Understanding the Mideast: A Guide for the Perplexed

By Shlomo  Maital     

free for all 

  Are you having trouble understanding what is going on in the Mideast?  What leads one human being to behead another human being – twice?   I LIVE in the Mideast, and have lived here for nearly 50 years.  And I’m having real trouble getting the picture.

    When in doubt, ask Tom Friedman,  New York Times columnist, who does his research through the soles of his feet.  Here is the best summary I know, (from his NYT column today),  in just a few words, and it explains why President Obama is not a wimp, but is justifiably cautious, listening to his experts. There are not one, not two, but  THREE civil wars ongoing. [ By the way, ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, is called ISIL by Obama, because the literal translation from the Arabic is Islamic State in the Levant, where Levant means the whole Near East…a one-letter different that is highly significant]:

   “…. There are three civil wars raging in the Arab world today:  1) the civil war within Sunni Islam between radical jihadists and moderate mainstream Sunni Muslims and regimes; 2)  the civil war across the region between Sunnis funded by Saudi Arabia and Shiites funded by Iran; and 3)  the civil war between Sunni jihadists and all other minorities in the region — Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians, Jews and Alawites.

  Friedman might also have mentioned the festering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,   a century old, predating the establishment of Israel. 

     So, what does Friedman recommend for battling ISIL?   “I support using U.S. air power and special forces to root it out, but only as part of a coalition, where everybody who has a stake in stability there pays their share and where mainstream Sunnis and Shiites take the lead by demonstrating that they hate ISIS more than they hate each other. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the middle of a God-awful mess of duplicitous allies and sectarian passions, and nothing good we do will last.”

    Makes sense?   In Israel, I live next door to a “God-awful mess of duplicitous allies and sectarian passions”.  There goes my neighborhood…. if yours is much better, be thankful.