World View: Syria's Largest City Suddenly Turns on Assad

World View: Syria's Largest City Suddenly Turns on Assad

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, suddenly turns on Assad
  • Al-Qaeda’s influence grows in Syria
  • Sunni Salafists target Sufi shrines and monuments for destruction
  • Sunni versus Shia tensions grow in Mideast and Asia

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, suddenly turns on Assad

Despite over a year of massive slaughter of innocent Arab citizens by the regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, there were widespread anti-government protests in cities across the country on Friday. Most significant were the student protests at Aleppo University. Aleppo has been relatively free of protests in the past, because a lot of the population are Alawites, which is al-Assad’s ethnic group, and because the city has continued to be relatively prosperous as a result of generous benefits bestowed by the regime. But, as we reported two weeks ago, there was a demonstration by Aleppo University students, and the regime’s response was a massive slaughter by security forces, who stormed the university, breaking down doors and using machine guns and rifles against students. Besides everything else, this shows the utter stupidity of al-Assad, because this action has backfired, turned Aleppo against him, and triggered many protests across the country in sympathy with Aleppo University students. Day Press News (Syria)

Al-Qaeda’s influence grows in Syria

The two suicide car bombs in Damascus on May 10 were an alarming development. Before last December, suicide bombs were unheard of in Syria. Now there have been 10 such attacks, becoming increasingly deadly — 55 died in the latest atrocity; and another attack was thwarted in Aleppo, where a suicide bomber in a carwash killed five on May 5. It’s unlikely that either the regime or the opposition carried out these atrocities. Most likely, the al-Qaeda linked group Al-Nusra (“Victory”) carried out the bombings. Islamists are taking advantage of the chaos, which is being fed by arms to the opposition by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and arms to the regime by Iran and Russia. Gulf News

Sunni Salafists target Sufi shrines and monuments for destruction

We’ve reported several times in the past about the chaotic conquest of northern Mali by Tuareg rebels, and the resulting attack by al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Dine on the northern city of Timbuktu. ( “4-Apr-12 World View — Timbuktu’s ancient history at risk over chaotic Mali rebellion”) Timbuktu is a city of enormous historic importance to the Sufi branch of Islam. It’s home to many Sufi shrines, as well as to nearly 100,000 ancient manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars. Ansar al-Dine terrorists have begun destroying Sufi shrines, and are collecting the ancient manuscripts, intending them for destruction. This is part of a growing pattern of destruction of Sufi shrines, monuments and documents by al-Qaeda linked Sunni Islamist terrorists. Terrorist acts targeting Sufis have occurred in Spain, Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Jamestown

Sunni versus Shia tensions grow in Mideast and Asia

Many Westerners see Muslims as a monolithic group opposed to the West, but in fact the major feature of Islam today is the growing belligerence between Sunni and “apostate” Muslims, including Shia Muslims and adherents to other branches of Islam. This rising conflict is manifested in many ways:

  • In Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime pits the Alawites, adherents to an offshoot of Shia Islam, against the Sunni opposition. Al-Qaeda has been encouraging the Sunni opposition to continue fighting the Alawite regime, while the Shia terrorist group Hizbollah, along with Shia-led Iran, have been supporting the regime.
  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been considering the formation of a “Gulf Union,” for shared foreign and defense policy, driven by fear of Arab Spring contagion and spreading Iran influence, although the effort is being opposed by some of the smaller Gulf nations, fearing a loss of individual identity.
  • Al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups have been targeting Sufi shrines and worshipers across the entire region, as we described above.
  • Pakistan’s Taliban, and other Sunni Islamist groups have been targeting civilian worshipers in Sufi and Shia ceremonies. In addition, they’ve attacked Hindu targets in India, since Hindus have historically been aligned with Shias against Sunnis.
  • The Sunni terror group Jundullah as been attacking Shias by means of terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Iran.
  • Iran’s anti-Israeli campaign has been dealt a serious blow because of the situation in Syria. Iran has long been using Hamas as a proxy for terrorist attacks on Israel, but Hamas cannot stand by quietly while Syria’s regime is massacring innocent Arab civilians. This has caused a serious split between Hamas and Iran that has weakened Iran’s influence in the region.
  • In Bahrain, the Shia protests against the Sunni government have become a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Sunni versus Shia conflict, of which most Americans are totally unaware, is the principal factor in Mideast geopolitics. As I’ve been writing for years, my expectation is that the coming Clash of Civilizations World War will pit China, Pakistan and the Sunni nations against India, Russia, Iran, and the West, including Israel. Reuters and Syria Comment