North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Syrian civil war spreads, and morphs towards a Sunni-Shia confrontation

The Syrian civil war is heating up and spreading, more countries are finding themselves pulled closer to the conflict.

Click on image for full picture
In spite of many nations hopes this conflict would find a solution in the past two years, negotiations have gone nowhere ...

Regarding the US, as the Wall Street Journal put it a few days ago, "It took two years, 93,000 casualties, the use of chemical weapons, and the growing prospect of victory by strongman Bashar Assad and his Iranian patrons, but President Obama has finally decided to arm the Syrian rebels." The question remains who to arm: moderate rebel groups are the preference, but over time those factions have been diminished compared to the rising influence and military prowess of the extremist rebels (al-Qaeda affiliates), and then with what type and amounts of weaponry. I guess we'll find out.

Is this the look of things to come in Syria?

Now Egypt has shut down official diplomatic contacts with Bashar al-Assad. As a CBS news article yesterday noted, "Egypt's Islamist president announced Saturday that he was cutting off diplomatic relations with Syria and closing Damascus' embassy in Cairo, decisions made amid growing calls from hard-line Sunni clerics in Egypt and elsewhere to launch a "holy war" against Syria's embattled regime.

Mohammed Morsi told thousands of supporters at a rally in Cairo that his government was also withdrawing the Egyptian charge d'affaires from Damascus. He called on Lebanon's Hezbollah to leave Syria, where the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group has been fighting alongside troops loyal to embattled President Bashar Assad against the mostly Sunni rebels. "Hezbollah must leave Syria. This is serious talk: There is no business or place for Hezbollah in Syria," said Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president."

Egypt's leader Morsi is being called a co-conspirator with the US and Israel, of all things, by Syria. He has openly called for a no-fly zone in Syria to protect rebel held areas.

As mentioned in the CBS quote, Sunni clerics started issuing calls for jihad last week against Assad and his new supporter, Hezbollah. And with those calls, the division between the two main Islamic streams of doctrine are becoming more apparent and strident.

Sunni Muslims are by far the largest of the two groupings. The division stems from a dispute after the death of the Prophet Mohammed over who would next guide the Muslim faith. Iran's Shia revolution in 1979 increased the tensions between the two groups as well, leading to a quiet but serious rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran.

Just to be clear - there are plenty of terrorist/extremists groups in both camps. The Sunni perspective has the clear lead with al-Qaeda (and all its affiliates across North Africa), the Taliban, Chechnyan groups, and Hamas. The Shia have their own, on the other hand, in the form of Hezbollah.

Headgear and clothing. Sunnis wear kerchiefs ...

Shiites prefer turbans ...

And in both divisions, the closer or purer (or more extreme) perspectives of Islam become in regard to women, they "get" to dress like this.

The latest outrage from Sunni extremist attacks on women occurred in the past two days in Quetta, Pakistan, where a bomb on a bus killed 14 female students and injured 22, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants attacked a hospital treating survivors, where they killed another 11 people. Educated women are apparently a huge threat and offense to these extremists. But control of women's activities and clothing extend throughout the faith - honor killings, voting restrictions, and even limits driving are in evidence everywhere.

At the moment, we have Shia Iran supporting Shia Assad, with the help of Shia Hezbollah. The Sunni Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar have been quietly but actively supporting the Sunni-dominated Syrian rebels - in which the more extremist forms are in the ascendancy.

Iraq is becoming fragile as Sunni extremists are blowing up Shia civilians with increasing intensity, Sunni Jordan and Turkey are trying to maintain low profiles, and now we have the most populous Arab nation - Egypt - headed by a reasonably militant group itself, the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, putting pressure on Assad.

US President George W. Bush's war in Iraq has been loudly and repeatedly condemned on a number of metrics. The deaths in that nation from 2003 to 2011 (from US invasion to withdrawal)have pretty well been pegged at 120-160 thousand. Yet in just over two years, Syria's conflict is approaching 100,000 deaths by all accounts, and chemical weapons have been clearly used.

And this war is still on the front end of a rising trajectory ...

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