The divided Islamic world
HAVE you ever wondered why Islamic countries are in conflict and engaged in proxy wars with each other for the last so many years? Why there is not even a single Islamic natural resource rich country among the developed countries of the world? Why there are no world class universities in the Middle Eastern Islamic countries? Why there are no state of the art health facilities there? Why ruling elite go abroad for medical treatment purpose?
Why millions of people from these countries migrated to other countries? Islamic world is divided into two camps based on the sectarian affiliation which has taken a rather political and strategic shape in the contemporary world. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia. and Iran has divided the Islamic world into two blocs. Majority of the Islamic countries side with one of these countries in all matters of international importance. Middle East has changed dramatically since 2010, when Arab spring uprising broke out on a staggering scale. Setting aside the conspiracy theories, the main driving force for the Arab spring was a call for freedom, social justice, representative political and economic systems. In all conflicts in Middle East Tehran and Riyadh are standing behind at least one of the groups which has led to a cold war between the two countries. Saudi Arabia has recently formed a 34 countries anti- terrorism coalition in which Iran, Iraq and Syria were not included. In Syria, and also in the conflicts in Iraq and in Yemen, the fighting fronts run primarily along sectarian lines.
The escalation in the Middle East also has to do with America and its changing role in the world. After decades of enmity with Iran, US President Barack Obama wanted to restart a dialogue with the country. He negotiated a nuclear treaty with Tehran last year. US is hoping that the deal will limit Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon while making it possible for the country to do business with the West in return. Saudi government had expressed its concerns over the US- Iran deal. Iran, meanwhile, following decades of isolation, have reverted to its former position of regional importance.
Last year Saudi Arabia launched a military initiative in Yemen against the Shiite Houthi rebels. Later Iran intervened which has further deteriorated the situation. Some harsh statements were issued from both sides. Some of the other countries covertly supported one or the other side. Unfortunately the ultimate victims of this tug of war were the common people.
Last year officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos convened a meeting between senior Saudi and Iranian officials to promote peace in Syria. But the participants of the meeting clashed behind closed doors. This barbed exchange between Saudi Prince l and Iranian Foreign Minister underlined the hostility between the two Gulf rivals, who have waged proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Earlier this year Saudi Arabia executed a leading Shi’ite cleric that outraged Iranians. Afterwards protests started in Iran and a large number of protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Iran. After two weeks, Riyadh broke off diplomatic relations and cut off trade and transport ties with Tehran.
This Cold War between two Muslim countries affects the entire world, making it vital to search out its causes and to scrutinise what is pushing Saudi Arabia and Iran to continue on the path of escalation. They need to resolve their issues through dialogue. Instead of wasting their resources on proxy wars they need to invest these resources on the welfare of their masses. The International community needs to mediate peace process between the two countries which will go a long way in maintaining peace in the world.