To state the obvious, I am not a geopolitician. I am not even a politician. I am a former priest and Professor of Theology, a retired Director in a French multinational and a co-founder of its corporate University, become a militant atheist whose Blog is dedicated to sharing insights into the absurdity and dangers of religious credulity. I try to keep up with what’s going on in the world, in particular with events related to religious faith and practice. My sources are authors of recognized expertise, scientists, philosophers, politologues and even some journalists like TIME’s Michael Crowley, whose June 30 article, “Irak’s Eternal War” is the source of much of the information presented here. The opinions expressed are my own.
Some of us have trouble remembering the differences between the two fratricidal factions within Islam, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. The conflict dates from the very beginnings of Islam in the 7th century. Westerners, non-Muslims, rarely understand or remember the difference between them. Sarah Palin and the rest of us are in good company : at the end of World War 1, as he helped draw up the victors’ imposed new map of the Middle East, Winston Churchill wrote : “Sunnis, Shi’ites : I always get mixed up between these two.”
Here’s what I’ve understood – a mini-primer for amateur geopoliticians – about this internal, murderous, ancient conflict between the two sects, that goes beyond our own historical Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants, which we hope, non obstante the recent history of Ireland, are a thing of the past.
It all began with a fierce dispute about who should succeed the Prophet when he died in 632 A.D. Sunnis wanted a new leadership by consensus; the Shi’ites wanted leadership to stay within the Prophet’s family and to be given to his son-in-law Ali and his descendants. These were the “Followers of Ali” – the “Shiat Ali” – who ever since, though today only 10% of the world population of 1.6 billion, have been mortal enemies of the Sunnis, who are determined to restore the original Caliphate with its elected leader.
The Sunnis, 90% of Muslims, are dominant in Indonesia, in Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan (which has both the second largest Sunni population and the second largest Shi’ite), in Egypt, Jordan and what is now called Sunnistan, the growing territory straddling Iraq and Syria, conquered by the Sunni radical extremists who call themselves Daech or ISIS or the Islamic State. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni but ruled as dictator over the Shi’ite majority in Iraq, which is today under Shi’ite rule, like neighboring, nuclear-equipped, Iran and Bashar Assad’s Syria. Al Qaeda is, of course, like ISIS its rival, Sunni. The 35 million Kurds who dream of, and are ready to fight for, their former independence, are Sunnis determined to turn the conflict with Baghdad to their own advantage. The reason that Shi’ites have power disproportionate with the 10% of Muslims they represent, is their control of Iran – which has the world’s largest Shi’ite population as well as enormous wealth in the form of black gold – and their concentration around oil-rich areas.
That thumbnail summary may leave some incapable of distinguishing a Peshmerga from a Peche-Melba, a Kurdish militia-man from the Dame Nellie dessert. But I hope it is enough to help begin to understand that no one, and notably no American-led military action, is going to resolve the ancient hatred motivating the imperialism and terrorism of ISIS. The U.S. spent nearly $1,000,000,000,000 and lost 4,500 lives in its liberation of Iraq after deposing Saddam Hussein. The superpower is conscious that its present “restrained” intervention against ISIS is taking place in the context of a potential nuclear confrontation between the Sunnis of Pakistan and the Shi’ites of Iran. Already Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s cost more than a million lives.
This Blog’s mantra is “RIDENDA”, even “DELENDA RELIGIO” : religion deserves and needs to be ridiculed and if possible destroyed. As long as we witness, and become more and more threatened and terrorized by, radical Islam, which, not content with “M.A.D.” (“Mutually Assured Destruction”) of its coreligionists who dispute how leadership of their common religion should be determined, sees us as infidels deserving death, we cannot but continue to encourage the enlightenment of all believers and the elimination of all religions.
RIDENDA, DELENDA RELIGIO