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Trump and the Complexities of the Middle East
In order to understand the dynamics of the mid-east, you first have to understand that the major stakeholders of the mid-east do not pay allegiance to their countries, but to their religious beliefs. They are bound, not by the borders of the maps drawn by others, but to their allegiance to their religious sects.
I believe Trump and the media have done a dis-service to the public by not describing the people of the middle east by their very important religious factions. It is the intent of this article to give identity to those in the region and show the complexities of the situation.
The Major Stakeholders
Here are the major stakeholders grouped by major religion and sects:
- Syria - Sunni
- Palestine - Sunni
- Saudi Arabia - Sunni
- ISIS – Sunni
- Kurds – Shia/Sunni/Christian
- Palestine - Sunni
- Iran - Shia
- Iraq – Shia
- Yemen - Shia
- Israel- Jewish
The Differences Between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds
So what are the differences between Shia and Sunni?
- Shia believe Mohammad’s successor should be a descendant of Mohammad, that person is called an Imam.
- Sunni believe that it should be someone with the knowledge and capabilities to lead the nation of Islam. That person is called a Caliph, a person who rules a Caliphate. These differences may seem small to a westerner, but to these religious sects, they are large enough to justify killing each other
Notice from the list above that ISIS and Saudi Arabia are Sunni. While Iraq, Iran, and Yemen are Shia.
The Kurds are a mix of all three sects, depending on their region and beliefs. But, the Kurds are sitting on a very oil rich area that ISIS wants to control. So you can see there is a three-way civil war raging among the major sects of the mid-east.
Who do they Support?
- Iran’s Shias support fighting Sunni ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
- Iraq’s majority are Shia and they support fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
- The Syrian majority is Sunni. However, their leader, Bashar Al Assad, is Shia and is in the minority in the country he rules. That is why Bashar Al Assad is ruling his Sunni majority with an iron fist as a dictator. He hates the Sunni and Shia that are not of his sect. Al Assad is an alwite shia, but he hates the non-alwite shia and Sunni to the point of exterminating them.
- (Editor’s note: Saddam Hussien’s rule of Iraq was just the opposite. Saddam was a Sunni dictator in the minority, who ruled a Shia Iraqi majority with an iron fist.)
- Saudi Arabia’s Sunni’s support the Sunni led ISIS and by the same token Saudi Arabia Sunni’s are attacking Yemen’s Shia called Houtis with military arms supplied by the U.S
Trump's Visit to the Mid-East
Trump visited Saudi Arabia and struck an arms for billions deal with their head-of-state. They will give us 110 billion immediately to produce the THAD anti-missile system for them. THAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. The arms equipment they want is to protect them from their adversaries and to attack the Yemen Houtis who are Shia and are aligned with Iran. The whole deal is in the order of 350 billion over a 10 year period. By agreeing with this deal, Trump is taking the side of the Sunni's and is against Shia in Iran. However, the heads of ISIS are also Sunnis. So it is mixed bag for us. We can't be both for the Sunni's and against them at the same time.
ISIS, Israel, Russia, and Turkey
ISIS wants to take the mid-east back to the time of the Ottoman Empire, when the entire region was ruled by a Muslim Caliph who ruled his Caliphate. They have embedded themselves with the civilians who they hold hostage and are used as shields during attacks. They rape and pillage to pass on their genes to the next generation. It’s not just about acquiring and controlling land mass. It also about controlling the people and their culture.
Israel is afraid of being attacked by Iran because Iran sponsors the Shia led terrorist group Hezbollah and Sunni led terrorist group Hamas. Israel does not like the nuclear deal because they think Iran will weaponize their nuclear operations and attack Israel. We give Israel 3 billion per year. While the total payout for Iran was 100 billion of their own frozen assets. Netayahu says Israel has the right to defend themselves. I say let them defend themselves, but leave the U.S. out of it. We have lost too much blood and treasure by protecting them from Saddam Hussein. We do not need to get into a war with Iran or Saudi Arabia to protect Israel. If Israel does nothing, they are the winners. They are purely in a defensive mode, except when they attack the Palestinians.
Russia has now gotten into the act, by supplying Syria’s Bashar Al Assad with natural gas from the Crimea. Russia has now built up forces in Syria to help Assad. This includes naval ship maneuvers off the Syrian coast and the build-up of SA-22 anti-aircraft missile systems. Putin has brought in tanks and artillery to Syrian airbases to protect his attack aircraft. This places the Trump administration in a very precarious position. Both Russia and the U.S. want to take out ISIS in Syria. However, Putin wants to protect Assad and the U.S. wants him out. Currently, Putin is using his aircraft to attack Sunni and Kurdish militants that wants Assad deposed. He is currently not attacking Sunni ISIS held positions.
As stated earlier, Turkey hates the Kurds, who are our allies in fighting Al Assad’s regime, but at the same time, we base our aircraft and missiles in Turkey. Since the Syrian conflict has started, Turkey has taken in 250 million refugees, but their refugee camps can only house about 200,000. The remainder are deported or turned away.
What does a President do?
Given these circumstances, what does a president do? Obama tried to stay out of the fray. If he attacked Iran, he would have lost the Shia support for Syria against ISIS. If he attacked the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, he would have lost his support from Saudi Arabia. ISIS would love to fight the U.S. on their own turf and their own terms.
Should we keep the sanctions on Iran, just to appease Netanyahu? Demographically, Iran is a young country that is ready for progress with the western world. However, their ruling clergy are Muslim hardliners who will make it very difficult for them to become progressive with the western world.
Currently, Al Assad has gassed more people and the images of the atrocities moved Trump emotionally to the point of launching 59 cruise missiles on the airbase that launched the chemical attacks. The news stated, 20 aircraft were destroyed, but the next day the base was operational again. Trump called it a measured attack. His people stated they are going to focus on destroying ISIS first. Once that is done, they will deal with Assad. In the meantime Assad is free to commit more genocide and the Russians are free to attack the rebels as they are called. And all the previous conditions that Obama had to deal with still exist with Trump and his administration.
You see, it is not a simple situation, as the politicians would like us to believe. Now you can understand why Obama said he would not defeat ISIS while on his watch. If it wasn’t for the atrocities of Bashar Al Assad, I would say let’s pull out of the three way civil war in the mid-east. But something must be done with Assad as he is an evil person. As you can see the situation is like Jello. If it is pushed in one place it will jiggle in another. So is Trump making the situation worse or better in the mid-east by taking sides with the Saudi Arabia Sunni's and yet contradicting his position with the Sunni led ISIS?