The clash between Sunnis and Shiites

According to Amnesty International, Iran carried out the death sentence of about 700 people just in the first six months of 2015, approximately 4 executions every day.

Similarly, about 700 people were put to death in Saudi Arabia, although in one year’s time. No, neither data is comforting: the numbers are staggering. However, it is not trivial to bring them to light while the Iranians continue to be portrayed with diplomatic grace.

But the Shiite-Sunni confrontation has surfaced dramatically. The provocative execution by the Saudis of the Shiite preacher, activist and perhaps terrorist Nimr al-Nimr prompted the Iranians to react like wounded tigers.

The sequence of the events is well known: protests by Shiites took place everywhere, the assault on the Saudi embassy in Tehran (to be sure, not at the hands of an uncontrolled crowd), and the break of diplomatic ties by Sudan and Bahrain with Teheran on Monday; then, the Islamic University of Al-Azhar in Cairo condemned the “interference” in the Saudi internal affairs, and the Saudis and their allies announced the suspension of all flights and trade links.

The waves of the ongoing clash between the Shia and the Sunna deserve to be ridden by a great surf champion, but the West is contemplating in powerless astonishment “the boiling Sunni-Shiite conflict”, as Eliezer “Geizi” Tsafrir, a former Israeli advisor for Arab Affairs to the Prime Minister and Mossad officer, called it.

For us, this is a conflict without rights or wrongs, which begins 1400 years ago when two Muslim sects confront each other over the succession to Muhammad, igniting a clash that reminds us how in the Middle East some problems remain and problably will remain merely unanswered. For us, the caliph and the ayatollah are symmetrical as to ideology: they share the conviction that the destiny of the world is the sacred Islam dominance, although each of them believes in his own Islam.

They have different styles and are both affable as long as it serves their purposes. They believe only in Allah and are convinced that eventually the West will have to surrender.

Even Russia, which now offers itself as a mediator, is appraised on the basis of a totally instrumental criteria, as much as the United States of Barack Obama, irrespective of the kindness displayed in the negotiations and the agreements.

Sunnis and Shiites have been fomented by the stormy sea of the Arab Spring, which shook up Sunni and Shiite tribes as well as Kurdish, Alawite, Druze, Yazidi, Bedouin, and Christian ones.

In simple words, the Sunni-Shiite conflict which was triggered at that time (as I explained in detail, allow me to remind you, in my new book “The Caliph and the Ayatollah”) has resulted in a Sunni very worried side which has now taken the tough road and the aggressive new Shiite imperialism.

In the background, the despair of the immense Arab people, who wander terrified in the Middle East or take the road to the West. Terrorism has become the biggest strategic problem of our time. Saudi Arabia has major responsibilities for the outburst of the Wahhabi one, which led to September 11, and today tries to disavow his past by fighting Isis.

On the other hand, Iran, according to Khomeini’s imperialist dictate, is sponsoring Hezbollah, the organizer of massacres of Jews and anti-American and anti-European attacks.

The Sunni world headed by the Saudi kingdom has been in a state of agitation since the United States pushed the Shiites forward in Iraq. It observed for months, until the peak of the nuclear agreement, the revenge of the Shiite minority that has suffered so much over the centuries.

As a plethora of businessmen brings into Teheran millions after the end of the nuclear sanctions, Iran provocatively experimented the forbidden ballistic missiles that can also carry nuclear warheads, but the United States has postponed the promised sanctions. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen are now largely in the hands of the ayatollahs.

Yet, a quiet Middle East is the legacy that Obama aims to leave in the wake of his agreement. Saudi Arabia observed his fellow in oil and military deals approaching its worst enemy.

The Saudi kings no longer see any convenience in a pretended proWestern conformism; at the moment its first interest seems the multinational alliance of which Riyadh put itself at the helm in the Yemen war campaign. Dynastic and oil problems inflame the conflict.

Meanwhile, for the West it is important to clearly realize how the two counterparts (which both apply Sharia without indulgence, ignoring what “human rights” mean for us) conceive foreign policy and its alliances and treaties: a clash for dominance with no rules.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (January 06, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.