Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Saudi Arabia / Iran Make The Middle East War Clearer For us

In the last couple of days, Iran and Saudi Arabia have increased tensions in the Middle East. Iranian demonstrators created to the execution of a Shiite cleric by torching the Saudi embassy in their country. The Saudis reacted by cutting diplomatic ties with Iran.

Political pundits on cable news programs are saying this complicates things in that area of the world. Maybe so, but what it should do is make it clearer to Americans just what is happening there. Our politicians (in both parties) are trying to frame the Middle East conflict as terrorism against freedom. That would be laughable, if it weren't so serious (costing many thousands of lives and displacing millions of refugees).

The truth is that what is happening is a religious civil war that continues to widen. It is a war of Sunnis against Shiites (both being branches of Islam). Involving ourselves in this religious civil war is creating enemies from both the Shiites and the Sunnis. That is because we are trying to straddle the fence between the two muslim branches, with a muddled and confusing policy that supports and opposes both branches.

We support the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and oppose them in Iraq (ISIS). We support the Shiites in Iraq and oppose them in Iran. And in Syria, we oppose both the Shiite government and the Sunni rebels (ISIS) -- pinning our hopes on a tiny faction of rebels fighting both. Our government will claim we are not taking the side of either religious branch of Islam, but you simply cannot involve yourself in a religious conflict without taking sides -- and our effort to stay neutral just means we support and oppose both sides (creating enemies of both sides).

It is not President Obama's fault that this is happening. It was the unnecessary invasion of Iraq by his predecessor that created the environment in which this violent religious civil war could happen. But it is President Obama's fault for continuing the confusing policy in that area -- a policy that has no chance of a happy outcome for the United States (and the Western world).

Predominantly christian nations have no dog in this fight, and their involvement in it is viewed by Shiite and Sunni muslims as christians trying to force a solution on them through military power (a modern crusade).

I don't know how the muslims will resolve this conflict -- whether one branch will prevail as dominant, or whether the two will finally learn to co-exist (as happened in the West after centuries of Catholic/Protestant violence). But I do know this is a problem the muslims must settle for themselves, and our confusing policy only makes things worse (and creates enemies for us among both Shiites and Sunnis).

The United States needs to get out of the Middle East altogether. The best course is just to help the refugees from the religious violence as best we can -- and once the conflict is resolved, make peaceful diplomatic overtures to the countries there.

NOTE -- I'll bet most Americans couldn't even tell you which of the flags pictured above belong to Saudi Arabia and Iran. We are too ignorant of all the countries in the Middle East to be involved in their religious conflict.

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