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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 22-Dec-2008
Growing Sunni-Shia cyberwar in Mideast defeats Ahmadinejad's agenda

Web Log - December, 2008

Growing Sunni-Shia cyberwar in Mideast defeats Ahmadinejad's agenda

Sunni scholar Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi is leading the anti-Shia, anti-Iran drive in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, triggering hostility and an internet cyberwar between Sunnis and Shia.

According to numerous articles translated by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Insitute), the attack on Shia Islam and Iran is being led by Sunni scholar Sheikh Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (Yousef Al-Qaradhawi), Chairman of the Cairo-based International Union for Muslim Scholars.

According to a MEMRI summary:

"In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Qaradhawi stated that rapprochement between the Shi'a and Sunna was impossible and that the spreading of Shi'a in a Sunni country was tantamount to an invasion of that country and its society. He said: "If a [Sunni] society notices [attempts to] spread the Shi'a within it, it will react with opposition and hostility." About Iran, he said that it had imperialist aspirations which went back to the ancient Persian era and the Sassanid period, and that it spent millions or even billions on spreading the Shi'a. Consequently, he said, anyone who embraced the Shi'a became loyal to Iran rather than to his own country, like the Shi'ites in Lebanon, who felt closer to Iran than to their Lebanese brothers. ...

In an interview with Al-Watan, he reiterated that Shi'ite activities in Sunni countries were backed by "a country with strategic goals, which was enlisting the [Shi'ite] faith in order to realize its desire to expand and enlarge its sphere of influence..." He added: "I want to cry out and warn my people and nation about the raging fire they may face unless they wake from their drunken slumber... Anyone who doubts my words need only look at what is happening in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and in other Muslim countries in Africa and Asia, including even Palestine..."

Al-Qaradawi's anti-Iran drive has drawn adherents in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, and in other Arab countries, including support by hundreds of of other Sunni clerics.

The tension began in 2007, when a Saudi hackers group attacked Shia web sites. Shia hackers retaliated, starting a cyberwar over the internet. According to some press reports, the cyberwar was triggered by a contest by Iranian officials to award prizes for attacking Israeli web sites. The contest backfired when the hackers attacked Iranian web sites instead.

The cyberwar started in 2007, when groups of Saudi Sunni hackers started hacking Shia web sites. At first, Iran's reaction was simply legal -- representatives of the targeted web sites brought legal action against the hacker groups in Saudi Arabian courts. By May, 2008, Shia hackers were targeting Sunni web sites.

Hostility has extended well beyond web sites. In June, 2008, a statement by 22 Saudi clerics accused Shia of heresy and trying to take over the Muslim world. The latter claim is certainly true, as we'll discuss below.

"In their statement, the clerics wrote: "… Of all ethnic groups in the [Muslim] nation, the Shi'ite community is the nastiest - it is the most hostile and treacherous towards the Sunnis… Islam and the Muslims are still suffering on account [of the Shi'ites], who are constantly plotting to destroy [the Sunnis] and their religion. [Moreover, the Shi'ites] grab every opportunity to back the enemies of the Muslims, and if they have a state of their own, they subjugate its Sunni residents and rule over them, as is the case in Iran and Iraq. They sow internal strife among the Muslims, along with all kinds of corruption and destruction, and undermine the security of Muslim countries. This has happened during several pilgrimages to Mecca and also to the supporters of Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi in Yemen…"

In July, 85 Shia clerics responded by saying that those "who issued fatwas accusing others of heresy were responsible for the appalling bloodshed in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world." The Shia clerics demanded that the Sunni clerics "engage in self-scrutiny and examine the current situation of the Shi'ites objectively and conscientiously."

Al-Qaradawi's statements became extremely strident in September, as described by this MEMRI translation:

"In his September 8-9, 2008 interview with Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Al-Qaradhawi was asked who posed a greater danger to Islam - the Wahhabis or the Shi'ites. He replied: "...The Shi'ites are Muslims, but they have strayed far [from the truth]. The danger they pose lies in their attempt to infiltrate Sunni society. They are [well] equipped for this [task], having great wealth, estimated in the billions [of dollars], as well as a legion of missionaries trained to spread the Shi'a in Sunni countries... I recently discovered to my sorrow [that there are] Shi'ite Egyptians. In past decades, the Shi'ites could not get even one Egyptian [to embrace the Shi'a]. From the days of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi [in the 12th century] to 20 years ago, there wasn't a single Shi'ite in Egypt. Today they write in the papers and appear on TV, and publicly profess their Shi'ism..."

In response to criticism evoked by his statements, Al-Qaradhawi only reiterated his position. In a communiqué, he wrote: "I stand by my statements about the Shi'ite attempts to infiltrate Sunni societies. It is the duty [of the ulama] to come out against this - for if we fail to do so, we betray the role that has been entrusted to us and our obligation to the Muslim nation. My warnings about this invasion are intended to open the eyes of the nation to the dangers it is facing..."

The cyberwar has intensified since September, following Al-Qaradawi's strident anti-Shia statements. The forms of hacking became more stident as well. Sunni hackers defaced the web sites of Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other prominent Shia leaders with messages maligning and deriding the Shia faith and its leaders.

In return, Shia hackers attacked dozens of Sunni Wahhabi sites, including those of prominent Sunni clerics, saying "this is only the beginning" of the Shia attack, and quoting a Koranic verse: "One who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you... [Koran 2:194]."

Al-Qaradawi's statements have split the Muslim community along Sunni-Shia lines, but have also split the Muslim Sunni community itself. Many Sunni clerics have criticized Al-Qaradawi's stridency, and the leadership of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has even renounced Al-Qaradawi's views on Iran and the Shia.

However, ordinary Sunni Muslims seem to be joining with Al-Qaradawi. A group of 40 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members, all of them from the media and academia, issued a statement strongly supporting Al-Qaradawi's views. Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi authorities of systematically discriminating against Shia. Saudi authorities have been shutting Shia clerics out of Muslim conferences, and have even shut down Shia mosques.

The growing Sunni - Shia conflict

Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution that began in 1979, has been warning against a Shia-Sunni rift. "We have intelligence that an institution, supported by the global arrogance funds, the publication of certain books which insult the beliefs of Sunnis or Shias." I don't know what institution he's referring to (possibly the United Nations), but I'm pretty sure that the "global arrogance" refers to the US and/or Israel.

As I've written in my analysis of Iran's strategy, Iran would like to gain hegemony over the entire Mideast. To this end, they've provided money to the Palestinians, armed Hizbollah to fight Israel, supplied Shia terrorists in Iran with materials for roadside bombs, and supplied Sunni terrorists in Afghanistan with materials for roadside bombs. In addition, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a religious fanatic and believes that the Mahdi is coming soon to unite the world behind Shia Islam, has been making provocative statements about wiping Israel off the map.

Thus, the Sunni-Shia conflict is a major defeat for Iran's agenda. The hope that all Muslims will unite under Iranian hegemony is being shown for crazy idea that it always was.

What I found most interesting in researching this Sunni-Shia conflict is that the Sunni side is clearly offensive, while the Shia side is clearly defensive (or, at least, reactive).

This is consistent with the differences between Iranians versus Saudis and Egyptians from the point of view of Generational Dynamics.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are in generational Crisis eras, and so are "attracted toward" war. Survivors of the previous crisis wars have almost all died, so the crisis wars' horrors are now forgotten. Iran is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past the genocidal Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, and so is "attracted away from" war today.

Mideast: Red=mostly Sunni, Green=mostly Shia, Yellow=conflict
Mideast: Red=mostly Sunni, Green=mostly Shia, Yellow=conflict

If you look at the above map, it will help you in understanding what's going on in the world if you realize that the strip of countries across the top -- Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan -- are in or entering generational Awakening eras, having had huge crisis wars in the 1970s-90s.

Most of the other countries, including Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India, are in generational Crisis eras.

We've seen the results of these differences time and again, as I've described many, many times on this web site, including some extremely dramatic examples:

Since that report was written, the situation in Afghanistan has worsened, largely because of the influx of hundreds (or thousands) of al-Qaeda linked terrorists from central Asia and the Arabian peninsula. This influx has substantially complicated the Afghan war, especially since al-Qaeda terrorists can use the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as safe havens and training grounds.

The Iranian model for Sunni Islamists

In the preceding paragraphs, I've described several examples of Sunni-Shia conflict, but there's a common thread that runs through all of it: It's really the Sunni Islamists, led by al-Qaeda, that are the most aggressive and warlike at the present time. This is because the Sunni countries in the region are largely in generational Crisis eras, while the Shia countries are not.

And there's a special irony in the fact that much of the Sunni Islamist strategy is inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and the Iran/Iraq war that followed immediately.

There's little memory or knowledge of these events among Americans, including (or especially) the politicians, analysts, journalists and experts in Washington, but these events were momentous in the Muslim world, as the latest chapter in the centuries-old wars between Sunnis and Shia, and between Persians and Arabs.

What the Sunni Islamists are hoping for is a repeat of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but this time for Sunni Islam. This was al-Qaeda's goal in Iraq, but that goal has been largely defeated, as the Iraqis themselves expelled al-Qaeda.

It's also their goal in Somalia, which is currently under attack by Sunni Islamist extremists. Taking control of Somalia would be a major victory, since it would provide another safe haven, like the one in Pakistan's tribal regions. Control of Somalia would be a huge victory for Sunni Islamists, since they could launch attacks against the entire region, using Somalia as a base.

For Sunni Islamists, the big prize would be Pakistan itself. It's widely believed that the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), perpetrated the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, with the goal of provoking a war between India and Pakistan. The fantasy hope would be a Sunni-based Islamic revolution that would spread throughout both countries. Even if it simply gave control of Pakistan to the Islamist extremists, that would put nuclear weapons into the hands of al-Qaeda.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're headed for a Clash of Civilizations world war, with many components, including India versus Pakistan and Israelis versus Palestinians.

What's really interesting is the question of how Iran will be aligned. I've pointed out in the past that while Iran's leaders are anti-American and anti-Israel, the Iranian people are very pro-Western. They may not like having Americans in Iraq, but right now Iranians, especially young Iranians, still like Americans more than they like their own leaders, and have no desire for war with Israel. As time goes on, it's becoming more and more apparent that Iran will be aligned with the India, Russia, American and the west, versus Pakistan, Sunni Muslims, China, and Bangladesh.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Geopolitical topics thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (22-Dec-2008) Permanent Link
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