by Dr. Mordechai Kedar
The struggle for succession began in the year 632 CE, from the minute the Prophet Mohammed closed his eyes for eternity. His cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, who became Mohammed's son in law when he married the prophet's daughter Fatimah, claimed that he deserved to inherit the leadership of Islam since Mohammed had promised it to him
The Shiites are watching their dreams come true, as the Sunnis find themselves caught in a nightmare. This, dear readers, is the way of the Middle East.
His rivals pushed him to the sidelines, brushing off his story, so that it took 24 years of bitter struggles for Ali to be crowned the fourth Caliph and even then he had no time for resting on his laurels, because the governor of Damascus, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufian, rebelled against him forthwith. In 661, six years after becoming Caliph, Ali was murdered and Muawiyah became the fifth Caliph. Ali's sons continued to fight, but the new Caliph showed them no mercy: Hussein ibn Ali was beheaded in 680 and his head displayed in Damascus.
Muslims who supported Ali and his claims to the throne are known as Shiites, while those supporting his foes and who eliminated his heirs are the Sunnis.
This 1384-year-old struggle permeates the history, philosophic thought and political aspirations of the Nation of Mohammed. It is waged on different levels, from holy writings to the wording of prayers, from the system of laws all the way to people's names, but its main arena is the battlefield, one on which millions of Muslims have met their deaths and where massacres have been perpetrated by both sides with depressing frequency.
The 1980-1988 war between Sunni Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Shiite Khomeini's Iran took the lives of over a million people, left millions more wounded and is still going on with full force in several arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more. Saudi Arabia leads the Sunni struggle today, while Iran represents the Shiites.
About 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, while the remaining 15% are Shiite. This normally gives the Sunnis an advantage, allowing for victory and control on their part, leaving the defeated Sunnis to hope and pray for the situation to change.The sad state of the Shiites led them to call themselves by the Quranic euphemism "Almustdaafin" - the downtrodden of the earth. They continued to hope and pray for the day they would find themselves on the top of the heap with the Sunnis trampled underneath them - and it looks as though their wishes have come true over the past few years, especially since the Iranian revolution led by Khomeini in 1979. The rebellion gave the Shiite clerics a wealthy, large and powerful country, a center from which they could export their revolution to the rest of the world.
The goal of "exporting the revolution" was realized by sending Iranian propagandists, educators, funding and books to every country that has a Shiite population, so as to awaken and revive their anti-Sunni feelings, this to be followed once the time is ripe, by weapons, arms and training with the objective of bringing the Shiites to a position of power in each country.
The world, despite realizing what Iran is doing and what its intentions are, generally ignored the Ayatollahs' hegemonic ambitions, because Iran's gas and petroleum exports were seen as above any other consideration, including national stability and world peace. In front of the world's open and unblinking eyes, Iran developed rockets, tanks, artillery and planes, as well as biological, chemical and even atomic weapons. There were attempts to stop Iran's rapid empowerment, but thanks to Russia and China, Iran's friends on the Security Council, the Ayatollahs were allowed to progress unimpeded towards their planned takeover of the Islamic world.
The United States toppled the most dangerous and powerful enemy of the Shiites, Saddam Hussein, in 2003. The Ayatollahs saw this as a sign from heaven that they are headed in the right direction. After all, Allah had granted them the helping hand of two global powers, Russia in the Security Council and the United States in Iraq. The Ayatollahs continued their nuclear program and suffered the resulting sanctions, but their steadfastness in the face pf American weakness led to the agreement they signed in 2015. The billions of dollars given to the Ayatollahs as a result of that agreement and invested in the killing fields of the Middle East today, proved to the Shiites that the road to the pinnacle of world power stretches open before them.
Thanks to the West's war with Saddam Hussein, the Shiites managed to rescue Iraq from the Sunni claws, and today, thanks to the Christian Russians they will succeed in extricating Syria from its Sunni majority population. The Shiites, as we have been privileged to see over the last few months in Falluja, Ramadi, Aleppo, and Yemen, have been mercilessly butchering the Sunni civilian population and are now approaching Mosul, the economic capital of Iraq.
Mosul has been ruled by ISIS for the last two years. ISIS terrorists murdered Shiites without a qualm, and now that the city is surrounded by Shiites, one can almost hear the Iraqi Army and Shiite Militias, some under the aegis of Iran, sharpening their knives in order to avenge years of Sunni subjugation and deaths, on the heads of ISIS fighters and the innocent residents of Mosul.
It is terribly sad to see how the dispute over Mohammed's inheritance almost 1400 years ago, is still an open wound in this part of the world. The struggle is horrifying, because it has no geographic or moral restraints and everything is quite predictable.There will be a bloodbath in Mosul, that is a certainty. The question is not whether or not there will be a massacre, but whether its victims will be counted in hundreds, thousand or tens of thousands. The number of victims is not yet known, but I have no doubts that we are facing a massacre.
Today, we would expect that people who have led a different kind of life might act differently. Iraqis did not live like Europeans, but they had televisions, radios, books and newspapers to read, and they were exposed to the behavior and way of life in places such as Europe and the US. In addition, most of the people of the Middle East act like locals in whatever countries they immigrate to or visit, once they have become accustomed to their new environment. There are exceptions, first among them what the world saw on New Years Eve in Germany. Still, this is not a genetic problem and they can overcome it and adopt local norms.
The problem is that as soon as they return to their homelands, where violence and eliminating rivals are the local culture, they act according to the behavioral code of the Middle East, where only the strong survive. The weakling? - too bad for him. Here conflicts are not resolved, they are won, and they go on until one side does not exist anymore. Disputes are solved when one side gives in, surrenders or is eliminated.
Israel does not find it easy to survive in this region. On the one hand, Israel is an island of Western culture, a democracy with everything that entails, and cannot act in the immoral fashion with which its enemies treat one another. On the other hand, if Israel attempts to act according to the moral standards Europe has adopted since WWII, the Jews who survived that war will be forced to return to Europe.
This difficult dilemma is raised and argued over constantly in the Israeli public sphere. And the argument will continue for as long as Israel is in the Middle East because of the gap between what we would like to be and what we are forced to do.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, Op-ed and Judaism Editor.
Dr. Mordechai Kedarr is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.
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