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The Challenges Of Terrorism - Iraq, Part 91 - The Christian Factor.

Christians in their millions are fleeing Muslim fanatics in the Middle East. In Iraq, the Christians (descended from the great Mesopotamian civilisations) have been reduced to a tiny minority since the March 2003 US invasion of this country. Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) is still not the Neo-Salafi caliphate which it had long promised, but a mere entity in cyber-space. And the Christians' departure has left Iraq to feuding Sunni and Shi'ite communities and a prosperous Kurdistan in the north.

This is a heart-break for the Middle East's 12m remaining Copts, Catholics, Chaldeans and other Christian communities, many of which pre-date Islam. Their exodus represents a great tragedy for the region's Muslims.

With their free-wheeling, free-market orientation, Christians had for centuries created prosperity in an otherwise stagnant Middle East. It is widely expected that, once the Christians are gone, an economic desolation will revisit their historic homelands. And the staying fanatic Muslims are racing against each other to revive ancient and mostly failed theocracies, be they Shi'ite imamates or Sunni caliphates (see news15CaliphateApr8-13).

Iraq's Arabs are worried by the behaviour of their Shi'ite PM, Nuri al-Maleki, whom they call a dictator and puppet of Tehran. Maleki is accused of worsening Sunni-Shi'ite tensions by having shunned the Sunni-led parliament and now presenting rivals with charges of terrorism. There is the fear that Maleki's behaviour and that of Iran's Safawi theocracy could lead to an endless Sunni-Shi'ite war in the entire Muslim world. This world is almost 90% Sunni. Saudi Arabia, which leads the six petroleum-rich Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states, heads the Sunni front in the Greater Middle East (GME - see Part 90, sbme3SunniShi'aMar4-13).

The Saudi-led front believes Iran's theocracy is behaving in such a way in the GME and Africa that it risks a devastating war in which it would lose. But hardline Safawi supremacists in Iran say Syria under the Alawite dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad is their province and losing it is even worse than the fall of Tehran. The Safawis are trying to have an alliance with Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a controversial Sunni movement deeply suspected in the GCC region. The MB is accused of driving Egypt's economy to bankruptcy (see news10EgyptMar4-13).

What is happening in Syria and other parts of a vast region hit by the Arab Spring of revolutions can potentially become the most serious threat to Iran's theocracy, which leads an axis of "resistance" in the GME and Africa. It is an axis which includes states and movements extending their reach to most parts of the world (see Part 89, sbme2IrnAxisFallFeb25-13).

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Publication:APS Diplomat Strategic Balance in the Middle East
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Apr 8, 2013
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