BEYOND SHIA AND SUNNI
A discussion at Brookings Doha around how the renewed conflict in the Middle East goes beyond sectarian divides brought together thinkers from the UAE, US and Qatar for an engaging 90-minute session.
Moderated by Sultan Barakat, Director of Research at Brookings Doha Centre, the evening saw a heated debate among political science professor at Emirates University, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla; non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Doha Centre and professor at Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, F. Gregory Gause III; and Mehran Kamrava, Professor and Director, Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University, on how factors beyond sectarianism are fueling the conflicts in the region. Professor Gause opened with some insights from his latest paper, saying that labeling the ‘new Middle East cold war' as a Shia- Sunni conflict over-simplifies it and it is important to take into consideration the weakening of governments in the region and the ambitions of some of the state players. “If this is a purely sectarian conflict, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Turkey and ISIS would be on the same side,” he said. Professor Abdulla said that the region was still experiencing the “first ten minutes” of the changes that were kick started with the Arab Spring. Coupled with that are the rising forces of extremism, he said, indicating that he was pessimistic about this being resolved quickly and without more bloodshed. Kamerava also pointed out that sectarian shades were introduced to emerging uprisings by the powers that may be, as in the case of Bahrain.