"A SHORT, SIMPLE PRIMER FOR UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE EAST -- FOR DUMMIES"
-- by Liz Schroeder Chesney
Borders between countries in the Middle East have been redrawn several times in the last century. Most citizens do not primarily consider themselves citizens of any specific country, but instead have a great allegiance to their sect -- their people -- their TRIBE: mostly either Islamic Shia or Islamic Sunni. As opposed to the borders of the countries, which have mostly been drawn up by Western powers over the last century, these Shia/Sunni tribes are hundreds of years old. In addition, in contrast to what you hear on the news, most Middle Eastern terrorist attacks have not been against Westerners so much as Sunnis killing Shia, Shia killing Sunni. Shia/Sunni are sworn enemies. Complicating matters is the fact that our enemies -- the terrorist groups -- belong to Sunni or Shia tribes whose territories cover great swaths of land that pays no heed to modern country's borders.
Here is a list of the most dangerous Islamic terrorist groups, and their cooresponding "tribe:"
These groups may consider the US and Israel their greatest enemies, but when it comes to "boots on the ground" and fighting to gain back power and territory it is mostly Shia and Sunni groups, battling it out in bloody massacres against each other.
Complicating this even further is that fact that each country (as the borders are currently drawn) have their own tribal majorities:
Palestine is mostly Sunni;
Southern Iraq is mostly Shia,
Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) is mostly Sunni;
Syria is mostly Sunni;
Iran is mostly Shia (etc., etc.).
For the U.S. contemplating military intervention, the main questions are: 1) Which countries are strategically important (oil, natural gas, etc.), and which are our allies? Saudi Arabia (equal parts Sunni/Shia) is our most important oil rich ally there, as is Iraq (which, despite our years and years of military intervention and hundreds of thousands of deaths in attempting to turn them into a pro-western unified country remains basically two separate countries: Sunni Northern Iraq/Kurdistan and Shia Southern Iraq).
Iran is actually a different animal, because they consider themselves Persian first and foremost, with a proud, rich tradition which goes back thousands of years (as well as Shia).
Our "enemies" in the Middle East tend to be oil/gas rich countries which refuse to form an alliance with us -- most notably Syria and Iran. Syria is especially complicated because their ruling government (Sunni) is non-cooperative with the West and is killing it's Shia minority (as well as Christian) citizens. The newest and most dangerous terrorist group -- ISIS (Shia) -- has mounted a great violent rebellion in Syria against the government there. Which presents a great dilemma for the US: we want to overturn the Sunni government (Assad) but their greatest enemy who is also trying to overthrow them is ISIS themselves, as well as Al Qaeda.
The US didn't want to send actual troops to Syria, so instead we chose to give arms and military support to the rebels. And guess who that is? Among others, ISIS and Al Qaeda. In Syria, we are on the same side as the terrorist groups behind 9/11 and countless beheadings of Americans -- and we have been (under the table) giving them millions in military harware, training, etc.
Meanwhile, Shia Iran (our other sworn, oil-rich but uncooperative Middle Eastern enemy), has been mounting their own huge military campaign against ISIS and Al Qaeda -- not only in Syria, but currently in Yemen and other areas of the Middle East.
Yemen is especially important as they control the entrance to the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aiden. ISIS has nearly taken over the government (our ally) there in another violent uprising for which the US has been hesitant to send troops. Iran, on the other hand, has been aggressively using their giant military force to help quash ISIS in Yemen.
ISIS/Al Qaeda and Iran are sworn enemies.
Which means basically that we are providing arms/military hardware to ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East.
And, our "most hated country" in the Middle East -- Iran -- is mounting the most effective military campaign against our most hated and feared terrorist group: ISIS.
What a heartbreaking, violent, unfixable mess. The citizens of the Middle East, mostly poor peasants, are the victims. Our military interventions there -- both with our own troops and countless billions in military support to dozens of governments and sectarian groups there -- has, despite our highest hopes and best intentions, clearly made everything worse. We are currently supporting the weapons and training to BOTH SIDES of several different specific battle zones. While this makes the military industrial complex very happy and very very rich, it only causes suffering and death for countless innocent and powerless men, women and children.
It's time to get out.
Saudi Arabia has surpassed peak oil, and while there remains countless billions of gallons of crude yet untapped beneath what is currently called Iraq and Iran that ExxonMobil is doing their best to get their hands on, the reality is it is no longer needed.
Along with the ever-increasing technological advances in several forms of renewable energy, North America is now finding great stores of the goopy stuff on our own shores -- enough to last us years and years, as we slowly wean ourselves off of petroleum products and onto sun, wind, water, hydrogen, etc.
It's time to get out.
P.S. I specifically did not include the Israel/Palestine issue in this piece. That is, in my opinion, a completely different animal with many other moving parts that are separate from the issues above. At the same time, I acknowledge that to the U.S., Israel and the oil of the middle east are intrinsically linked. Another time...