupply through Syrian territory. Instead, Syrian support will go to the Sunnis of Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Akkar and the Biqa Valley. The rebels of Syria, who are basically Sunni, called munity for democracy in Syria. If al-Assad falls in Syria and is replaced by a Sunni government of revolutionaries, they will be beholden to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey (and Libya), all of them Wahhabi or Sunni powers. They will likely punish Hezbollah for its support of the Baath government, and will support Sunni forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in Lebanese politics. If Hezbollah can’t replenish its stock of rockets, its geopolitical significance could decline, even as that of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood rises. The stance of USA is quite ambiguous and strategic. Its policy varies depending on the demand of the time. In Iraq, USA formed a Shiite government knowingly that they may be backed by Iran; In contrast, they imposes economic blockade on Iranian government. In Syria, they followed quite different policy helping rebels who are not Shiite like Iraq in the name of humanity and democracy. The policy of Egypt was to protest orally against the military mutiny of Abdel Fattah al-sisi though they said earlier to work with Muslim Brotherhood. They helped Syrian rebels who are Sunni but they are silent when Sunni government of Morsi was ousted through illegal means. Recently, USA and Iran have entered into a bilateral treaty though Saudi Arabia opposed this treaty and with whom America is allied since several decades. America may change its policy regarding Saudi Arabia thinking that its interest has been fulfilled by Saudi Arabia and they need Iran to fulfill its interest. In Libya, America sheltered Sunni rebels to oust Gaddafi government who was also a Sunni leader.
Interestingly, when Saudi Arabia does not exercise democracy rather they bankrolled to oust a legal government of Egypt to protect its royal power, USA and its allies blamed Gaddafi for dictatorship and not exercising democracy. Situation is same but one is headache for them and another is blessing for them. So the real stance of USA is imperialism. It can do anything for its interest. The legality depends on whether it protects the interest of USA or not. Now, the question is how much is it important to fight between Muslim countries whereas we are facing off thousands of conspiracies of western for their new modern colonialism in the name of human rights, environment protection, empowerment of women (not following Islamic rules and regulations), reduction of birthrate and so on? We have lost our dignity and power, now we should not be engaged with Shiite-Sunni conflict considering circumstances.
The Shiite-Sunni conflict seems to linger for no good cause and widening the door of western interference in the politics of Middle East.   Whereas thousands of Muslims are being killed, whether they are Shiite or Sunni, for being Muslims only in different parts of the world and millions of Muslims are oppressed in the hands of anti-Islamic powers, conflict within Muslim world is suicidal. History says- the loss of power from the Muslims was a result of inter-conflict among Muslims, and west and its allies always engulfed this opportunity to take over the control politics in Muslim world.   We have only one identity and that is we are Muslims, we believe in oneness of Allah. From the ideological grounds, the difference between Shiite and Sunni concepts is nominal for pushing both blocs to armed conflicts. But in reality, the conflict has been lingering for centuries for no good cause in Muslim world. If we cannot decide for our own goodness and cannot bring the Shiite-Sunni conflict to an end, we are likely to push us at the brink of destruction, what west always wants us to be. Our conflict is benefiting out enemies and enlarging mistrust between us.

The writer is an analyst of International Politics, International Law and Security. He is the student of law at University of Dhaka.