Long answer. Not for many years and not before a massive change takes place within
both Religion and Culture.
The Middle East is essentially split between two major factions. Shia and Sunni.
Christians make up a minority in a number of countries but tend not to be the aggressors.
Jews are limited to one country.
It is the Hatred between the Sunni and the Shia that is growing and spreading which
causes the all but insurmountable problem in the part of the world.
When the Muslim Prophet Mohammed died he had two possible successors. Abu Bakr who
was the father of Mohammed’s Wife Aisha and Ali ibn Abi Talib who was Mohammed’s son
in law. The Sunni are those who chose Abu Bakr by way of a consensus among them and the
Shia are those who believed that Ali was Gods choice.
This disagreement led to war and the matter was settled in battle. Over the centuries since
the two groups disagreed with each other but tended to exist more or less in peace. They
would stand together to deal with external threats or just to enslave or oppress minority
groups but generally went their own ways.
It was the 20th century that changed this and started both groups on the path to the violence
that now engulfs them both. The Western world arrived with its demands for Oil and bought
with it an influx of Western ideas and technologies.
The West came as a huge culture shock to tens of millions of people who were essentially living
in the dark ages. Exposure to the larger world did not go down well and both groups became
more insular as a result.
However I believe that one factor above all others has been responsible for the steady increase
in violence over the two decades. Paradoxically the one thing that bought them together also
seems to serve to drive them apart. Communications.
Thanks to Western media millions who could not read and had no use for newspapers can now
turn on a radio or TV and watch, often live, events in the region. Every member of one faction
dead at the hands of the other faction is live, in full colour and with a helpful commentary from
a Western or Arab reporter. Events that would spread slowly by word of mouth can now be
watched every evening on the news.
There has been no shortage of people in both factions who have whipped up their followers into
a frenzy of hatred by using these news reports. Every death creates a grudge that leads to
revenge elsewhere which creates another grudge.
This spiral continues to grow and spread and shows no sign of slowing down.
Syria is acting as a focal point for this at present and as more and more forces join the fighting it
continues to spread to surrounding countries.
The sides break down like this.
Syria has roughly 20% of its population as Shia. It is these Shia ho make up Assad’s core supporters.
The anti Assad forces are becoming more and more Sunni Jihadists. The more secular Anti Assad
forces are vanishing as they find themselves in a three way war against Assad’s forces and against
the Sunni. They are surrendering by the hundred to Assad to take advantage of an amnesty and to
escape death at the hands of either Assad or the Sunni forces. Other minority groups are going to
end up allied with Assad as well simply to avoid persecution or death at the hands of the Jihad.
Iran is 95% Shia give or take a few. They are supporting Assad with weapons, troops and supplies.
Iraq is roughly 70% Shia. Under Saddam they were very anti Iran. However in recent years they have
become a lot friendlier in the face of growing anti Shia hostility by surrounding Sunni nations.
Roughly half of Lebanon is Shia. Hezbollah have thrown in with Assad and are on point driving back
the Sunni in Syria. They are also supported by Iran. This is also significantly increasing violence
between Shia and Sunni within this country.
Saudi Arabia is 90% Sunni and the royal family is Sunni. They are providing support to the Sunni
forces fighting in Syria and appear to be using significant influence to bring in additional support
from sources such as the Obama regime.
Bahrain is 70% + Shia but its ruling family are Sunni. Saudi troops have been used to keep them
in power and they are currently on the Sunni side but that will quickly change if Iran starts to
meddle and the Saudis withdraw their military support
The other Middle Eastern nations are overwhelmingly Sunni.
Egypt is the odd man out on the list. It is overwhelming Sunni but until the Muslim Brotherhood
took control it was a secular government. The Muslim Brotherhood core is made up of Radical
and Conservative Sunni and while they were in power a number of deals were being made to
support Sunni groups across the Middle East. The Brotherhood have also recently openly declared
their support for and membership of the anti Assad Sunni Coalition.
With a government that is now far more secular and balanced plus the traditionally neutral army
Egypt is not taking sides. Were the Muslim Brotherhood to regain control and throw the vast
numbers of Sunni in that nation against Assad or the Shia the whole region would go up in
Egypt is, in a way, the best hope of saving the Middle East from all out religious war. As bloody
as the troubles in Egypt currently are, a return to a Brotherhood government will lead, I believe, to
a bloodbath a thousands of times worse.
Syria is drawing in large numbers of Sunni forces to overthrow Assad and large numbers of Shia
to support him. Every Sunni killed by a Shia creates yet another grudge against all Shia. Every
Shia killed by a Sunni creates yet another grudge against all Sunni. The fighting has drawn
combatants from the whole Middle East and when that fighting ends they will return home
and carry their hatreds with them.
Syria as a single nation is no more. Unless outside force is deployed Assad will control half the
country directly and probably maintain a police state over the other half.
The end result of this will be a block of Shia nations from the Mediterranean to the Gulf
surrounded by likely hostile Sunni nations.
If Egypt remains neutral and does not side with the Sunni coalition it has a good chance of
keeping the fighting to a minimum. If Egypt joins the other Sunni nations we will see war
engulf the entire Middle East and given that Iran, Syria and Iraq are all known to have or to
have had weapons of mass destruction in the form of Nerve gas or possible nuclear weapons
having the Shia forced into a corner and subsiquently lashing out with these weapons is
something that will devastate the entire region and the world economy.
Until the religiously inspired hatred and long list of grudges are put aside the hatred and the
death will continue to grow. Only an outside enemy could unite them and both possible
candidates, Israel and the United States, have the fire power to turn the Middle East into a
glowing moonscape if they find themselves attacked by a unified Caliphate. Until either
Israel or the US makes themselves seem weak enough to be attacked the Sunni and the
Shia are going to continue killing each other in ever greater numbers in ever more countries.
This situation is only going to get worse until the desire for peace is stronger than the desire
for death. Given that both sides believe fervently that Death fighting for their faith is the best
result they can achieve in life they are unlikely to stop anytime soon.
Religion of Peace. I don’t think so.