T he great part about predicting events in the Middle East is that if you wait long enough, a pessimist on any important issue is almost always proven right. He simply needs to wait. Whether used to describe the aftermath of elections in Egypt or nuclear negotiations with Iran, “destabilization” is the most common and least specific term used to describe anything of consequence in the Middle East. A vast range of happenings from Morocco in the west across to Iran in the east are said to destabilize the area, even though the region is anything but stable to begin with. And 2018 will be no exception. Based on current trends among the major players in the region, all hell could break loose next year in the Middle East. “ The U.S. has been willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to our Saudi ‘frenemies.’
conflict in the region. And it’s being played out through a series of vicious proxy battles that have caused thousands of casualties already. Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all endure some level of internecine conflict or suffer terrorist violence because of the Sunni-Shia divide. The so-called Arab Spring, which sought to overthrow the tyrants who had been a cornerstone of the American stability- first strategy in the region, has if anything exacerbated this 1,400-year-old feud. Without the iron-fisted rule of Hosni Mubarak or Saddam Hussein, long-simmering Sunni-Shia hatreds have bubbled to the surface. What we are seeing today is score settling over a thousand years in the making. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two main powers funding this conflict... With the decline of Egypt, the Saudis are now positioned as the great protectors of Sunni Muslims – roughly 85% of Islam globally. They’ve been arming to the teeth in recent years with the most expensive military hardware they can get. They’ve pursued a policy of cozying up to America, while also managing to be the single greatest exporter of Sunni jihadist ideology (like that espoused by Al-Qaida) on the planet. The U.S. has been willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to our Saudi “frenemies,” given their oil and usefulness as a check on Iranian ambitions.
Atop the list of concerns is the overarching Sunni-Shia civil war that is playing out from Lebanon to Afghanistan. The original seventh-century dynastic dispute over leadership of the Islamic community still determines who is shooting at whom on battlefields from Aleppo, Syria... Mosul, Iraq... Sanaa, Yemen... and other, less well- known cities. This Sunni-Shia sectarian feud remains the single biggest driver of armed
92 | December 2017
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