November 2, 2016


The crisis of the Arab world : From Aleppo to Mosul (The Economist, Oct 8th 2016)

SURVEY the rubble of the Fertile Crescent, and a disturbing pattern emerges: from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, those bearing the brunt of war are for the most part Sunni Arabs. Though they form the largest ethnic group and are heirs of fabled empires, many of their great cities are in the hands of others: the Jews in Jerusalem; the Christians and Shias in Beirut; the Alawites in Damascus; and, latterly, the Shias in Baghdad. Sunnis make up most of the region's refugees. Where Sunnis hold on to power, as in the Gulf states, they feel encircled by a hostile Iran and abandoned by an indifferent America.

The malaise goes beyond sectarianism. The Arab state is in crisis almost everywhere, aggravated by decades of misrule, not least by Sunni leaders. Think only of Iraq's appalling ex-president, Saddam Hussein, the quintessential Sunni Arab strongman; or of Egypt's flawed leader, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. The Sunnis' sense that they are assailed from all sides helps to explain how the jihadists of Islamic State (IS), offering to restore the ancient caliphate, were able to take over vast Sunni-populated areas in Syria and Iraq. No battlefield victory against jihadists will be complete, and no diplomatic solution will be lasting, until the Sunnis' dispossession is dealt with.

Right now the future of the region is being decided in two venerable cities: Aleppo, the last urban redoubt of the Syrian rebellion against Mr Assad; and Mosul, IS's most prized possession in Iraq. The conduct of the battles, and the political order that follows them, will determine the course of the region's barbaric wars. The best hope for peace lies in federalism and decentralisation to give Sunnis, and others, a proper voice.

The entire war has consisted of liberating and empowering the naturally democratic Shi'a.  The Salafi Sunni are right that they are encircled.  The hard part is for us to accept that the Islamist parties--the Muslim Brotherhood--are also democratic and only the Islamicists--Salafi/Wahabbi--are the enemy.  

Posted by at November 2, 2016 3:10 PM