Reports from this column the past week have demonstrated how the U.S. is finding strange bedfellows in the war against terrorism in the Middle East. There are terrorists at large, terrorists living inside nation states, and nation states that are considered rogue and terroristic in nature. Consider this partial list of instances of terrorism in the Middle East:
- al Qaeda
See the annotated list below.
What is Iran? It is the Islamic Republic of Iran. What is an Islamic republic?
“Islamic republic is the name given to several states in countries ruled by Islamic laws, including the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan first adopted the title under the constitution of 1956.”
What are “Islamic laws” (Sharia)?
“Since the early Islamic states of the eighth and ninth centuries, sharia always existed alongside other normative systems. Most Muslim countries adopt only a few aspects of sharia, while few countries apply the entire code. Many predominantly Muslim countries have not adopted hudud penalties in their criminal justice systems. Ali Mazrui stated that "most Muslim countries do not use traditional classical Islamic punishments". The harshest penalties are enforced with varying levels of consistency. The use of flogging is more common compared to punishments like amputations.”
Iran applies the sharia law in full. Flogging and amputations are included in the administration of justice.
“Article 167 of the constitution states that all judicial rulings must be based upon ‘authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa’. Book 2 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran is entirely devoted to hudud punishments, including flogging and stoning for adultery, and execution for men who have sex with men.”
Iran is a theocracy governed by a Constitution in which the Supreme Leader supervises the policies of the nation, and is the commander of the armed forces. He can declare war and make peace agreements. The Supreme Leader appoints all members of the Guardian Council and is all powerful. The President of Iran is elected for a four-year term subject to approval by the Guardian Council. So you see, this is a dictatorship ruled by theocrats.
Iran is diametrically in conflict with “Western” and free world values, laws, and democratically elected governments that are committed to freedom and liberty for all.
As a nation state, Iran has pursued development of nuclear weapons and is under supervision by international inspectors to cease such development. The country is under economic sanctions for behavior that has been declared hostile to the free world.
Because Iran is a predominantly Shiite nation, it has interest in supporting other Shiite nations. What are considered Shiite nations?
“Islam is historically divided into two major sects, Sunni and Shī‘a Islam, each with its own sub-sects. Large numbers of Shī‘a Arab Muslims live in some Arab countries including Lebanon,Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Qatar. Shī‘a Muslims are a numerical majority in Iraq and Bahrain and make up a plurality in Lebanon. Smaller Shī‘a groups are present in Egypt and Jordan. Despite the heavy presence of Shī‘a Muslims in some Arab countries, particularly among the population of the Persian Gulf Arab countries, they have been treated poorly throughout history.”
Iran has vowed to defend Shiite sites in Iraq. Iran offered cooperation with the U.S. in addressing Sunni-inspired violence in Iraq, but stopped short of collaboration.
Syria is in a state of civil war in which the Shiite-led government is opposed by Sunni-led rebels including ISIS and al Qaeda. While the US opposed the Bashar al-Assad government, it is also opposed to the ISIA and al Qaeda elements of the rebel force opposition. Therefore, other than providing humanitarian aid, the U.S. has stopped short in taking sides. It has joined with UN in forcing the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction.
“The Syrian conflict has been growing in intensity and scope for more than two years, with the United Nations estimating more than 100,000 dead and millions displaced.”
Consider the definition to understand the wide ramifications of this terrorist organization.
“The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shām) (Arabic: الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām or Arabic: داعش Dāʻish), abbreviated ISIL or ISIS, is an unrecognized state and active jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria influenced by Wahhabism. In its unrecognized self-proclaimed status as an independent state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant, including Lebanon,Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.
3. al Qaeda
“Don't let ISIS distract from al Qaeda threat
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jane Harman is Director, President, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. A former U.S. representative from California, she was the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee from 2002 to 2006. The views expressed are her own.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a disaster with momentum – we have every reason to fear that they’ll gain more ground, and little reason to hope that the Iraqi government has what it takes to beat them back. But while we watch Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s demotion to “mayor of Baghdad” with horror, let’s remember who (and what) our enemies are.
It’s a media cliché by now to say that these insurgents were “too violent for al Qaeda.” That might be true, but it’s not because core al Qaeda flinches at the sight of blood. For the short term, ISIS is looking for territory; al Qaeda hasn’t stopped looking for targets.”
The question that the free world has about Sunni Islam is can believers coexist in the free world? Sunnis were disenfranchised by the Maliki government which has created a revolt. Sunnis have aligned with ISIL and al Qaeda to become enemies of the free world in this instance.
“Sunni Islam (/ˈsuːni/ or /ˈsʊni/) is the largest branch of Islam; its adherents are referred to in Arabic as ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʻah (Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة), "people of the tradition of Muhammad and the consensus of the Ummah" or ahl as-sunnah (أهل السنة) for short. In English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis, and Sunnites. Sunni Islam is the world's second largest religious body, after Christianity  and largest religious denomination for any religion in the world.”
While it isn’t an exact comparison, it is something like Jewish God and Christian Jesus as to Sunni Muhammad and Shia Ali.
“Shi'i Islam is based on the Quran and the message of the Islamic prophet Muhammad attested in hadith recorded by the Shia, and certain books deemed sacred to the Shia (Nahj al-Balagha). Shia consider Ali to have been divinely appointed as the successor to Muhammad, and as the first Imam.”
Under free word and western values, both may coexist so long as each tolerate and respect the other. Neutrality comes from shared government that separates church from state.
The trouble comes in both instances of Islam that commingled religion and government. That practice is offensive to the free world.
“With al-Maliki's Shiite-led government losing more ground to militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Kerry has implored the leader to rise above ‘sectarian motivations’ to become more inclusive and make the government more representative of Iraq's population.
‘I'm here to convey to you President Obama's and the American people's commitment to help Iraq,’ Kerry said when greeting Iraq's speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujayfi. "The principal concern is the integrity of the country, its borders, its sovereignty,’ he said. ISIS ‘is a threat to all of us.’”
What this means is that the U.S. may intervene at will for reasons of national security.