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Monday, December 7, 2015

David Ignatius, "The big hole in Obama’s Islamic State strategy": Muddle



In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The big hole in Obama’s Islamic State strategy," David Ignatius writes:

"The Sunni no-show problem illustrates a deeper trauma. Across the Middle East, Sunnis are experiencing a kind of vertigo. The Sunni powerhouses — Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya — are in ruins. The people feel dispossessed and disillusioned, disgusted with the autocrats who ruled them before and the religious fanatics who want to rule them today."

Ignatius, however, is comparing apples and oranges . . . and bananas and peaches.

Libya is indeed in shambles, and its population of less than seven million is some 97 percent Sunni. In the past, Qaddafi certainly made enough noise, but a Sunni "powerhouse"?

Egypt, with a population totaling some 84 million persons of whom some 90 percent are Sunni, is still a Sunni "powerhouse," notwithstanding the chaos in the Sinai peninsula. The current regime of General Sisi, who ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi in 2013, effectively amounts to a military junta, and concern exists regarding future financial support from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman, but Standard & Poor’s "outlook on Egypt’s credit rating" is rated as "stable."

Chaos prevails in Iraq, which is only some 34 percent Sunni. A Sunni "powerhouse"? Perhaps when Saddam Hussein ruled the country, but today Shiites hold sway over the government of what is left of the country, i.e. not occupied by the Islamic State and not including the Kurdish autonomous region.

Syria, which is indeed in ruins, is some 74 percent Sunni. The current civil war amounts to a rebellion of the Sunni majority against the Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Ignatius concludes:

"When we think about the future of Iraq and Syria, we should have in mind vibrant Sunni provinces that, like Kurdistan, are part of a loose federal state. In building a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, creating this 'Sunnistan' will be the long pole in the tent."

But there is already a monstrous "Sunnistan" in Iraq and Syria: It's called the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

"Vibrant Sunni provinces" in Syria forming part of a loose federation? I don't think so. Not including the Al-Hasakah Governorate in which Kurds, albeit Sunnis, are the majority, Sunnis comprise the majority of the population in 10 of Syria's 14 governorates, and going ahead, they cannot be expected to live in harmony with their former Alawite masters.

Bottom line: The artificiality of the boundaries fixed in 1916 by France and Britain pursuant to the Sykes-Picot Agreement is blatantly apparent. Syria and Iraq are finished as viable national units. Moreover, the time has come to allow the Middle East's 30 million long-oppressed Kurds, residing in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, to declare their independence.

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