Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Is this a war between Shia and Sunni?

Syed Kashif
Though the oil wealth, a small population, huge government patronage, welfare economy and others play as immunities, there exist some significant factors also which may appear more potential than those immunities, for Saudi King. In Saudi Arab, so far, there have not been uniform mobilizations or agitations. However, Saudi youth, women and Shias in the eastern region of the country have exhibited their dissent separately.
But very significantly, there is no hope of aggravation of it. Saudi Arab’s new policies of employment (whereby every company has to reserve seats for Saudis) will certainly play a pivotal role in suppressing the uprising. As far as women are concerned, how could they make their voice audible alone in a country like “Saudi Arab”? In fact, King’s appeasement stand has also played significant role in forbidding women to speak out. Soon after King Abdullah had inherited the throne he had said that one day women would be able to drive. Last year King announced that he would grant women the right to vote and the right to run as candidate in the future municipal elections. Likewise he also said the he would like to appoint some women in his Shura Council as well.
But, certainly, though the agitation from Shias is in control, it is significant. Shias are the largest minority in the country. It consists of 15 percent of the Saudi population. Interestingly, agitation from shias is crucial because the oil wealth is located in their region only. Last year protests had started in their region in March and it has continued since. The eastern region in which shias reside is connected with Bahrain. In Bahrain seventy percent population is Shias. They are on the street against the Sunni government. So Shias of eastern region of Saudi Arab have continuously getting moral support. Moreover, they might get more than that in future. And, that is the biggest threat for sunni government of Saudi Arab.
In light of above story, Saudi government’s anxiety is not a shock. As the violence erupted in Bahrain the Saudi government rapidly stepped in. It sent its soldiers into Bahrain. “A convoy of 150 armored troop carriers and about 50 lightly armed vehicles carried about 1,000 Saudi soldiers across the King Fahad Causeway into Bagrain in mid-March”, says Gulshan Dietl, in his article, published in The Hindu on 31st March 2012.
Likewise, when we analyze the uprising of Syria, to a larger extent, we may realize that the present turmoil in Arab world is not as simple as it seems. It is not explicitly a want for democracy. Or, very importantly, it might have started in pursuit of freedom and democracy; elites are certainly trying to diverse or dilute it.
In Syria, the power is concentrated in the hands of Basharul Asad’s family and members of the Alawite (Shia) community. Claims of corruption and nepotism have been rife among the excluded Sunni majority. Protests have generally been biggest in Sunni-dominated rural areas, towns and cities, as opposed to mixed areas. Thus in case of Syria, where Sunni Muslims are about 74 percent of its total population, the Saudi Arab government has been in favor of protesters. It got exhibited when the Syrian Shia regime itself accused the opposition of militarizing the conflict and of "Wahhabism"; the strict interpretation of Sunni Islam adhered to by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is well known that both countries have condemned the crackdown on protests and advocated arming rebel groups.
The member states of Arab League, led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia has been openly lobbying against the Syrian regime. The League has, reportedly, imposed some economic sanctions on Syria as well. It has also been backing UN resolutions, though Syrian ally Russia has already vetoed it. Thus the Iranian Shia regime, which is roaring on behalf of Syrian Shia regime, is confident enough to fight with Sunnis and its ally US. Beside, Hezbollah (Shiates) is also openly backing Asad regime. It is doing so because in case of regime change in Syria, its strength will certainly be affected in Lebenon. Moreover, for Sunnis of Lebenon, the Syrian crisis may appear as a good opportunity to diminish the power of Hezbullah. Thus the whole scenario corresponds to a bipolar Arab consisting of Shias and Sunnis.
Nonetheless, it is worth to note that it is the West, and especially the United States, which is fueling the tension for decades by implementing a rudimentary geopolitical strategy of “divide and conquer” through the clumsy instigation of conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites. The United States and its allies are now siding with Sunnis and their key Saudis backers. It is, needless to say, a “master plan” against Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah. Neither Sunnis nor Shiites and certainly not Islam have anything to gain from this.