The Arab world is rife with political turmoil and violence. The Sunni Muslim Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other jihadi terrorists are continuing their savagery within its boundaries, and Iran’s theocratic terrorist rulers are still exporting and/or solidifying their brand of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Revolution to Arab countries and territories. And the Obama administration appears unable or unwilling to effectively deal with each emerging crisis there.
The competing goals of Sunni and Shiite jihadists are to dominate the Arab world, and their forces and surrogates are engaged in nasty fights for supremacy throughout the region. The area they seek to control generally spans 21 Middle East and North Africa countries as well as territories under Palestinian control in Gaza and the West Bank. Its riches include 364 million people, the world’s largest known oil and gas reserves which fuel developed world economies, and strategic waterways where the petroleum-based commerce flows. About 92 percent of the Arab World population is Muslim (336 million), of which 87 percent are Sunni Muslim and 13 percent Shiite Muslim.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt and promised the Arab and greater Muslim world a ‘new beginning’ in relations with the United States. However, hopefulness turned into hopelessness for tens of millions of Arab world residents after the speech and Arab Spring which followed. Consider the current state of affairs:
- Freedom House –a non-profit global freedom watchdog – ranked Middle East and North Africa countries (e.g., most of the Arab world) in 2015 as the world’s most freedom-less area with only Tunisia granting citizens political rights and civil liberties to qualify as a free nation.
- Freedom House also reported that not one Arab country or territory provided the necessary legal environment, political influences, and economic conditions to guarantee a truly free press.
- The U.S. State Department reports that 29 of 59 groups on its Foreign Terrorist Organization List have gestated and operate in Arab countries and territories, all of which endanger local residents, Israel, and U.S. citizens and security interests. Twelve FTO’s were added during Obama’s presidency.
- The U.S. State Department reports that three of four designated state sponsors of terror – Iran, Syria, and Sudan – apply their deadly trade in Arab countries. One of them, Iran, has an illegal nuclear weapons development program.
- Four Arab states and one territory – Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Gaza– are heavily dependent on Iran’s terrorist leaders for their governments’ survival.
- Five Arab countries – Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen – are either failed states or don’t exercise sovereignty over their boundaries.
- The average annual income of Arab world residents is $9,700, which is 26 percent below the global average of $13,100, with a wide income disparity between rich nations like Qatar and poor nations like Somalia.
The persons most responsible for perpetuating these conditions are an assortment of Islamic terror groups and extremists and authoritarian leaders. However, the Middle East and North African landscape is littered with the remnants of dubious Obama administration decisions that contributed to them ranging from the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; the Syrian ‘redline;’ the Libyan military misadventure; calling ISIS a junior al-Qaeda varsity team; unwillingness to admit jihadi terrorists are part of Islam; refusal to support Iran’s peaceful Green Revolutionaries, and thinking Iran’s terrorist state can be part of any peaceful Arab world solution.
Muslims consider the dominion of Islam as the central pillar of their global-domination political program. Sunnis and Shiites disagree sharply on which of them, and who, should lead. They agree that the prime basis of governance and administration of justice should be Islamic (Shariah) law as enunciated in the Koran and traditions of Muhammad, and further elaborated by classical Muslim legists.
The global Muslim population contains Islamists and jihadists. An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Shariah – whether by violent or nonviolent means. A jihadist is an Islamic terrorist.
Shariah law totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as relegating non-Muslim minorities to a much lower legal status than Muslims and dispensing cruel and unusual punishment. It also rejects freedom of speech and conscience and mandates aggressive jihad until the world is brought under Islamic hegemony.
In forging a path to some kind of durable regional peace, it is not only important to understand the aforementioned Arab world problems and radical Islamic-driven terrorism but to effectively do something about them. Egypt’s Muslim President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, showed the way by removing the repressive Muslim Brothers from power during a popular revolution, publicly meeting with non-Muslims being persecuted by the various jihadists, and calling on clerics to reform Islam by eliminating rhetoric that fosters violence.
The Arab world is the epicenter of a global jihadist threat, and it is time for the U.S. and its allies, regional and otherwise, to also act diplomatically, economically, and militarily if necessary against all of those jihadist forces – including ISIS and Iran – operating there who are using violence and Shariah to acquire and retain power. However, seeking to degrade and defeat the Sunni Muslim jihadist brand while leaving the Shiite Muslim jihadist brand intact, as the U.S. is currently doing, will only perpetuate problems for those Arabs and others who genuinely seek a better life and to live in freedom.
The time for decisive and effective action is now. Regional and world peace depends on it.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst and served in the U.S. departments of Defense and State.