April 19, 2005


The waxing of the Shi'ite crescent: The idea of a "fertile crescent" uniting Shi'ites across the Middle East dates back many decades. With the Shi'ites emerging as the power center in Iraq, the notion has gained new impetus, with notable support in Iran, Lebanon and Syria, and of course Iraq. (Sami Moubayed, 4/20/05, Asia Times)

Since the Islamic revolution took place in Iran in 1979, one of its prime objectives was to strengthen Shi'ites all over the Muslim world. Before that revolution, they were a disinherited, underprivileged and neglected community in Lebanon and Iraq.

This "Shi'ite emancipation" was first done in Lebanon, through the charismatic cleric Musa al-Sadr, who was funded and supported by the mullahs of Tehran in his "Movement of the Dispossessed" and its military branch, Amal, created in 1974 and 1975, respectively.

They later supported Hezbollah, a pure Iranian creation, that strove at first to establish a theocracy in Lebanon, similar to the one in Iran. In time, the role of Hezbollah became to defend the Shi'ite community in Lebanon, rather than bring them to power in Beirut, and safeguard their political rights in the complex confessional system of Lebanon.

In Iraq, the mullahs began to fund, train, protect and harbor Shi'ite dissidents opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein, where they were oppressed by the Sunni minority. Ibrahim Jaafari, the new prime minister, who is the de facto ruler of the new Iraq, spent the years 1980-89 as a fugitive in Iran.

After 25 years of underground struggle, this community succeeded in toppling Saddam, ironically, with the help of the US. [...]

Two years after the fall of Saddam's regime in Iraq, it is safe to ask: Who were the real victors in this bloody war of the Middle East in 2003? At first glance, the only victors were George W Bush and the neo-conservatives at the White House. A closer look would show, however, that Iran as well, ironically, has a lot to gain from the new Middle East.

Or more specifically, the real victors are the Shi'ites of Iran and the Muslim world. They will enjoy the fruits of the post-Saddam order long after Bush's army leaves Iraq. This region, many fear, is now dominated by a "Shi'ite crescent" uniting the Shi'ites of Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab Gulf region.

There's nothing ironic about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2005 10:45 AM

Unmentioned is the convenient fact that the southern tip of the crescent just happens to encompass the parts of Saudi Arabia that have all the oil.

Posted by: ralph phelan at April 20, 2005 12:01 AM