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Middle East Vol.11 (Sunni Versus Shiite (Shia) / Iran Vol.7)

Excerpts are on our own.

What’s the Difference Between Shiite and Sunni Muslims? (02/25/2011) | Remy Melina @LiveScience
The Sunnis believe that Muhammad had no rightful heir and that a religious leader should be elected through a vote among the Islamic community’s people. They believe that Muhammad’s followers chose Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s close friend and advisor, as his successor.
Shiites believe that only Allah, the God of the Islam faith, can select religious leaders, and that therefore, all successors must be direct descendants of Muhammad’s family. They maintain that Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the rightful heir to the leadership of the Islam religion after Muhammad’s death.
…while the Sunnis hold that the Mahdi has not yet been born and anticipate his arrival, the Shiites believe that the Mahdi was born in 869 A.D. and will return to Earth under Allah’s orders.

The Sunni Shia Divide | @CFR_org
… Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived peacefully together for centuries. In many countries it has become common for members of the two sects to intermarry and pray at the same mosques. They share faith in the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings and perform similar prayers, although they differ in rituals and interpretation of Islamic law.
Shia identity is rooted in victimhood over the killing of Husayn, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, in the seventh century, and a long history of marginalization by the Sunni majority. Islam’s dominant sect, which roughly 85 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims follow, viewed Shia Islam with suspicion, and extremist Sunnis have portrayed Shias as heretics and apostates. …
Origins of the Schism
… A group of prominent early followers of Islam elected Abu Bakr, a companion of Mohammed, to be the first caliph, or leader of the Islamic community, over the objections of those who favored Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. The opposing camps in the succession debate eventually evolved into Islam’s two main sects. Shias, a term that stems from shi’atu Ali, Arabic for “partisans of Ali,” believe that Ali and his descendants are part of a divine order. Sunnis, meaning followers of the sunna, or “way” in Arabic, of Mohammed, are opposed to political succession based on Mohammed’s bloodline.
Ali became caliph in 656 and ruled only five years before he was assassinated. …
Modern Tensions
… Under Khomeini, Iran began an experiment in Islamic rule. Khomeini tried to inspire further Islamic revival, preaching Muslim unity, but supported groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Pakistan that had specific Shia agendas. Sunni Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, admired Khomeini’s success, but did not accept his leadership, underscoring the depth of sectarian suspicions.
Saudi Arabia has a sizable Shia minority of roughly 10 percent, and millions of adherents of a puritanical brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism (an offshoot of the Sunni Hanbali school) that is antagonistic to Shia Islam. The transformation of Iran into an overtly Shia power after the Islamic revolution induced Saudi Arabia to accelerate the propagation of Wahhabism, as both countries revived a centuries-old sectarian rivalry over the true interpretation of Islam. …
…confessional identity has resurfaced wherever sectarian violence has taken root, as in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein, a dictator from the Sunni minority who ruled over a Shia-majority country. The bombing of a Shia shrine in Samara in 2006 kicked off a cycle of sectarian violence that forced Iraqis to pick sides…
… Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq unseated Saddam Hussein and instituted competitive elections, the Shia majority has dominated the parliament and produced its prime ministers. Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia and political movement, is the strongest party in Lebanon. The Houthis, Shia militants in Yemen tenuously linked to Iran…
Practicing the Faith
… Shias believe that God always provides a guide, first the Imams and then ayatollahs, or experienced Shia scholars who have wide interpretative authority and are sought as a source of emulation. … Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was appointed by an elected body of Iranian clerics, while maraji (plural of marja) are elevated through the religious schools in Qom, Najaf, and Karbala. … Many Shias emulate a marja for religious affairs and defer to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran for political guidance. For Sunnis, authority is based on the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed. Sunni religious scholars, who are constrained by legal precedents, exert far less authority over their followers than their Shia counterparts. …
Sectarian Militants
… Tens of thousands of Syrian Sunnis joined rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamic Front, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which all employ anti-Shia rhetoric; similar numbers of Syrian Shias and Alawis enlisted with an Iran-backed militia known as the National Defense Force to fight for the Assad regime. Sunni fighters from Arab and Western countries initially joined the Syrian rebels before turning their guns on them in an effort to establish their envisaged caliphate. Meanwhile Hezbollah and some Shia militias from Iraq, such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah, backed the Syrian government. Syria’s civil war has attracted more militants from more countries than were involved in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia combined.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been decimated by Sunni Iraqis who joined the fight against extremists, the U.S.-led military surge, and the death of Zarqawi, its leader, in a 2006 U.S. airstrike, but found new purpose exploiting the vacuum left by the receding Syrian state. It established its own transnational movement known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The group expanded its grip on Sunni provinces in Iraq and eastern regions in Syria, seizing Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014. …

The Middle East’s Great Divide Is Not Sectarianism (03/11/2019) | Hussein Agha and Robert Malley @newyorker
… Sunnis, embattled and embittered by Shiite ambitions, radicalize in large numbers, join Al Qaeda, or enlist in isis. Shiites, moved by the anxiety of a minority, overstep and seek power far in excess of their numbers. …
The region’s most ferociously violent Sunni actor, the Islamic State, for all its anti-Shiite discourse, claims Sunnis as the overwhelming majority of its victims. The fierce battles for the Iraqi city of Mosul or the Syrian city of Raqqa pitted Sunni against Sunni. isis attacks in Egypt, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere almost always have Sunnis as prey. There are few examples of wide-scale killings of Shiites by the group. …
… Yet the Assad regime is not exclusively Alawite, having been built around an alliance among Alawites, Sunni middle classes, and an array of religious minorities. It is hard to imagine the regime having survived without at least some backing from mainstream Sunnis: for much of its history, it relied on financial and political support from Sunni Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia first and foremost. During the early stages of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Syrian regime enabled the transit of radical Sunni Islamist fighters to the country, where they targeted Americans and mostly Iranian-backed Shiites.
… When Russia rescued the regime in Damascus—killing a large number of Sunnis in the process—Sunni Arab leaders did not spurn Putin; they instead embarked on repeated pilgrimages to Moscow with offers of arms and trade deals and strategic alliances. … It is unsurprising that, as the war winds down, the U.A.E. and Bahrain have decided to restore diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime. Both are preoccupied with the struggle against Turkey and Qatar and share a fear of Sunni Islamism. …
… The Iranian Revolution helped provide a model to emulate and an ally to curry. But at the core of the Houthis’ grievance are social issues: they resent their loss of status and the increased neglect of the northern part of the country, their stronghold. …
The latest, most covered, and vivid act of violence, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is also an internal Sunni affair. … The backdrop to the killing is the tug-of-war among variants of Sunni Islam: the ascetic Wahhabis, the activist Muslim Brotherhood, and the statist neo-Ottomans, each competing for leadership. …
… The Lebanese Prime Minister detained by Saudi Arabia, in 2017, was a Sunni. Hezbollah actually increased the number of Sunni allies it has in Parliament and in the Lebanese government in the aftermath of its intervention in the Syrian civil war against Sunni rebels. …
… Shiite Iran—not Sunni Turkey or Sunni Gulf countries—was the first to supply weapons and abet the predominantly Sunni Kurds when they were threatened by isis. Saudi Arabia’s attempt to build ties to Shiite elements in Iraq and Iran’s robust relations with some Iraqi Sunnis do not fit neatly in a binary sectarian dynamic. Nor does the refusal of Pakistan—which has one of the world’s largest Sunni populations—to heed Saudi Arabia’s call to arms in Yemen. …

Sectarian conflicts in the Middle East can be resolved: Sectarianism is a modern-day phenomenon in the Middle East and should be addressed as such. (10/10/2018) | Marwan Kabalan @AJEnglish
… The Shia revival, and the surge in sectarian politics in Iraq and later in Syria, within the contexts of the Arab Spring, led to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other radical Sunni groups. ISIL presented itself as the champion of Sunni Islam against the rise of Shia power and Iran’s expansionist policies. …
The dismantling of the Iraqi state and the failure to replace it with a state based on the rule of law that is neutral in its relation with all its citizens was instrumental in the rise of sectarianism in the country. … Sectarian policies of the Dawah Party, especially under former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, killed almost every possibility to establish a state for all Iraqi citizens.
In Syria, the use of indiscriminate force by the regime of Bashar al-Assad to suppress the 2011 protest movement, as well as Iran and Iraq’s support for these drastic measures led to the emergence of regional sectarian axes. …
… The only way to counter them is by rebuilding strong nation-states which embrace human rights and the rule of law, but also retain a monopoly over the use of force. …
For strong nation-states to be built, a Westphalian peace must be established in the Middle East, wherein no country is allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of others. …
Democracies are more capable of resolving conflicts and building collective security regimes…

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Rivalry: Politics Under the Veil of “Deep-Rooted Sectarianism” (09/03/2018) | Farah Oraby @BerkeleyPolRev
…conflict has traditionally developed on ideological and not sectarian lines. During the second half of the 20th century, it was the struggle between Pan-Arabists and Pan-Islamists that shaped local conflicts in the region, not the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide. For instance, in 1962, when Nasserist Pan-Arabism posed a threat to the Saudi monarchical order, Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen on the side of the Zaydi, a Shia offshoot Inmates against the Nasser-inspired Republican movement. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran today is thus best understood as a classic balance of power struggle, with sectarianism as one of its components but not its root. …

The Jewish State And Sunni Muslim World Against Shiite Iran (02/14/2019) | Charles Bybelezer @TheMediaLine
… “Iranian missiles are a concern that wasn’t addressed in the [nuclear deal] and the project has continued because [Tehran] is being supported by the Chinese and private individuals from Russia,” Dr. Soli Shavar, Director of the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa, told The Media Line. “Before reaching a point of regret for not having done enough to stop a potential regional war, we have to upgrade the efforts against Tehran and economic sanctions are not enough.” …
This position dovetails with recent reports that Saudi King Salman recently took back control of the Palestinian portfolio from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman due to the impression his son and heir to the throne was being too amenable to the White House’s reported attempt to redefine manners in which to address and resolve core issues of the conflict.
Notably, the Saudi prince’s interview aired a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Riyadh with King Salman, who reiterated support for the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with the eastern part of Jerusalem as its capital. …

How Iran fueled Islam’s Sunni-Shiite divide (03/09/2019) | Jennifer Bell @arabnews
…the origins of the 1,400-year divide were “virtually unknown” in the West outside specialist academic circles until the Iranian revolution of 1979…
… “Very often Sunnis and Shiites have been able to coexist in harmony. Look what happened in Iraq after the First World War…
…when the Iranian regime happened, what Shiite cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian revolution, wanted was to get all Muslims behind his Islamic revolution, Sunnis as well as Shiites.”
…the sectarian split could be traced back – not because of religious differences from the mainstream – but because of two different perceptions of who should exercise religious authority among Muslims after the Prophet’s death.
…problem is not to do with religion, it is to do with other political factors.
…the violence we see today in many Arab countries is because of the politicization of Shiite Islam and then the turbocharging of sectarian violence which followed on as a result of the Iraq invasion in 2003 up until 2005…
…Sunnis are 85-90 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim population… whereas most Shiite Muslims live in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. …

The Odd Couple: Why Iran Is Backing the Taliban (03/08/2018) | @stratfor
In the conflict in Afghanistan, there are few stranger bedfellows than Iran and the Taliban. The former is the spiritual hub of Shiite Islam, while the latter is a vociferously anti-Shiite Sunni fundamentalist movement. …
… The main reason for Iran’s backing is the rise of the Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter in Afghanistan. Unlike the Taliban, whose chief aim is to reconquer Kabul, the Khorasan group is part of a transnational jihadist movement that threatens Iran, too. (An Islamic State cell, in fact, carried out the coordinated attacks in the country’s capital that killed 17 people in June 2017.) The Islamic State has been active in Afghanistan since 2015. And while it maintains a presence in 30 of Afghanistan’s 399 districts, mainly in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, the group has yet to seize control of any territory. …
… (Russia’s alleged support for the group is a remarkable policy reversal given that the Taliban are the descendants of the mujahideen who fought the Soviets in their 1979 invasion.)
… The jihadist group’s activity in the country, moreover, provides Iran with a useful pretext to maintain a presence in its long-unstable eastern neighbor. …

Trump’s Iran Crackdown Isn’t Enough to Stop Hezbollah: Unless Washington targets the group more effectively, it can outlive the pressure on Tehran. (06/11/2019) | @eottolenghi @ForeignPolicy
…sanctions on Iran are unlikely to cause Hezbollah to go broke, because the Lebanese group brings in an estimated $300 million per year from independent sources including the proceeds of transnational crime, although the true figure is likely much higher. In Latin America’s booming cocaine trade, Hezbollah members and associates provide cartels with reliable money-laundering services.
… The shadowy relationship between Venezuela, Iran, and Hezbollah expanded during Carvajal’s tenure. …
The DEA believed that Joumaa, using the Lebanese Canadian Bank and a vast network of businesses, laundered $200 million a month for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. …
…Hezbollah’s money flows at their starting points in Latin America, nor have its numerous financial facilitators suffered any consequence for their ongoing actions. These may include Lebanese Brazilians operating in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
First…against Hezbollah’s networks. …more attorneys, more analysts, more interpreters, more field agents…
Second, the Trump administration should impose sanctions, prosecutions, and other interdictory actions against malign actors rather than leave them in the field, as intelligence officials often advocate, in the hope they can turn into informants. …
Third, the United States should start targeting Hezbollah’s enablers. If countries like Paraguay cannot or will not clean up their politics and banking system, the United States should press international forums like the Financial Action Task Force to blacklist them. …
Fourth, the Trump administration could target entire foreign jurisdictions in Latin America, such as the TBA…
Fifth, the United States should deny or revoke the visas of Latin American officials that go out of their way…
Finally, the United States should reinforce the impact of its terror designations against Hezbollah financiers in Latin America by also targeting local companies that help them. …

How the Shia-Sunni split in 632AD led to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power games today (01/05/2016) | Aamna Mohdin @qz
… Saudi Arabia has since severed diplomatic ties with Shia-led Iran following the attack on its embassy, ending both trade and air traffic links. Bahrain, Sudan, and the UAE have also downgraded ties with Iran. …
Saudi Arabia, whose history dates back to the time of the prophet, was first unified by Abdel Aziz ibn Saud in 1932, who established an absolute monarchy. Wahhabism—a religious movement that wants to purify Sunni Islam and return religious practice to the Quran and Hadiths—heavily influenced the king and his successors’ rule. Wahhabism is named after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th-century preacher who strongly opposed the Shias.
This power was dramatically challenged by the Iranian revolution of 1979…
Saudi Arabia’s fear about its own grips on power in the region has grown dramatically since the Arab Spring, where a number of Shia activists called for equal rights in the kingdom, which continues to run segregationist policy against Shia muslims. The country brutally put down these protests—and those in neighboring Bahrain. …

Iran-Allied Rebels Strike Saudi Airport: More than 20 are injured in an attack that Saudi Arabia said deliberately targeted civilians (06/12/2019) | @SUNEENGEL @WSJ
A missile fired by Iran-allied militias in Yemen injured 26 civilians in Saudi Arabia…
The Houthi insurgents said they had targeted the airport with a cruise missile in self-defense against Saudi aggression and a yearslong blockade… …alluded that it was in retaliation for Saudi strikes killing Yemeni civilians.
… The U.S. and its regional allies accuse Iran of arming and training the Houthis. Tehran denies it has supplied weapons to the group but says it supports its cause.
… The U.S. also accused Iran of orchestrating a spate of recent attacks in the region, including the sabotage of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denies involvement.
… The war unleashed what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and caused over 70,000 civilian casualties… The Saudi-led coalition has killed more than 4,800 civilians in direct targeting of civilian facilities since 2016, compared with more than 1,300 by the Houthis…

How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ? (01/03/2016) | John Harney @nytimes
Ramadan for the Shiite and Sunni Muslims (05/15/2018) | Beth Stolicker @MNNTeam
The differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims are at the center of the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict (01/04/2016) | Peter Jacobs and Barbara Tasch @businessinsider
Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s ancient schism (04/01/2016) | @BBC
Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals (18/11/2017) | Jonathan Marcus @BBC
What is the Shia-Sunni divide? (05/24/2017) | Mohammad Shoib @reuters @ConversationEDU
Why Sunnis and Shiites are fighting, explained in two minutes (01/22/2014) | Max Fisher @washingtonpost
What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims – And Why Does It Matter? | @myHNN
Sunni Versus Shiite Conflict Explained: The True Cause of All Middle East Conflicts (06/04/2019) | KIMBERLY AMADEO @thebalance
Sunni-Shia, or Saudi-Iran Discord? (11/08/2016) | Abukar Arman @HuffPost
The Saudi-Iranian Blood Feud (05/05/2016) | Ted Galen Carpenter @ChroniclesMag @CATO
The Sunni-Shia Political Struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia (PDF) | Thomas G. Cardinali
The Sunni-Shiite divide in the Middle East is about nationalism, not a conflict within Islam (12/31/2018) | Ömer Taşpınar @BrookingsFP
Many Sunnis and Shias Worry About Religious Conflict (PDF) | @pewresearch
Sunni v. Shia: Iran’s strategy – IN 60 SECONDS (YouTube) | @AEI
Sunni-Shia Tensions in the Iran-Iraq War (04/21/2012) | SAM LANGTREE @E_IR
Does the Iranian constitution prohibit building Sunni mosques? (12/10/2017) | Anastasia (Fatima) Ezhova
The Precarious Existence Of Iran’s Sunni Muslims (02/11/2016) | @NPRinskeep
Sunnis in Iran: An Alternate View (04/24/2018) | PEYMAN ASADZADE @ACIranSource
Report: Iran Escalates Targeting of Non-Shiite Muslims, Other Religious Minorities (04/30/2019) | Michael Lipin, Farhad Pouladi @VOANews
Are you a Sunni or a Shia? It Does Matter for the U.S. (02/11/2016) | Munzer Eid Alzamalkani @intpolicydigest
The United States Cannot Afford to Pick a Side in the Shia-Sunni Fight (06/25/2018) | Payam Mohseni, Ammar Nakhjavani @TheNatlInterest
Mismatched Expectations: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood After the Arab Uprisings (03/19/2019) | TAMER BADAWI, OSAMA AL-SAYYAD @CarnegieMEC
Tehran Imam calls for Sunni-Shia unity against enemies of Islam (11/24/2018) | @MiddleEastMnt
The Forgotten Arabs of Iran (01/03/2019) | Ali Al Youha @HarvardKSR
IRANIAN STRATEGY IN SYRIA (w PDF; 2013) | Will Fulton, Joseph Holliday, and Sam Wyer @TheStudyofWar
Uzbekistan: Ethnic Iranian Shias Face Legal Troubles in Bukhara (08/30/2017) | @EurasiaNet
Unraveling the Qatar crisis: Sunni, Shia, Saudi, Iranian — and Trump (06/07/2017) | Tim Lister @CNN
Egypt-Iran relations and the Sunni-Shia power struggle (03/06/2013) | Lauren Madow @PRI
Aligning With Iran Necessary To Combat Sunni Extremism (06/05/2017) | Emile Nakhleh @LobeLog
The Age-Old Sunni-Shia War Is Sucking America In: Naiveté led Bush to invade Iraq, and Obama to portray a nuke deal with Iran as a panacea. But all Washington is doing is making things worse. (03/30/2015) | Jamie Dettmer @thedailybeast
Trump State Dept. Admits Nuclear Deal Keeps Iran From Getting Nuclear Weapon (w Video; 06/12/2019) | Tommy Christopher @Mediaite

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