Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arabs Bracing against Iran

Upright Opinion
September 26, 2010
Arabs Bracing against Iran
By Saeed Qureshi
The Arab’s conservative dynastic monarchies are bracing against Iran, an Islamic country with different racial and religious denomination. Four Arab monarchies namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and United Arab Emirates will buy military hardware from the United States by pooling $ 123 billion. The Arab countries are buying this assortment of weapons to counterpoise the Iranian emerging military prowess and its projected ambition to become a nuclear weapon power. Paradoxically, while Iran is working for a nuclear weapon or the attainment of technology, aimed at countervailing Israel’s threatening military might, the Arabs too feel threatened by the Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Under the massive arms deal, Saudi Arabia will receive 85 new F-15 jet fighters while another 70 of its fleet will be upgraded. But the analysts view this unprecedented shopping spree by these four Arab states as a plausible cover-up to give a boost to the failing American economy especially the aircraft and arms manufacturing industrial complex that would go sluggish after the termination of military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military garrisons in these four countries would be primarily maintained by the American and perhaps by Israeli pilots and technical staff. The deal is also interpreted to be hammered out under the American pressure.
The Arab and Ajam’s (non-Arabs, literally meaning dumb)) conflict particularly with Persia or the present day Iran is rooted in the past. Until the battle of “Ziwaqar” that took place during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, the Arabs remained under the tutelage of the Persian Empire.
Upon the first ever-historic victory against Persia in that battle, the prophet of Islam uttered a stunning remark, “This is the first day that Arab has taken revenge from Ajam.” That was a turning point and a milestone, in the perennially troubled relations between Arabs and the Persians. With this sentence, the prophet whose message of Islam is universal, in a moment of ecstatic triumph proclaimed himself to be an Arab nationalist.
He was indeed mindful of the Arab-Persian centuries’ old conflict and the racial cleavage between the two civilizations. It was during the caliphate of second caliph Omar that, after the battles of Kadessia, Maidan, Jalula, and Nehawand, that the whole of Persia passed under the Muslim domination. The armies of the final Persian emperor Yazd Gard II were conclusively routed in 661 A. D.
In the post-Islamic era, the main cause of rivalry is not only ethnic but also religious. The Iranians profess the Shia branch of Islamic creed while most of the Arab countries particularly Saudi Arabia are strict Sunnis. The cardinal dispute between Sunnis and Shias is about succession of Prophet Muhammad.
So the Islamic myth of universal unity has always remained in shambles and would remain so until eternity or until the time religions lose their significance. The sublime concept of Muslim fraternity that has been touted so frequently and so profusely by word of mouth by Muslim clerics, stressed in the holy book Qur’an and in the verbal sayings of the prophet of Islam, received its first jolt upon the assassination of the third caliph of Islam Hazrat Osman. Thereafter, the Muslim nation was clearly divided into two distinct clans: one of Banu Ommeyades and the other Banu Hashim both vying for caliphate.
This clannish rivalry was always simmering underneath, over the question of succession to the prophet Muhammad. Upon the demise of prophet, the cousin brother and son in law of the prophet had laid a claim to be the successor by virtue of the blood descent, which meant the tribe of Banu Hashim to which the prophet belonged. It erupted into full-blown feud after the murder of the third caliph Hazrat Osman a notable scion of Ommeyades.
Although till that time it was a common faith with no sectarian division but the ensuing battles raging for several years between the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali and Ummyad governor Amir Muawiyah led to a distinct and widening gulf between what was later called as Shias and those as Sunnis. This sectarian schism further snowballed with the time passage although the Ommeyade and Abbasid caliphs, though being heads of Islamic state, were secular, mundane, and ruthless. The massacre of Hazrat Ali’s son Hussain and his family at the desert of Karbala near Baghdad resulted into a group of supporters than later came to be known as Shias. The Shias all along believed that succession of Prophet Muhammad went to the wrong persons, which in fact should have been given to Ali and his successors for belonging to the family of prophet.
Since Hussain’s wife Shahr Banu was the daughter of the last Persian emperors Yazd Gard II, the Shias had developed a close affinity and blood relationship with Persians, who later embraced Shia Islam. The eighth Imam of Shias Imam Ali Reza, a descendent of Banu Hashim and having the blood of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali and his progeny in his veins, is buried in Iran. The Shrine of Imam Ali Reza is situated in the Mashhad city of Iran and is visited by 15 to 20 million devotees and pilgrims every year. It nurtures and sustains the spiritual fervor of Shia faithfuls besides assuming the symbol of Shia divinity attributed to their Imams.
So Islamic Ummah (nation) is clearly divided into two theological schools: the Sunni brand spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the Shia brand led by Iran. Ideologically poles apart and adversaries for centuries there is no possibility that they can develop consensus on one code of Islam. To great extent, this is akin to the sharp theological division in the Christianity between Catholics and the Protests, notwithstanding their further split into countless denominations in Christendom.
The religious rivalry has its spillover in politics also. The Saudis would never relinquish their leadership of the Sunnis sect, which is around 80 per cent of the Muslims population. Likewise, Iran the majority country with over 90 percent Shias would never compromise over her faith, national solidarity, and cohesion based on one religion and one language. Therefore, there is one Islam with two drastically and irreconcilably divergent interpretations or schools of Islamic theology. The virulent degree of antagonism between Arabs and the Persians (present day Iranians) stems not only from the unbridgeable religious chasm but also from the racial incongruity.
As such, the purchase of armament by these four Arab countries is a spillover of the rivalry from ancient to the present times. Israel, the Arabs, and United States are under the dangling specter of Iranophobia. The super duper arms deal is aimed at countering Tehran's growing influence in the region. The Arab countries particularly Saudi Arabia fear that a militarily strong and nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to their ideological leadership and territorial integrity.
In this framework of fear and phobia, otherwise from a member of Islamic fraternity, the dogma of Muslim unity repeatedly emphasized in the holy book Quran is rendered meaningless, save its rhetorical import. These four Muslim countries are ready to stand on the side of Israel, an inveterate enemy of Muslims, in opposing and even destroying Iran. As such, the regional, racial, and parochial priorities, Arab nationalism, and psyche have overshadowed the religious unity as variously emphasized in Quran. One of the verses exhorts the Muslims “And hold fast all together by the rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves ;( Verse 013, Al-i-Imran).
Saddam Hussain too had tried to annihilate Iran at the outset of the clerical regime but had to enter into a ceasefire due to tenacity and fighting spirit of the Iranians against a foreign threat to their survival. It is therefore, doubtful that despite equipping themselves up to the teeth with arms and ammunition, the Arabs have the muscle and will to fight Iran. It is another scenario if America and Israel wage a proxy war on behalf of Arab countries. But keeping in view the dismal outcome of American and NATO wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hypothetical to surmise if the Iranians would ever be subdued by Arabs and their allies.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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