The Economist on Middle East “Proxies and Paranoia”
Accusing Iran of fuelling unrest among Shias across the region, including among the kingdom’s own 10% Shia minority, Saudi rulers have for decades given free rein, as well as funding around the globe, to Sunni preachers spewing venom against the rival, smaller branch of the faith. A recent trove of Saudi diplomatic documents revealed by the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks exposes a near-obsessive fear of Shia influence. In one cable, the kingdom’s embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, warns that the change of a green-coloured shroud for a black one to cover a Sufi saint’s tomb reflects a creeping Shia tide.
The fears are mutual. Iranian officials mutter that Islamic State (IS) and other Sunni jihadist groups are Saudi pawns. Nuri al-Maliki, the Iran-backed former Iraqi prime minister whose antipathy to Sunnis is widely seen as having paved the way for IS’s rise, suggested, absurdly, that Saudi Arabia be annexed by the UN because it had “lost control” of Wahhabism, the root cause of terrorism.
That’s not all that ‘absurd’, but this is the Economist, the British version of Qorvis.
Sunni leaders and Shia leaders have worked together in the past, competing to support Hamas. It seems odd that the Saudi publicity machine would claim that they have always been at war with the Shia.
The leaders of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar fear their own people more than they fear each other. They’re using the Shia/Sunni conflict in the same way they used the Israeli/Palestinian issue, to distract their unfortunate citizens from government mismanagement and kleptocracy.