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Islam and Sectarianism ( 1 May 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Proxy Wars, Sectarianism and Lust for Power


By Mustafa Qureshi

May 02, 2015

Today, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran are involved in plots of going one-up against each other in their quest for unchallenged power and influence all across the Middle East. The foundation stone of this decades’ long rivalry is laid upon sectarian differences, with Saudi Arabia presenting itself as the leader of Sunni Muslims and Iran acting as a messiah for the Shias. The Middle East serves as a game of monopoly for both these Islamic giants as they reassess their moves.

An agreement between the two has never been on the cards and it can be safely suggested that it never will be. Proxy wars have extended from Iraq to Lebanon, Lebanon to Syria, and now Yemen too has fallen prey to this struggle for undisputed power. For Iran, access to Yemen means access to Saudi Arabia. For Saudi Arabia, Yemen serves as a weak link that can be manipulated by the Iranian government. The Saudi lobby has had a long history of not allowing regional competition to rise nor allowing democracy to familiarise itself in the Arabian Peninsula. In Iran, Saudi Arabia sees a time bomb and, as a result of the ongoing unrest in Yemen, it has become evident that the unification of the Muslim ummah is most likely to be the last thing on either of the two countries’ list of priorities.

Enter the US. The US has been point-black in its support of the Saudi-led invasions in Yemen. It has lauded Saudi efforts against the Houthi movement in Yemen. The US has also assisted Saudi Arabia by providing intelligence sharing, target assistance and advisory and logistical support to the military intervention. The US and Saudi Arabia have a common enemy in the face of Iran. Due to its geographical significance, Yemen sits on the shipping lane that is pivotal to the economic stability of Egypt as well as European countries in terms of oil imports. The US would most certainly not appreciate Iranian involvement in such a key area.

Instability in Yemen could also damage the US’s security interests in the Gulf. Although the Houthi movement’s motives are indeed anti-US, it has not targeted any US interests nor has it interfered in US bombings against terrorist groups in Yemen. If anything, the Houthi movement has shown resistance to the increasing control of al Qaeda in Yemen. Houthis had managed to uproot al Qaeda from several Yemeni regions and so, by targeting the Houthi movement, the US will also be crushing any potential, regional threat to al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS). By continuing with the campaign, the US holds the threat of strengthening a much stronger enemy that could cause serious problems for them.

Enter Israel. Israel is another name on a long list of countries that are not fond of Iran. It has openly sided with Saudi Arabia and conducted airstrikes in Yemen. Israeli governments have a reputation for supporting dictators. The root cause behind Israel jumping into Yemen is purely strategic. In Iran, both Saudi Arabia and Israel have a common enemy. Israel involvement could also pave the way for Mossad to steer the conflict in the Middle East towards a sectarian war between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, an ingenious strategy that could be considered a massive success for Mossad and anti-Muslim conspirers.

Israel cannot remain indifferent to a possible Iranian stronghold on the seaway that connects it to Africa and Asia. A large Jewish community resides in Yemen but no efforts have come to the surface regarding their protection. If considered worthy, this could be used as a reason for Israel to resist instability in Yemen.

Enter the UAE. It joined the coalition led by Saudi Arabia to carry out airstrikes in Yemen against the Houthi rebels. As an ally of Saudi Arabia, the war against Yemen is as much the UAE’s as it is Saudi Arabia’s. Despite a negligible amount of interest and involvement in Yemen, the UAE has sent up to 30 aircrafts to assist Saudi Arabia. Through their persistent support and bold statements targeting Russia, the US and the UK, the UAE has shown that the Gulf no longer requires the help of outsiders to crush a rebellion. The UAE also intends on sending a signal to Iran to understand that it is fully backed by the Saudi lobby and is fully capable of retaliating against any of their actions if required. They have sent out a strong message to Iran that having a positive relationship is highly unlikely.

Enter Pakistan. Contrary to what was previously being believed, Pakistan has wisely refused to become a part of the mess that has been created in Yemen. The opportunity cost of indulging in another outside war is simply too high for Pakistan. Siding with Saudi Arabia would have damaged Pakistan’s relationship with neighbouring Iran, and an unhappy Iran would have added too much pressure on an already suffering Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan already has its hands full with major operations against the Taliban and cannot afford to get involved in Yemen.

It is true that Pakistan will always remain indebted to Saudi Arabia for its constant support in the past and if there were any threats to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity, Pakistan would have joined without any second thoughts. Instead, the parliament of Pakistan presented the idea of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia with Pakistan itself playing a key role in resolving the issue. Senator Mushahid Hussain also proposed the idea of asking China, Pakistan’s neighbour and long-term ally, to ask for a ceasefire in Yemen in the United Nations.

The conflict in Yemen is far from over yet and is fully capable of dragging the Middle East and the entire world into a war that is not caused by sects or religion but power and influence. In Yemen, I see another Palestine, another Iraq and a large number of countries trying to the suck life out it.

Mustafa Qureshi is a freelance columnist