The Revenge of the Shia
Every increase in the violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq raises the threat of a wider sectarian upheaval that could vault Iran to dominance in the Middle East.
In December 2004, as the United Nations Security Council began to grapple with the challenge of
Iran’s nuclear ambitions and as Iraq started its slow topple into
civil war, one of the closest and most trusted American allies in the
Middle East began to warn publicly of the emergence of a “Shia crescent” in the
region. Jordan’s King Abdullah, a Sunni who claims direct descent
from the Prophet Muhammad, sounded the alarm that a vast swath of the
region, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean and from
the oil-rich Caspian Sea to the even richer Persian Gulf, was
coming under the sway of the Shia branch of Islam. More ominously, he
implied that this looming Shia empire would take its direction from Tehran.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt echoed this warning last year when he
said, during an interview on al-Arabiya television, “Most
of the Shias are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living
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Martin Walker, editor emeritus of United Press International and a senior scholar at the Wilson Center, is the author of several nonfiction and fiction books, including The Caves of Périgord (2002).more from this author >>