Thursday, July 27, 2006

Who is stirring up the Sunni-Shiite conflict?

Who is stirring up the Sunni-Shiite conflict? Could it be the Israelis?

According to Niall Ferguson, a Professor of History at Harvard:

"For Israel, spiralling Sunni-Shiite conflict is a dark cloud with a silver lining."

The following is an extract from an article, in The Sunday Telegraph, 23 July 2006, by Niall Ferguson:

This might not be a world war, but it still needs a sense of urgency.

Israel's undeclared war against the Palestinians in the occupied territories shows every sign of escalating. There were lethal Israeli air strikes on the Mughazi refugee camp in Gaza last week. Palestinians were also killed in Nablus on the West Bank. There is no longer a peace process; no road map towards peaceful coexistence. This is a war process, and the map Ehud Olmert has in mind will create not a Palestinian state but Arab reservations.

The policy of the Israelis today is motivated above all by pessimism: for not only are they encircled, they are also being out-bred. According to the forecasts of Arnon Sofer of the University of Haifa, by 2020, Jews will account for little more than two-fifths of the total population of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In Israel alone, nearly a third of the children under 14 will be Arabs. Yet there is one (albeit grim) source of solace. For the biggest ethnic conflict in the Middle East today is not between Jews and Arabs. It is between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.

With every passing day, the character of violence in Iraq shifts from that of an anti-American insurgency to that of a sectarian civil war. More than 100 civilians a day were killed in Iraq last month, according to the UN, bringing the civilian death toll this year to a staggering 14,338. A rising proportion of those being killed are victims of sectarian violence.

For Israel, spiralling Sunni-Shiite conflict is a dark cloud with a silver lining. The worse it gets, the harder it will be for Israel's enemies to make common cause. (Fact: Syria is 74 per cent Sunni; Iran is 89 per cent Shi'a.) But for the United States, such conflict, emanating from a country supposedly liberated by American arms, must surely be a cause for concern.


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