Center for Independent Threat Analysis and Research

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Future Fitna?

(فتنة) is an Arabic word, generally regarded as very difficult to translate. It is often used to refer to civil war, disagreement and division within Islam and specifically alludes to a time involving trials of faith, similar to the Tribulation in Christian eschatology. The word also implies meanings including schism, secession, upheaval and anarchy.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a future Fitna may be developing within the regional boundaries of the Near East. In the past Four Fitna's, Sunni and Shia have lined up against one another in an effort to fight for the very heart and control of Islam, this iteration adds the Arab vs Persian dynamic as well.

In a recent article in the London Telegraph,
Nawaf Obaid, a senior government security adviser to the Sunni dominated kingdom of Saudi Arabia has expressed alarm in the funding and training of Shia militias in Iraq and a military buildup by their Gulf neighbors, the Shia/Persian Iran. In order to prevent what they believe will be a wholesale slaughter of their Iraqi brethren, Saudi Arabia is reported to be supplying "anti-US Sunni military leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms". Many have begun to theorize about a coming Sunni-Shia conflict in the Near East, that could quickly spread throughout the region. This is most evident in the bombings of Shia areas in Iraq by Sunni insurgents and the reciprocation by Shia death squads that permeate the Iraqi police forces. If this were to continue to escalate or to spill from the Iraq's borders and into the surrounding moderate regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon, a larger conflict could occur.

Now it seems that the situation is escalating even more between the nations of Islam that surround the Gulf, most evident in a news story today is which Arab States Announced Joint Efforts for 'Peaceful' Nukes. This is another example of a growing consensus that a Shia regional hegemon is an unacceptable consequence and one that GCC members, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, are unwilling to live with.

So what does this mean for the region as a whole? Something akin to a Battle Royale not only for regional hegemony and control of the economic resources but a struggle for the control of Islam itself. A bit dramatic perhaps but in the coming weeks we will be examining both the rise of Shia Islam throughout the world and the friction points that it will create with classical Sunni Muslims and secular Western nations.


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