Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Assad Plays the Sectarian Card" - Sunnis vs. Shia in Syria

Assad uses the Sunni Shia split within Syria to cling to power
We have discussed in a number of previous posts the sectarian aspect of the conflict in Syria, most notably in this previous post.  Now, noted Washington Post foreign affairs columnist Jackson Diehl is out with an excellent article about how the conflict has turned increasingly sectarian, with the Assad regime using Shia Alawite fear of a Sunni takeover in Syria to keep support for his regime.  While acknowledging that there is a genuine political aspect to Syrian revolt against the Assad regime triggered by the Arab spring, Diehl argues that there has been a Sunni-Shia sectarian aspect since the beginning of the conflict, and that it is getting worse:
"But there has also been, from the very beginning, a streak of raw sectarianism in the Syrian version of the Spring: of a disgruntled Sunni majority turning on the corrupt ruling clique based in the Alawis—an offshoot of Shiite Islam that represents just twelve percent of Syria’s population. It is sectarianism that has motivated much of the foreign intervention, from Shiite Iran to the Sunni Persian Gulf kingdoms and Turkey’s Sunni Islamist government."
Diehl argues that the Syrian conflict has laid bare the Sunnia Shia conflict across the Middle East, with Shia Iran being Syria's strongest supported while the Sunni Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are most strongly involved in supporting the largely Sunni opposition.

This is one of the best articles on what is happening in Syria that I have read for a long time, discussing not only the Sunni Shia conflict within Syria, but also across other countries in the Middle East.  Do take the time to read the entire article.

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