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[Opinion] The Shi’ites Crescent

Posted February. 01, 2005 22:27,   


Through its website, the Jordan Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently expressed concern that the Iraqi elections would result in a “Shi’ite Crescent” connecting Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. At the World Economic Forum last week, Jordanian King Abdullah warned that the Shi’ites taking power in Iraq would hurt the stability of the Gulf and challenge the U.S. He warned that the freedom and democracy that the U.S. is trying to expand in the Middle East and the world through Iraq may bring undesirable results.

The Shi’ites are the majority in Iraq where they comprise 60 percent of the population, but are a minority in the Muslim world. They have never assumed power in the Middle East in 1,400 years. This is because they believe that only the Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law Ali and his descents have the right to rule the Islam community. According to the encyclopedia Britannica, the mainstream of the Muslims are the Sunnis. If they are murderous, befitting the “legitimate” line, the Shi’ites are suicidal. It would not be too off the mark to say that disorder exists where Shi’ites do. However, their opponents differ depending on the observer. It could be tyranny or foreign power.

After Iraq’s independence in 1921, the Shi’ites were ruled by the Sunnis. The Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein was also based on the Sunni Muslims, while the Shi’ites, who opposed the party, ran to Iran through the “Persian connection.” During the Gulf War of 1991, the Shi’ites were “betrayed” by former President Bush after a revolt against the government following the U.S.’ urging to “rise up against Saddam Hussein.” Is it historic irony or inevitable fate that the Shi’ites now have formed the majority party standing for freedom and democracy?

Iran is an “axis of evil” threatening the U.S. with nuclear powers. Though the Iraq Shi’ites maintain that they will not build a theocratic nation like Iran, no one knows how the grievances of being oppressed for a long time will explode. It seems the voices within and without the U.S. expressing concern that Israel may attack Iran are getting louder with the intention of keeping the Shi’ites in check. One has to wonder how god is viewing this situation where a religion created for world peace is the factor undermining it.

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com