Recently much has been made of the so-called "Arc of Shi'ism", from Lebanon to Iran, through Syria and Iraq. I submit that what is more significant is the much broader and longer "Arc of Chaos", from Tunisia to Pakistan. Of this huge chunk of the world, and in the face of an astounding lack of interest on the part of Europe and The United States, only Israel, Jordan and the Gulf states (with the exception of Bahrain), have escaped the encompassing and growing anarchy.
In the past few days alone, the following events have taken place; with one exception, all negative:
Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey has reverted to police repression of protestors, to a degree of brutality never seen during the days of the military dictatorships in that country, which he has so often denounced.
The Assad government in Syria retook an important town which was blocking its access to the north, again with maximum mayhem, much of it directed against the civilian population. The Assad offensive is now moving into high gear against the rebel-held second city of the country, Aleppo.
Hezbollah is now openly and massively engaged in supporting the Syrian regime, So is Iran, which has sent thousands of members of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force to support Assad.
In Libya, secular protestors and tribal-based armed gangs have faced off, with the totally inept central government reduced to the role of observer.
Sh'ia in Afghanistan and particularly in Pakistan are now the victims of horrific violence. Pakistan is also witnessing a resurgence of Baluchi separatism in its southwestern province.
President Morsi of Egypt, faced with a collapsing economy, has decided to break ties with Syria and denounce Hezbollah. A leading cleric has declared holy war against the Sh'ia.
The only potentially good news is that a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, was elected president of Iran, with a majority in the first round. The victory was overwhelming. The second-place candidate received less than 17% of the vote. Overlooked in the commentaries is the fact that this result makes it a sure thing that the 2009 election, which gave Ahmadinejad his second term, was stolen through massive fraud. What does this mean? The Mullahs are not going to simply give up and reverse course, leading Iran to liberal democracy. On the contrary, they are certain to hamstring Rouhani the way they hamstrung the previous reformist president, Khatami.
Additionally, if the clerical hierarchy had considered Rouhani a serious threat they wouldn't have approved his candidacy. They considered Rafsanjani a serious threat, and vetoed his candidacy as a result. Nevertheless, since the election, Rouhani has been making all the right noises. It is possible that if he in fact tries to loosen the clerical stranglehold on the country and the Supreme Leader tries to crush him, the populace may rise up the way it has in Turkey.
As a leading Sunni cleric recently said "How is it that 100,000,000 heretics (the Shi'ites) can challenge one billion four hundred million orthodox Muslims (the Sunni)? They must be confronted and crushed."
Inch'Allah, as they say.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 17, 2013
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