The ‘axis of fear’ is born
By Pepe Escobar
The Bush administration, in a sense, is getting what it wants in the wider Middle East. To battle a fictitious Shi’ite crescent (a construct by Jordan’s King Abdullah), it has emboldened even more a reactionary Sunni crescent (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates), thus exacerbating to a paroxysm the “strategy” it has already applied in Iraq: sectarianism as the golden parameter of imperial divide and rule. Historically, Sunnis and Shi’ites have co-existed amid social tensions. But never have these tensions been so cynically exploited – by Washington – as in post-invasion Iraq and the wider Middle East.
The administration of US President George W Bush was forced to acknowledge that the monumental disaster of occupied Iraq had to be blamed on a new scapegoat. Thus the umpteenth twist in the “war on terror”: exit al-Qaeda, enter Iran.
The Sunni Arab “axis of fear” is merrily playing along. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia even complained in a Kuwaiti newspaper that Iran is trying to convert Sunni Arabs to Shi’ism. Even Israel is now by all means allied with Saudi Arabia against Iran – Mecca/Jerusalem against Qom; Muslims and Jews battling Muslims.
It’s enlightening to compare this development with how Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Hassan Akhtari, sees it – as nothing other than a replay of the British Empire’s divide-and-rule. Washington is once again sowing the seeds of discord among Muslims: “Bush and his allies are in favor of further unrest, turmoil and crises so that they can justify deployment of their troops in the region.”
Shi’ites also happen to live in the midst of the “axis of fear” – such as in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchies. Beyond sectarianism, Arab popular perception is alert enough to identify this for what it is: a war of the US – supported by dictatorial Arab regimes – against Islam. And the target is not only Iran: the Saudi/Israeli link is also anti-Hamas – an obvious point as the House of Saud is little else than an annex of Washington.
A recent survey of Arab public opinion by the British YouGov group revealed that Israel (88%) is the “greatest threat to the security and future” of the Middle East, followed by the US, al-Qaeda and finally Iran (33%). This has not prevented the bulk of Arab mainstream media from engaging in a systematic anti-Iranian propaganda wave.
But as Iran strives to position itself in practice as the key supporter of the Palestinian national-liberation movement, it is bound to solidify its pre-eminent popular role in the Middle East. Washington, once again, will not be amused.
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