INTRO: The resignation of the pope has raised the attention of the mass media on the Roman Catholic Church - for the moment. But it has also prompted commentator and veteran ABC News foreign correspondent
Dunsmore to reflect
on just how much more of a factor than Catholicism, Islam has become, in
shaping events of our world. Barrie
TEXT: Recently nearly a hundred Shiite Muslims were killed in a bombing attack in
border. This week there’s been a new wave of bombings of Shias in Afghanistan . And in Iraq , the
civil war continues with 60,000 Syrians now believed killed. Syria
This is a political struggle between the forty year dictatorship of the Assad family and those who wish to be free of its despotic rule. But, it should be noted that much of this civil war can now be directly related to the dispute between Sunni and Shiite Muslims - a conflict that dates from the 7th century over the method by which the prophet Mohammed’s successors should be chosen.
There are ethnic, economic and political differences in
to be sure. But at this stage of the fighting, it mainly boils down to
religion. The Assad’s are Alawites, a somewhat mystical 9th century
off-shoot of the Shiite sect. They make up only 12% of Syrians. By contrast
about 75% of Syrians are Sunnis. There are some religious lines that are
blurred. But it’s largely sectarian differences between Sunnis and Shiites
which now fuel this civil war. And it’s a conflict made more complex because Syria ’s
neighbors are directly interfering to protect their stakes in the event the
Assad regime ends-or doesn’t. Syria
Over the centuries Sunni Muslims became the majority Islamic sect and the most dominant, while the Shiites evolved as the least politically powerful and the poorest. But that dynamic changed with the 1979 Iranian revolution when the Shah was overthrown and replaced by a Shiite theocracy.
invaded Lebanon in the early
1980’s, that gave
an excuse to intervene too. In came its Revolutionary Guard which proceeded to
organize Lebanese Shiites under the banner of Hezbollah, the Party of God, into
a significant political and military force, That’s also when Iran Iran and cemented their current three
decade alliance. Syria
invaded Iraq in 2003 it
overthrew the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ’s most significant enemy.
Today Shiites control the government of Iran Iraq
enjoys unprecedented influence there. Iran
Many analysts believe Iran’s aspirations to become a nuclear power is not so that it can wipe out Israel - which given Israel’s own nuclear arsenal would be suicidal for the mullahs of Tehran. In this analysis what
Iran really wants is to
expand Shiite influence while challenging Sunni ruled ,
which as the keeper of Islam’s Holy Places is the acknowledged Muslim power in
the region. Saudi Arabia
It’s been credibly reported that
America’s main concern about Iran getting the bomb is that it would prompt
the Saudis and perhaps the religious Sunnis of , to try to go nuclear as
That would make the world a far more dangerous place- because both the Sunni’s and the Shiites have militant, fundamentalist wings. And these extremists are evidently willing to use any means to return Islam to the glory days - of the Middle Ages.
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