Welcome to the kick off of the 30 Years War!
Syria has fallen apart. Major cities in Iraq have fallen to al-Qa’eda. Egypt may have stabilised slightly after a counter-coup. But Lebanon is starting once again to fragment. Beneath all these facts — beneath all the explosions, exhortations and blood — certain themes are emerging.
The Middle East is not simply falling apart. It is taking a different shape, along very clear lines — far older ones than those the western powers rudely imposed on the region nearly a century ago. Across the whole continent those borders are in the process of cracking and breaking. But while that happens the region’s two most ambitious centres of power — the house of Saud and the Ayatollahs in Iran — find themselves fighting each other not just for influence but even, perhaps, for survival.
The way in which what is going on in the Middle East has become a religious war has long been obvious.
From the outset of the Syrian uprising, it was inevitable that Iran would weigh in on the side of its client in Damascus. Indeed, so desperate were the mullahs in Tehran to do everything they could to protect their own interests that they even put up with protests at home from people starved of basic supplies complaining about their own government pouring millions into Syria’s civil war.
But the next step was just as predictable. Saudi Arabia, which fears Iranian influence spreading any further than it has already throughout the region, began to back the opposition. Starting cautiously, in recent months that caution has retreated and Saudi is now supporting groups as close to al-Qa’eda-linked forces as to make little difference. Desperate measures, certainly. But for the Saudi leadership these are desperate times. Though it is a battle that has been brewing for decades.
This is a conflict which is not only bigger than al-Qa’eda and similar groups, but far bigger than any of us. It is one which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam.
If what has been happening so far looks bloody, it is the work of an Armageddon-ist to consider what will happen when those gloves come off. In a region replete with bitter rivalries and irreconcilable ambitions, that will be perhaps the ultimate clarification.
Pic - "Until then, the region will have to endure many years of violence that will only end when ordinary people feel they have had the opportunity to engage in the two seminal state-building processes that they have always been denied – self-determination and genuine sovereignty."