Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Sephardic Guilt on Kristallnacht

45270My Sephardic Guilt on Kristallnacht
Renato AthiasNov 11 7:27 AM
My Sephardic Guilt on Kristallnacht
By Rachel Delia Benaim

Postcard of Madeira
While other Jewish families suffered unimaginable brutality in the Holocaust, my family lived like royalty in the Portuguese paradise known for its wine, Madeira.
I know: I sound like an entitled, unsympathetic brat. And what I’m trying to say is, I feel guilty about this. I always have.
Every time a Holocaust remembrance day rolls around — like today, Kristallnacht — I feel guilty. Guilty that my family survived, that I can’t relate to the Holocaust on a personal level at all, that Holocaust history is the core of Jewish identity in modern America — and yet I have no part in it.
My family is from Gibraltar (like the straits you learned about in history class), a British territory on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula. In 1940, the civilian population of Gibraltar was evacuated because it was being used as a base for the British Royal Air Force’s, Military’s and Navy’s war efforts. The evacuation moved the entire peninsula’s population well out of harm’s way — and well out of the Holocaust’s scope — to Madeira, where my family went, and Jamaica, another tropical paradise.
My point in highlighting this history is not to brag — just the opposite. I thank God that my family wasn’t subjected to Hitler’s evils, but I feel like the fact that we were so far removed from the horrors carried out by Nazi Germany somehow isolates me from the modern Jewish community and makes my identity less, well, Jewish In my house, we never really talked about the Holocaust. School was different: the Holocaust came up all the time. Sometimes it was in the form of direct history. Sometimes it was in the form of literature: Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Number the Stars, among others. I always found it beneficial to hear from survivors. Who better to learn from than them?
But then there were other Holocaust education forums that made me feel like an alien. When I was even younger, before the administration deemed us old enough to hear survivors’ testimonies firsthand, we had a different sort of Holocaust education. During these sessions, our teachers told us facts: there were evil people, the Nazis, who wanted to kill all of the Jews, and they killed six million. Then, we were each invited to tell our family’s story. It was pretty smart, in a way. It was a way to encourage every kid to ask their parents and grandparents about their personal connections to the Holocaust. But I couldn’t help feeling left out.
That’s not to say that Sephardis cannot relate to monstrosities and other hardships. First of all, there were some Sephardic communities, like the one in Greece, that did experience the Holocaust directly. Going back farther, of course, there was the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. There has also been more modern suffering among Sephardis in Arab lands. These are little-known facts that haven’t even permeated mainstream Jewish knowledge or education. Whereas the Holocaust has become intertwined with modern Jewish identity, other major massacres and traumas in recent Jewish history have not.
With the Ashkenazi narrative enshrined as the universal Jewish narrative, where does that leave me, leave us, the Sephardis who did not experience Hitler’s evil?
To me, the Holocaust is an important rallying point for Jewish identity. It’s crucial for understanding the state of modern universal Jewry. But it cannot be the fulcrum of who we are. Trying to make it so reinforces the idea of “Ashkenormativity”, putting the Ashkenazi narrative at the center of Jewish identity. It makes those of us who don’t have a personal connection to it feel less Jewish, in the same way that making full-fledged support for Israel the yardstick for measuring Jewish identity alienates some.
Of course we will never forget. But who are we as a people? Who are we as Jews in the modern world — all of us, not just some of us?
Thinking about these cultural divides makes me that much more appreciative of how I was raised with an emphasis on sacred text. In my house, Jewish identity was based on the Torah and the Talmud. I recognize that is abnormal in the grand scale of American and international Jewry, but perhaps it could be a new rallying point for the Jewish people: a return to text, a return to the roots. We all might have our own interpretations of those texts, but whether we approach them religiously or in other creative ways, they are a heritage that binds all Jews.

Read more:

Renato Athias

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Oldest Known Illustration of Circumcision (2400 B.C.E.)

The Oldest Known Illustration of Circumcision (2400 B.C.E.)

in ArtHistory | June 17th, 2014

What do we have here? Just the oldest known illustration of circumcision being performed. Actually, it’s a colorful re-creation of a bas-relief (see original here) found in an Egyptian tomb built for Ankhmabor inSakkara, Egypt. It dates back to around 2400 B.C.E.

The origins ofcircumcision remain unclear. According to this online essay, a stele (carving on stone) from the 23rd century B.C.E. suggests that an author named “Uha” was circumcised in a mass ritual. He wrote:

“When I was circumcised, together with one hundred and twenty men, there was none thereof who hit out, there was none thereof who was hit, and there was none thereof who scratched and there was none thereof who was scratched.”

By the time you get to 4,000 B.C.E., you start to find exhumed Egyptian bodies that show signs of circumcision. And then come the artistic depictions. The Sakkara depiction comes with the perhaps helpful written warning,“Hold him and do not allow him to faint.”

via Elif Batuman

Related Content:

How the Egyptian Pyramids Were Built: A New Theory in 3D Animation

Louis Armstrong Plays Trumpet at the Egyptian Pyramids; Dizzy Gillespie Charms a Snake in Pakistan

by Dan Colman | Make a Comment10 )

Make knowledge free & open. Share our posts with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms:

« Previous Post

Next Post »

Choose a comment platform

Comments (10)

Randy says . . .

June 17, 2014 / 7:10 pm

“there was none thereof who hit out, there was none thereof who was hit, and there was none thereof who scratched and there was none thereof who was scratched.”

That suggests that normally there would have been those who had to be forced to submit to mutilation of their genitals, but some factor was causing them to go willingly.

It’s sad to know that after so many millennia, this practice is still going on.

Anon says . . .

June 17, 2014 / 7:23 pm

No, it suggests that in an era long before anesthesia, a ritual surgeon could expect to be the target of reflexive blows by those who were overcome by pain. The images and second inscription make that quite clear.

Uha probably mentioned it as a matter of bragging about his circumcision group’s collective discipline.

Nater says . . .

June 18, 2014 / 1:06 pm

Circumcision was beneficiary in this time since sand getting stuck in your foreskin could get you infected and you’d die.
There’s nothing beneficial about circumcision today.
It kills off 2000 nerve endings, can cause damage to your penis, along with impotence and gland issues just from the removal of the foreskin itself.

Buddy says . . .

June 18, 2014 / 2:30 pm

Wrongo, Nater. It is very evident that Circumcision in infants prevents penis cancer and reduces the chances of catching an std.

Stan says . . .

June 19, 2014 / 3:03 am

I can understand a pharmaceutical company, that makes hundreds of millions selling lubricants to return normal function to genitals, being anti-choice – since it;s not reversible. But not a parent. Also, wasn’t it typically an Islamic or Jewish tradition to focus the mind on God?

Ren Kay says . . .

June 19, 2014 / 6:06 am

well, let’s see….what was the purpose in all those rules the Hebrews had? Prophylaxis, survival in the desert. Don’t eat pig, don’t get trichinosis. Have one day a week off, breed and continue to exist. Circumcise the males, don’t get STD’s. Whether it’s God or The Aliens, some sky person told that tribe how to live, and guess what? We’re still here today? Met any Canaanites lately? Duh…

Buddy says . . .

June 19, 2014 / 7:55 am

Good call, Ren Kay. On that topic, it’s interesting how some religions will incorporate practices that make physical sense. This example is a good one, but also, we recently discovered that fasting for 72 hours will cause the body to kill off weak white blood cells and to create new and healthier white blood cells, once eating has resumed. I am not religious at all and humans clearly don’t know everything. But, it’s interesting that we observe practices, or even trends, that yield positive results, sometimes, for whatever reasons, superstitious or otherwise, and then we discover valid and accurate scientific benefits to them later on. With an emphasis on sometimes.

Kelly Carter says . . .

June 19, 2014 / 10:34 am

I think we’re now closer to being able to translate the squiggly lines, snake, and bird symbols coming out of the guy on the right. It’s something like, “Holy f#ck, this $h1t hurts like a m0th3r!!!”

Yahcanon Ben Ysrayl says . . .

June 20, 2014 / 5:42 pm

Gen 17:9 And YAH said to Aḇraham, “As for you, guard My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations.
Gen 17:10 “This is My covenant which you guard between Me and you, and your seed after you: Every male child among you is to be circumcised.
Gen 17:11 “And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall become a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
Gen 17:12 “And a son of eight days is circumcised by you, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with silver from any foreigner who is not of your seed.
Gen 17:13 “He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your silver, has to be circumcised. So shall My covenant be in your flesh, for an everlasting covenant.
Gen 17:14 “And an uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, his life shall be cut off from his people – he has broken My covenant.”
Curcumcision dates back way longer than that eygptian painting….
Its the bond of the covenant between Abraham seed and YAH.. NOT THE JEWS.. But the HEBREWS..

James says . . .

June 20, 2014 / 7:57 pm


It is the greatest insanity when Judaists and even Christians try to justify this barbaric ritual of male genital mutilation.

Modern whites who invented cars and jet planes cutting off their own bodies because African barbarians did so 4000 years ago! How insane!

Friday, June 6, 2014

400 Years After Portugal Inquisition, Avery Unusual Family Comes Together

400 Years After Portugal’s Inquisition, a Very Unusual Family Comes Together

The Da Costas' Amazing Sephardic Story


On Tour: The da Costas visited the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam, the far left building in this 18th century print.

By Jessica Siegel

Published June 01, 2014, issue of June 06, 2014.

The scene was that of a typical family gathering at an Amsterdam restaurant in April. Children squatted on their chairs to reach the table, cuddling up to their grandmother, dishes were passed and toasts were made; a pair of sisters talked about old times.

Yet this was no typical family. The da Costas are descendants of four Portuguese Jewish brothers who, with their mother, fled the Inquisition in Portugal in 1614 and made their way to Amsterdam in order to live openly as Jews. The dinner culminated a full day of activities to commemorate that event.

The reunion brought together 55 family members, ranging in age from 4 to 70. And yet, ironically, very few of the da Costas who gathered there — coming from all over the Netherlands and Suriname, the former Dutch colony in South America — were Jewish themselves.

Many of their ancestors converted to Christianity over the years, or simply stopped practicing Judaism. As one participant, Joost da Costa, a retired pediatrician, said the familly’s relationship to Judaism “has to do with the guarding of our history… It is a kind of feeling of where you come from, where you belong.”

The commemoration was the brainchild of Marina da Costa, an animated Surinamese Jewish woman who has become a passionate researcher of her family’s history. She leads tours of Jodensavanne, the 17th-century Jewish plantation settlement now in ruins, 35 miles down the Suriname River from Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital city.

Marina da Costa worked for over a year with another distant relative to organize the event, reaching out to family members neither had met. She described the experience as transformative. At the reunion, she said, “you saw people who you know exist but you have never seen them.”

The da Costas trace their roots to four brothers: Abraham, Uriel, Joseph and Mordecai, who, with their mother, left Portugal after living as New Christians — Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese King, Manuel I, in 1497, five years after the start of the Spanish Inquisition. Many Portuguese Jews publicly practiced Catholicism but continued to live as conversos, or secret Jews, and fled, like the da Costas, when they could. Others eventually became true Catholics.

The da Costa reunion began at the Jewish Historical Museum, where Joost da Costa spoke about two key figures in the da Costa family tree: Uriel da Costa and Isaac da Costa. Uriel, one of the four original brothers, convinced his siblings to return to Judaism, which galvanized the family to leave Portugal.

Once in Amsterdam, however, he began to question rabbinic authority and later the immortality of the soul, publishing his views in a book. He was excommunicated from the Sephardic synagogue and fled to Hamburg, Germany. He later returned, but was excommunicated again for questioning other Jewish teachings, such as the idea that Moses was given the 10 commandments directly from God.

He eventually recanted, but as punishment for his heretical views, he was forced to lie on the path leading into the synagogue as congregants walked over him. He later took his own life. Over the centuries, Uriel came to be seen as an early free thinker, and by the 19th century had become a central character in several Yiddish theater plays and an operetta. (Two weeks before the reunion, in New York City, Uriel was the subject of a wild, avant-garde production of a new play, “Uriel Acosta: I Want That Man!” with three actors — one a woman — portraying the central character. It also included puppets, projections, artificial smoke and music.)

Joost da Costa also spoke about Isaac da Costa, his great-great-grandfather, a romantic poet and writer, who eventually converted to the Protestant Dutch Reform Church. There were many 19th-century Jews who converted, such as the father of German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

“He followed the stream,” said Joost da Costa of his ancestor. “It was the flow of the time.”

Yet Joost da Costa and his family maintain an interest in their Jewish past. In the 1960s, his father, a minister, took the family to Portugal on two different occasions to visit the street where the da Costa house once stood. Joost da Costa himself has been researching the family genealogy since his retirement from medicine five years ago. He has also investigated the life of Joseph da Costa, one of the other original brothers, who lived for several years in New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan, battling the anti-Semitic Governor Peter Stuyvesant.

Da Costa, a merchant who was a shareholder in the Dutch West India Company, was involved in a number of petitions to the company to grant Jews rights, such as the ability to trade and purchase property. Joseph da Costa eventually returned to Amsterdam and is buried in a Jewish cemetery there.

At the Amsterdam reunion, the extended da Costa family toured the Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga, the magnificent house of worship lit by over 1,000 candles in brass chandeliers. The synagogue, which opened in 1675, has a rosewood ark that rises over 26 feet high against one wall.

The floor is covered with sand; some say that this is a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, while others say it is a throwback to the converso era, when secret Jewish worshippers wanted to muffle the sound of their feet. Since it was the day before Passover, the synagogue had been swept clean of sand.

The group then walked to the Kirchner Bookstore, owned by another da Costa descendant, Frederick Lobbrecht, for drinks and canapés. Overlooking a canal, the bookstore was a treasure trove of books on politics, philosophy, anthropology and religion that could only be found in a European capital like Amsterdam. A large poster for Baruch Spinoza’s “Ethics” featuring the philosopher’s portrait looked down from a wall. The store is around the corner from the Anne Frank House, where every day, rain or shine, a long line of people wait to get in.

For dinner, the group converged upstairs in at Haesje Claes, an old-style Dutch restaurant where the extended family got to know each other and ended the day. Mixed among the toasts were exclamations of “L’chaim” and “Mazel tov.”

For Marina da Costa, the reunion was one component of her own return to Judaism. She is the daughter of a Dutch Jewish father and a Christian mother. Her father fought in the resistance movement during World War II and lost his sister, brother-in-law, and their two children in Auschwitz.

The experience caused him to lose his faith, as he questioned the existence of a God who would allow the mass killing of Jews. Neither Marina nor her siblings were raised Jewish. When at 18 she told her father that she wanted to return to his religion, he balked.

“Oh, my girl, what are you doing now? I was the one who made you not Jewish and now you’re going back,” Marina da Costa recounted. “I think you will be the first one they will catch.”

Marina da Costa’s mother, on the other hand, was more interested in the family’s Jewish heritage. Though not Jewish herself, Irini da Costa was fascinated by Sephardic Jewish history in Suriname and spent time in the Dutch archives, photocopying letters, birth records, marriage licenses, death certificates, bills of sale, ships manifests and other public records. She even combed the phone book for da Costas, which led to meeting with the distant relative, Lousje da Costa, with whom Marina organized the reunion. In 1973, Irini da Costa founded the Jodensavanne Foundation to help restore the remains of the synagogue of the initial Jewish settlement, long ago swallowed up by jungle.

Marina da Costa eventually did convert. She first pursued conversion in an Orthodox synagogue with her then-husband, a non-Jew, and their four children. But her young daughter’s battle with childhood leukemia arrested the process. After her daughter’s death and her divorce, she and her children completed their conversion through a liberal synagogue.

After living in the Netherlands for 30 years, Marina da Costa is back in Suriname starting a tour company focusing on Jewish sites there. She is also working on a 375th anniversary celebration of the Surinamese Jewish community scheduled for October 2014.

The event will unveil a monument to the 108 Surinamese Jews who died in Europe during World War II, and will also bring together people from the various ethnic groups in Suriname — Maroons (descendants of slaves), Creoles, Chinese, Indonesians, Indians, and of course, Jews — for concerts.

Marina da Costa’s interest in Judaism was born out of her family’s history, she said, but it’s also something more.

“When I read about Uriel da Costa or when I think of Baruch da Costa, the cantor at Jodensavanne, and some of the da Costa women, it’s all part of my family,” she said. “It’s not the rules that make you Jewish, it’s neshama, your soul. It’s being connected to the universe.”

Jessica Siegel is a freelance journalist who writes about a variety of issues from arts to education. She is working on a book about the history of the Jews in Suriname and the Caribbean.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bibi and the Pope's Awkward Jesus Moment

Bibi and the Pope’s Awkward Jesus Moment


Bibi and the Pope’s Awkward Jesus Moment

The Daily Beast By Jay Parini 22 hours ago

Apart from when Pope Francis stopped to pray at the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, perhaps the most provocative moment in his whirlwind tour of the Holy Land happened during his interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” said Netanyahu firmly. The Pope looked unhappy, correcting the prime minister.  “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.”

Oh, dear. So what language, or languages, did Jesus speak? It’s more than just a small point of historical interest for linguists and historians. There is political content here.

Of course, Netanyahu made his point to emphasize that Jesus lived in the land of Israel over two thousand years ago, when no “Palestinians” were in view.  Many Israelis today don’t like to think of this tiny region between the Mediterranean and Jordan as ever having been called Palestine, though the original word (peleshet) occurs at least 250 times in the Hebrew scriptures. This complex geographical area was certainly called Palestine (in Greek) at least as early as the fifth century B.C.E., when Herodotus used that term.  By the second century before Christ, the Romans widely called the region Palestine, probably in an attempt to undermine the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and neighboring states. The Ottoman Empire (1517-1917) preferred this term for the area during their four centuries of control, and during the British Mandate in the mid-20th century it was always called Palestine. Not until the Jewish state was restored in 1948 did the term Israel come back into active play, with native Arabs from the region demoted to “Palestinians.”

If this seems complicated, think about the languages, and the dispute over what Jesus spoke. Indeed, he would have spokenAramaic, as the Pope said. That’s one of many closely related Semitic languages with deep roots in the past, related to Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopic, and Akkadian (the language of the Babylonians and Assyrians). Hebrew itself, in its written form, uses the original Aramaic script. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are many Aramaic texts from the time of Jesus, so one can get a pretty good idea of what the language of Jesus looked liked.

Aramaic had a wide currency among Jews at the time of Jesus, and in most gatherings for worship, scriptural readings occurred in Aramaic snippets in translation (calledTargumim). It seems likely that Jesus, being a scholarly young man, learned some Hebrew, but that’s conjecture. It’s more likely that Jesus spoke some Greek, as this language dominated the region after the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century.  Indeed, Alexander brought with him a tidal wave of language and philosophy, including the Platonic notions of body and soul, ideas that Jesus himself would assimilate.

Among the disciples of Jesus, it seems most likely that at least Philip was bilingual in Aramaic and Greek. We read in John 12:20: “Now among those who worshipped at the festival were some Greeks. They came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’” Bethsaida was a Gentile area, Greek-speaking.  Peter and Andrew also spent time there in their early youths, so they probably spoke Greek, too. It’s also worth recalling that Jesus grew up within a short walking distance of Sepphoris, a magnificent Roman city with a great deal of Greek influence.

The stories about the life and teachings of Jesus were mainly told in Greek, the original language of the gospels. Indeed, the gospel writers often quote the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, known as the Septuagint, incorporating their mistranslations as well (and setting afloat a number of theological confusions, such as those surrounding the Hebrew word almah, or young woman, which in the Septuagint becomes parthenos, or virgin: a verbal sleight of tongue that led to notions about the Virgin Birth).

Needless to say, Palestine in the time of Jesus suffered under Roman rule, administered by local client kings such as Herod the Great or his son, Herod Antipas, who is said to have played a role in the executions of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  The gospels of John and Luke record that the caustic sign above the cross of Jesus was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. In fact, most legal documents that survive from the Roman period were written in Latin, and archaeological examples from this time, such as the famous Pilot Stone discovered near the ancient port of Caesarea Maritima in 1961, contain inscriptions in Latin. It stands to reason that Jesus might have picked up some Latin in the course of his travels.

In reality, both Netanyahu and the Pope probably made good points. Jesus was indeed a Jew at a time when Israel—or ancient Palestine—was under occupation by Romans who had a deep allegiance to Greek culture. He might well have learned some Hebrew, emphasizing his firm Jewish identity. Yet Aramaic flourished in Galilee, where he lived and taught through much of his life. It’s surely what Jesus “really” spoke.

It’s also worth recalling that Arabic and Hebrew, like Aramaic, are Semitic languages, closely allied in syntax, vocabularies, and grammar.  Jews and Arabs reach back, via philology as well as place of origin, to the same gene pool. Let’s pray—and I do mean pray—that they learn to accept their linguistic and cultural kinship, and to live as cousins—perhaps not kissing cousins, but closely related people.

Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College.  His most recent book is Jesus:  The Human Face of God.  Follow him on Twitter@JayParini.



Apr 8th, 2014 @ 11:42 am › Elie Elhadj

PDF version available here

Hassan Rouhani secured the presidency of Iran with 18 million votes, over 50% of the electorate, running on a campaign of “Hope and Wisdom”

In response to the September 11 attacks, the United States occupied Iraq. Baghdad effectively ended up in the hands of Iran, thus leading to the formation of the Shi’i Crescent. Riyadh has been leading the Sunni crusade to derail the march of Shi’ism. At the same time, to protect its nuclear facilities, Tehran has made Hizballah its Mediterranean defense line and Damascus its arms courier. The existence of an atomic bomb component in Iran’s nuclear program may be inferred from the enormous cost of the project. If President Rouhani were truly to abandon the bomb, Hizballah’s army would become redundant and must be abandoned.




In 657, a supreme confrontation erupted on the plain of Siffin, south of al-Raqqah, Syria, between the armies of the Caliph Ali (656-661) and the governor of Syria, Mu’awiyya (661-680).[1] Today, Bashar Asad has turned Syria into the supreme battlefield between the Shi’i Crescent’s partisans of Ali and the Sunnis. This article examines both Shi’i and Sunni exploitation of Islam. Since around 60 percent of the world’s 180 million Shi’a are Arabs and Iranians,[2] the article’s focus is on the Shi’i-Sunni conflicts between Arabs and Iranians. It is noteworthy that while among the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims the Shi’a represent some 15 percent, the proportion of Shi’a to Sunnis within the combined populations of Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant is 55 percent. Excluding Iran, the proportion of Shi’a to Sunnis in the Arab world is a third.

This article addresses the genesis of the Sunni-Shi’i conflict, how the ulama (religious clerics) have imposed the mosque over city hall, and constructed Islamic doctrines that have rendered their followers quietists. It also examines how Sunni regimes use Islam to mistreat Shi’a and Shi’i regimes to mistreat Sunnis. Iran’s ascendancy and Iraq’s possible challenge to Iran for the leadership of the Shi’a–particularly Arab Shi’a–will be raised. The article argues that Wahhabism produced al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and the September 11 attacks. In response, the U.S. occupied Iraq, and the government in Baghdad effectively ended up in the hands of Iran, thus leading to the formation of the Shi’i Crescent. Also discussed are Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Riyadh’s desperation to derail the march of Shi’ism.




Since the dawn of Islam 14 centuries ago, the succession to Muhammad’s authority has spilled rivers of Muslim blood. By invoking monotheism, Muhammad concentrated in his hands the powers of all the Meccan gods. Verse 4:59, and a dozen similar verses, of the Koran orders, “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those in authority.”[3] The caliphs stood to inherit Muhammad’s immense power and wealth; thus, the blood over his mantle.

According to Ali’s partisans, Muhammad had publicly “designated” his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his immediate successor. Sunnis, however, reject this claim. Abu Bakr (632–634) was the first caliph, followed by Umar (634–644). Following Umar’s murder, Uthman (644–656) was chosen. He restored to his Umayya clan its former stature, damaged by Muhammad’s condemnation of leading Umayyads for dismissing him as a rebel masquerading in religious garb. Following Uthman’s murder, Ali (656–661) finally became caliph. Yet Mu’awiyya (661–680), the Umayyad governor of Syria, accused Ali of complicity in Uthman’s murder. Ali and Mu’awiyya’s armies met in 657 in Siffin, Syria. Mu’awiyya ushered the Umayyad dynasty (661–750) in Damascus and Ali was killed shortly after Siffin by his former allies, the Kharijites. Ali’s son Husayn was killed in 680 in Karbala, Iraq, while attempting to claim the caliphate from Mu’awiyya’s son, Yazid. To this day, Husayn’s killing has shaken the foundations of Islam. Thus, what started as a dispute over Ali’s caliphate, and later, the martyrdom of Husayn, grew into a doctrinal divide inspiring the creation of dozens of heterodox sects, each outbidding the others in the deification of Ali and his family.




The Shi’i Ulama’s Construction


Twelver Shi’a, representing the majority of Shi’a today, obey the authority of Muhammad plus the twelve imams, beginning with Ali and his two sons (from Ali’s marriage to Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima). Twelver Shi’a believe that the imams are infallible. They believe in the messianic concept of the return to the earth of the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Muntazar (“the awaited imam”), hidden since disappearing as a small child in 874 but who will reappear someday to restore justice and prosperity.[4]

While they believe the Twelfth Imam is in hiding, the senior Shi’i clerics, the ayatollahs, ormarja’a taqlid (source of emulation) act as his deputies, revealing to the masses the Hidden Imam’s verdict on all matters. To Sunnis, however, this is sheer blasphemy.

By adapting the messianic concept to the infallible Hidden Imam and appointing themselves as his deputies, the senior Shi’i ulama expropriated the Hidden Imam’s powers, just as Muhammad expropriated the powers of the Meccan gods in the name of monotheism.


The Sunni Ulama’s Construction


When the Muslims fanned out of Arabia to the lands of the Romans and the Persians after Muhammad’s death in 632, they discovered big cities, music, rain, rivers, farms, and different foodstuffs, languages, religions, and laws. To govern, the caliphs needed to expand the Koran’s narrow coverage of legal matters. Of the Koran’s 6,236 verses, Philip Hitti estimated the legislative verses at around 200.[5] These deal with personal status matters.

Thirteen generations after Muhammad’s death, six scholars[6] turned 34,000 of some 600,000[7] (including repetitions) Sunna traditions (sayings or Hadith and Sira or acts) out into a source of law equal to the Koran. The task of the collectors was formidable; among the thousands of attributers, there were dubious characters and blatantly partisan attributions. It takes a great act of faith to believe the truthfulness of every single Hadith.

With this development, the introduction of two additional sources of law (analogical deduction and the consensus of the Sunni ulama) as well as the four Sunni rites (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi’i), which emerged around the same time a thousand years ago, the Sunni ulama completed the construction of their Shari’a. Since that time, they shut the door on philosophical reasoning and further development of Sunni Islam.


The Conflict Between Shi’a and Sunnis over the Sunna and Other Differences


Shi’i scholars reject the Sunni Hadith collections. The Shi’a emphasize Muhammad’s alleged naming of Ali as his immediate successor and stress Muhammad’s affection for Ali’s children. Four Shi’i Hadith collections were produced during the late tenth/mid-eleventh centuries as well as three additional collections during the latter part of the seventeenth century.

While Sunnis record Muhammad’s Sunna, Twelver Shi’a record Muhammad’s Sunna plus that of the twelve imams. Also, for a tradition to be credible, it must be transmitted through one of the imams. Shi’a curse the first three caliphs along with Muhammad’s companions who supported them.

In addition, Shi’a allow pictures of the imams and Muhammad, while Sunnis do not (for fear of falling into polytheism). Shi’a venerate the imams’ tombs and other religious figures and family members, while Wahhabi Sunnis bury their dead in unmarked tombs. Shi’a permit Mut’a marriage (the woman gets paid for her companionship for a period of time) while Sunnis do not. Sunnis permit Misyar marriage (the couple live apart, with the man visiting the woman at her home without obligation) while Shi’a do not. One might refer to Shi’ism as a Persianized version of Muhammad’s Islam. Shi’ism incorporates the ethnic and cultural differences and rivalries between Arab and Persian and the memories of their wars over the long sweep of history.




That opposition to the Iranian Supreme Ayatollah means a death sentence to the opponent for undermining the “true Islam” and opposition to the Saudi king means a death sentence for undermining the other “true Islam” shows how the opponents are eliminated in Islamic ruled states. In the case of Syria’s Alawi Asad, however, to pretend to be Shi’i, to embrace his Sunni palace ulama, and simultaneously claim secularism shows how alive and well Machiavellianism is in Damascus.


Shi’i Iran


For centuries, Shi’i clerics concerned themselves with the spiritual life of Shi’a. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini changed that legacy in Iran. As the deputy of the Hidden Imam, Khomeini asserted the right of the senior-most Shi’i cleric to oversee all religious, social, and political affairs in his wilayat al-faqihconstruction, or the rulership of the specialist in religious jurisprudence.[8] Important ayatollahs opposed the new doctrine.


The Arab World


Arab rulers maintain a symbiotic link with Islam. They project an image of piety in order to demand blind obedience from their subjects. In addition to verse 4:59, Muhammad reportedly said, “Hear and obey the emir, even if your back is whipped and your property is taken; hear and obey.” Belief in predestination, a core Islamic tenet, inspired the palace ulama over the centuries to opine that even tyrannical rulers must be obeyed blindly because God ordains them.

In return for generous rewards, the palace ulama indoctrinate the masses into believing that blind obedience to their benefactors is a form of piety. Arab rulers use Islam as a psychological weapon to suppress political dissent. Whether at home, the school, mosque, work place, or city hall, Islam is at the heart of Arab resistance to religious and democratic reforms.

In non-Arab Muslim Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey (60 percent of world Muslims) multi-political parties, democratically elected parliaments, and even women presidents and prime ministers are common. Arabs, however, look down on the Islam of non-Arab Muslims.


Wahhabi Saudi Arabia


A cult-like obsession with the intolerant and the violent in the Koran and the Sunna has been the Saudi state’s ideology ever since the kingdom was established in 1932. Wahhabism is based on the teaching of Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 855). Due to its extremism, Hanbalism never generated serious following. Despite active proselytization, Wahhabis make up only 3 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Sunnis.

The al-Sauds’ claim to legitimacy does not derive from belonging to Muhammad’s family or tribe. Hanbali doctrinaires like Ibn Jama’a (1241-1333) and Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), employees of the Mamluk generals in Egypt and Syria (1250-1517), justified to their benefactors the seizure of power by force.[9]Riyadh propagates that Islam is more important than life, Wahhabism is the only route to paradise, the al-Sauds are Wahhabism’s staunchest protectors, and that blind obedience to the al-Sauds is an Islamic duty. Political opponents are labeled as “lost deviates” from the “true Islam”–a death sentence in a political system based on religious dogma.

In return for certification that the al-Sauds are great Wahhabis, the palace ulama are allowed a free hand to impose their dictums. A seventh century extremist reading of the Shari’a means a primitive judicial system with a penal code involving public beheadings after the Friday prayers, severing of limbs, and floggings. It also means that women are treated like chattel in order to nullify the political dissent of 50 percent of the society.[10] Christians, Jews, Shi’a, and other non-Wahhabis are denigrated.[11] Jihadists are glorified and promised paradise, with huris (beautiful young women, verse 44:54), wine (verse 47:15), gold, silk, and brocades (verse 18:31). Wahhabi clerics preach that Western political systems, political parties, and parliaments interfere with social cohesion, that Westernization promotes misery and suffering, leading to mixing of the sexes, discarding of the veil, opening of nightclubs and movie theaters, charging of interest on bank loans, and celebrating non-Islamic holidays such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Labor Day.[12]

Riyadh fears Saudi youth in the age of the internet might cast away the Wahhabi straightjacket and demand parliamentary democracy and humane Islam.[13] Sixty-nine percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30 years,[14] and 56 percent is between the ages of 10 and 40 years.[15]

To insulate the country from moderate Islam, Saudi Arabia is the sworn enemy of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and the advocates of Islamic and democratic reform as it is of Shi’a. Riyadh is behind the radicalization of tens of thousands among the estimated one hundred million expatriate laborers from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and others who worked in Saudi Arabia since crude oil prices were quadrupled in October 1973.[16] Wahhabism has also spread through the thousands of Saudi-financed madrassas (religious schools)[17] in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Today, a Wahhabi Arch is facing the Shi’i Crescent and Sunni democratic aspirations.

Hillary Clinton, according to WikiLeaks, wrote in December 2009, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”[18] Protected by successive American administrations, Wahhabism produced al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and the September 11 attacks. That Wahhabism did not contribute to September 11 is propaganda promoted by Riyadh and its Western apologists and business beneficiaries–among them captains of industry, media barons, and former senior politicians–especially in the United States. Religious indoctrination cannot be ignored in human behavior. Notwithstanding oil politics, and Western businesses’ obsession with a good deal, it is, nonetheless, bewildering how Western governments would tolerate the regime that released the Wahhabi genie.


Alawi Syria


A ploy the tiny Asad Alawi minority uses to rule over Syria’s Sunni majority is to exploit verse 4:59. Although most Sunnis do not regard the heterodox Alawites as Muslims,[19] Syria’s Sunni palace ulama preach obedience to their Asad benefactor. To remove a constitutional barrier to becoming president in 1970 (Article 3.1 requires the president to be a Muslim), Hafiz al-Asad “persuaded” Musa al-Sadr, head of the Higher Shi’i Council in Lebanon, to opine that the Alawites are a community of Shi’i Islam.[20]

The Asads have been playing the Sunni card while also proclaiming secularism. Five decades after Hafiz al-Asad seized power, article 3.2 of the constitution continues to specify that Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation.[21] Also, Shari’a law and courts rule over Muslims’ personal status affairs, and Muslim school children are taught Sunni religious textbooks. In his duplicity, to end the drought in 2010, President Bashar al-Asad ordered all Syrian mosques to perform the rain prayer.




According to the August 2012 Pew Research Center survey, 53 percent of Egyptians and 50 percent of Moroccans consider the Shi’a to be non-Muslims.[22] Had the same survey been conducted in Saudi Arabia, the percentage would be much higher. The Sunni ulama preach that Shi’ism is a Jewish conspiracy against Islam. As if to improve their Islamic credentials, Arab rulers find it rewarding to marginalize their Shi’i citizens. Sunni-Shi’i hostility is not new. During Ottoman rule (1280–1918), the Shi’a endured second-class treatment.

Not all Sunni clerics condemn Shi’ism. Mahmud Shaltut, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, opined in 1959 that Twelver Shi’ism was of equal status with the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence.[23] However, this opinion and its author were sidelined. Further, not all Muslims partake in this sectarian divide. Prior to the U.S. occupation, in Baghdad and other cities, it was rather common for Shi’i and Sunni families to intermarry.

The mistreatment of Shi’a in four Arabian Peninsula states–Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen–will be presented next, to be followed by the mistreatment of Sunnis in the four Shi’i Crescent lands–Hizballah-controlled Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.




Bahrain has a population of 1.2 million. Less than half are citizens and about two-thirds of the citizens are Shi’a. The Sunni al-Khalifa clan has ruled the island since 1783. Bahraini Shi’a are impoverished and marginalized. Of the 29 cabinet ministers, five are Shi’a; of the four deputy prime ministers, one is Shi’a; and of the 40-member appointed Consultative Council, 18 are Shi’a.[24] Shi’a are not allowed to join the police or the defense establishment. Sunni men from Syria, Pakistan, and Baluchistan are brought in to fill such positions. Together with their families, they are fast-tracked to Bahraini citizenship.[25]

Seeking equality with Sunnis, Bahraini Shi’a engaged in generally peaceful demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. Human Rights Watch found that Bahrain’s police resorted to beating protesters, in some cases severely, at the time of arrest and during their transfer to police stations.[26] The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, established by King Hamad, issued a 503-page report on December 10, 2011.[27] The commission found that the government used systematic torture and other forms of abuse on detainees. It rejected the government’s claim that Iran instigated the protests.




Kuwait’s population is around 3.9 million (1.2 million citizens and 2.7 million expatriate workers).[28] About 70 percent of citizens are Sunnis and 30 percent are Shi’a (360,000).[29]Among expatriates, 150,000 are Shi’a,[30]making the total number of Shi’a around 500,000.

Kuwait’s Shi’a face discrimination. Of the 50-seat parliament, Shi’i candidates won eight seats in the July 2013 elections.[31] The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 indicates that some textbooks refer to certain Shi’i religious beliefs and practices as heretical, that the government did not permit the establishment of non-Sunni religious training, and that there are no Shi’i professors at the College of Islamic Law at Kuwait University.[32]

Building a Shi’i mosque is an arduous process. Between 2001 and 2012, six licenses were issued, making for a total of 35 Shi’i mosques.[33] As for Sunni mosques, there were 1,200 in 2003.[34] On a per capita basis, there is one mosque for every 15,000 Shi’a compared to one mosque for every 700 Sunnis.[35]


Saudi Arabia


Saudi Shi’a live in the towns and villages of the oil-rich Eastern Province. About two-thirds of the estimated 3.9-million[36] Saudi nationals (excluding expatriates) in the Eastern Province, or 2.6 million, are Shi’a–representing around 13 percent of a national population of 20 million.[37] Wahhabi discrimination against Shi’a is fanatical. Of the 20 appointed members to the Council of Senior Ulama, none are Shi’i, 17 are Wahhabis, and three are from the other three Sunni rites. Of the 150-member appointed to the Consultative Council, only five are Shi’i. There are no Shi’i ministers, deputy ministers, governors, deputy governors, or ministry branch directors in the Eastern Province. Shi’a are discriminated against in admission to universities and government jobs, especially the armed forces, the National Guard, and the police.[38]

Zoning laws in Shi’i neighborhoods are aimed at limiting the density of the Shi’i population.[39] In 2012, the number of Sunni mosques was 75,000, employing 90,000 staff.[40] Shi’i mosques are subjected to a lengthy and arbitrary licensing process and unlike the billions of dollars granted annually to Wahhabi mosques, Shi’i mosques are excluded from government support. The legal testimony of Shi’a is either ignored or considered to have less weight than the testimony of Sunnis.

The publication or importation of Shi’i books and the opening of Shi’i schools is tightly controlled. In the heavily Shi’a-populated al-Ahsa, there are no female Shi’i principals in the 200 schools for girls and only 15 male Shi’i principals in the 200 schools for boys.[41]

Such discrimination is not new. The al-Saud/Abd al-Wahhab’s first rebellion in 1805 (crushed in 1817 by Egypt’s ruler, Muhammad Ali) invaded Karbala and destroyed Husayn’s tomb.[42] King Abd al-Aziz (1932-1953) imposed on his Shi’i subjects the Islamic jizya(penalty) tax collected from non-Muslims.[43]Under King Faysal (1964-1975), Wahhabi ulama declared that meat slaughtered by Shi’i butchers was not fit for consumption by Muslims.[44]

The Isma’ilis, a Shi’i sect, are concentrated in Najran and Jazan in Southwestern Saudi Arabia, bordering Yemen. Isma’ilis are around 675,000,[45] or 3.3 percent of the national population. Isma’ilis and Eastern Province Shi’a represent about 16 percent of Saudi citizens. Isma’ilis suffer as much discrimination as the Shi’a in the east.

Wahhabism raised Sunni antagonism against Shi’ism to previously unknown extremes. The Khomeini wilayat al-faqih construction may be seen as a reaction to Wahhabi enmity. It is a strategy to marshal the powers of the Iranian state in defense of Shi’a everywhere.




Among Yemen’s population of 25 million, Zaydis represent about 35 percent.[46] Zaydis are the partisans of Zayd, grandson of the third Shi’i imam, Husayn. They occupy the rugged northwestern mountainous region bordering southwestern Saudi Arabia. Huthis trace their roots to Muhammad’s family.[47] The last imam was overthrown in a military coup on September 27, 1962, after a thousand years rule.

In 2004, Husayn al-Huthi led a rebellion against former President Salih (1980–2012). Husayn was killed on September 10, 2004. The Huthis consider Salih an illegitimate ruler, despite being a Zaydi; he is not descended from Muhammad’s family. They accuse Salih of confiscating Huthi mosques, allowing Wahhabi influence on school curricula and state policy, issuance of fatwas by Sunni clerics designating the Huthis as infidels, sanctioning war against them as jihad, and hostility toward Huthi rituals.[48]

In February 2010 a ceasefire was reached. However, like previous ceasefires, this proved to be temporary. On March 24, 2011, after the governor fled to San’a, the Huthis declared the creation of their own administration in Sa’da, independent from Yemeni authorities.[49]




Shi’i clerics preach that Shi’ism is the “true Islam” and that the Sunnis are usurpers of Muhammad’s mantle. Shi’i parents generally do not name their child after the first three caliphs or Aisha, Muhammad’s young wife who led a revolt against Ali. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Isma’ilis and the Alawites fought on the side of the Christian Crusaders.[50] In 1258, Shi’a were allegedly complicit in the Mongols’ killing of the caliph and the obliteration of Baghdad. Sunni historians argue that whereas Baghdad was destroyed, Hilla, the Shi’i center 60 miles away was spared.[51] The following section describes Shi’i mistreatment of Sunnis in Shi’i Crescent lands: Hizballah controlled Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.


Hizballah-Controlled Lebanon


Lebanon’s Shi’a are estimated to make up around 40 percent of the country’s population of 4 million. For centuries, Lebanon’s Shi’a suffered from poverty, illiteracy, and poor health. Their liberation started in 1959 with the arrival of Musa al-Sadr, an Iranian-born Lebanese cleric. Al-Sadr replaced the self-pity of Lebanon’s Shi’a by a spirit of defiance. In 1974, al-Sadr formed the Movement of the Disinherited, a political movement aimed at social justice. In 1975, the Amal movement, a militia, was formed. After al-Sadr’s disappearance in 1978 during a visit to Libya’s Qaddafi, Hizballah was established.

Hasan Nasrallah uses the gun to control Lebanon. When Sunni Prime Minister Fuad Siniora shut down Hizballah’s telecommunications network in May 2008, Hizballah’s militia forced Siniora after four days of fighting to revoke the decisions.[52] On May 21, 2008, in Doha, Qatar, an agreement was reached between the government and Hizballah representatives to increase Hizballah-led seats in the cabinet from 6 to 11 out of 30 seats, in addition to granting veto power over future cabinet decisions.[53]

Hizballah is Iran’s military base on the Mediterranean. Nasrallah’s order to capture two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 and the war that followed was conducted on behalf of Iran for three reasons. The first was to divert attention from Iran’s maneuvering with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).[54]The second reason was to warn Iran’s adversaries of the havoc Hizballah, Iran, and Syria can cause. The third was to endear Nasrallah to the Arab street. The Mediterranean military base has worked. Threats from Israel and the United States over the past five years came to naught, while the nuclear program continues unabated.

Five years later, Nasrallah launched an all-out defense of the Asad regime. Hizballah’s army is in an existential fight in Syria. Without Asad, it would be strangled. To camouflage his domestic and regional strategies, Nasrallah sugarcoats the bitter pill most non-Shi’i Lebanese cannot swallow with the typical Arab cliché that the target is Israel.




Iran’s population is around 80 million, 89 percent of which are Shi’a and 9 percent Sunnis.[55] The International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 of the U.S. Department of State reveals that provinces with large Sunni populations suffer discrimination, lack of basic services, and poor infrastructure. It also reports that Sunnis are underrepresented in government-appointed positions in the provinces where they form a majority, such as Kurdistan and Khuzestan. In addition, Sunni religious literature and teachings in public schools are banned even in predominantly Sunni areas; Sunnis may not build new schools or mosques; and, despite the presence of more than one million Sunnis in Tehran, there is not a single Sunni mosque.[56]




Iraq’s population is around 32 million, of which Shi’a represent around two-thirds.[57] The two parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2010 in Iraq’s parliament and cabinet made the Shi’a the dominant force. Sunnis report being subjected to marginalization, unequal distribution of wealth, harassment, illegal searches, arbitrary arrest, torture, and abuse (including women).[58] Sunnis are effectively excluded from national decisionmaking. Sunnis resent Iran’s influence over the Iraqi government.

The constitution, crafted under ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s guidance and approved in the December 15, 2005, referendum specifies in Article 2 that Islam is the official religion of the state, that it is a fundamental source of legislation, and that no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be enacted.[59] Sunnis worry that the “established provisions of Islam” will be determined by the senior ayatollah. Sunnis believe their marginalization conceals revenge for centuries of privilege.




The Alawites are a minority of around 12 percent of Syria’s population of 23 million.[60]Until the early 1960s when the Ba’th Party seized power, the Alawi mountainous region was poor and destitute. However, all that changed with Hafiz al-Asad’s seizure of power in 1970. He quickly pretended to be Shi’a, wore the Sunni hat, and embraced the secular Ba’th Party’s ideological trinity: Arab unity, liberty, and socialism. He forged a strategic alliance with Iran–notwithstanding the ideological contradiction between the Ba’th Party’s Arab unity and the ayatollahs’ Shi’i unity. He also sided with non-Arab Iran in its war against fellow Ba’thi Iraq (1980–1988).

Asad’s rule is a family business akin to the Mafia. At the core are Anisa–Hafiz al-Asad’s widow–and their two sons. Shielding the core are loyal nephews, cousins, uncles (except the likes of brother Rifa’t, who attempted a coup against Hafiz in 1983), and trusted Alawi soldiers. Opportunistic non-Alawi soldiers and hangers-on form an outer protective ring.

Breaking the law with impunity and siphoning off illicit commissions on government contracts is the glue that keeps this group together.[61] The regime might count on the support of about a quarter of the population.[62] The six referendums since 1970 in which the two Asads consistently won more than 95 percent of the votes were fraud.

In 1980, Hafiz al-Asad machine-gunned hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood inmates in the Tadmur prison. He demolished the city of Hama in 1982 over the heads of its inhabitants, killing many thousands of civilians and Brotherhood fighters. Son Bashar inherited a police state with myriad blood curdling and “Abu Ghraib”-type dungeons manned by sadistic torturers. A million spies snoop everywhere. Victims–often innocent–are arrested and tortured–sometimes to death–without a trace. It is not surprising that three former war crime prosecutors reported on January 21, 2014, “There is clear evidence that Syria has systematically tortured and executed about 11,000 detainees since the start of the uprising.”[63] The Asads’ tyranny has been the norm for 50 years.

Bashar al-Asad killed unarmed demonstrators from the first day of the March 18, 2011, popular revolution. He opened the door to Islamist terrorists, some of whom were his own men sent to Iraq to kill Americans following the 2003 occupation. Absence of serious Western military support for Syria’s democratic opposition led to Islamist terrorists dominating the uprising. As Asad’s tattered forces suffered defections and losses, fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Hizballah came to the rescue.

Asad’s use of horrific weapons against mostly civilian men, women, and children killed more than 150,000 citizens, injured several times that number, destroyed entire cities, and turned millions into hapless refugees within Syria and in neighboring countries. Most of those killed, injured, tortured, and the refugees are Sunnis.

Asad turned Syria into the supreme battlefield between Shi’a and Sunnis since the armies of Ali (656-661) and Mu’awiyya (661-680) confronted each other in Siffin, Syria in 657. The indiscriminate destruction of life, property, and social fabric of a conservative society on such a scale ranks Bashar al-Asad among the world’s worst, most monstrous killers since the end of the Second World War. Hafiz Asad and his son embroiled the Alawi minority–and Shi’a in general–in a long-term battle with the Sunnis. The rule of a 12 percent minority over the 75 percent majority is unsustainable, particularly when the regime is tyrannical.




On April 9, 2003, the United States won the battle against Iraq. Yet Iran, without firing a shot, won the war for Iraq–possibly Shi’ism’s greatest moment since Saladin destroyed the Shi’i Fatimid rule in Cairo in 1171 and converted the population to Sunnism. On December 15, 2005, Iraq’s Shi’a controlled the first democratically elected parliament and cabinet. The 2001 elimination of the Wahhabi Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam’s regime in 2003 allowed Iran regional dominance. With the departure of American forces from Iraq, Tehran’s grip over Iraq tightened further.

As a 15 percent minority among the world’s Muslims, Shi’a feel empathy toward each other. They share cultural and religious ties. Najaf–where Ali is presumably buried–and Karbala–where Husayn is buried–are the holiest shrines. Others in central Iraq include the tombs of the seventh and the ninth imams in Kazimayn, just outside Baghdad. In nearby Samarra, there are the tombs of the tenth and the eleventh imams plus the Mosque of the Occultation. In the cemeteries of Najaf and Karbala, illustrious clerics are buried. In Mashhad, Iran, the eighth imam is buried. For centuries, millions of Shi’a visited these shrines. Some remained near the shrines to live and die, establishing over the generations a colorful tapestry of ethnicities in southern Iraq, fusing Arab and Persian culture through marriage and trade.[64] Iran’s connection to Muslim Iraq is as old as Islam. Hitti wrote that Arab Islam was influenced and changed by the Persians, and that the caliphs adopted Persian titles, wines, wives and mistresses, songs, ideas, and thoughts.[65]


Iran’s Nuclear Bomb


Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions exacerbate Shi’i-Sunni conflicts and worry Israel. The existence of an atomic bomb component in Iran’s nuclear program may be inferred from the enormous cost of the project. Hizballah’s army is integral to Iran’s atomic bomb program. It exists to attack Israel in case Israel and/or the United States attack Iran. Without the bomb, Iran’s assistance to Lebanon’s Shi’a would be schools and hospitals, not soldiers and missiles.

Since the early 2000s, the costs of Hizballah’s army and its weapons courier regime in Damascus, of UN and U.S. sanctions, as well as the lost opportunity of the resources diverted from economic and social development to the bomb project must add up to hundreds of billions of dollars. To believe Tehran’s claims that these vast sums are for electricity and medical research is naïve–Iran is home to the world’s fourth largest crude oil reserves (155 billion barrels) and the world’s second largest natural gas reserves (1,187 trillion cubic feet).[66]

To derail Iran’s nuclear project, three strategies might be envisioned. The first is expensive; bomb the nuclear facilities. In retaliation, Iran might close the Strait of Hormuz, order Hizballah to attack Israel, and bomb Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) oil installation and desalination plants. The second is for the Rouhani regime truly to agree with the P5+1 on confining Iran’s nuclear activities to peaceful purposes. However, since Iranian scientists have already acquired bomb-making know-how, Iran could restart the bomb program anytime. As a test of his commitment, Rouhani must sever the symbiotic link between Iran’s atomic bomb and Hizballah’s army. Otherwise, this would be but a ruse, with the P5+1 acquiescing to Iran’s regional hegemony. The third strategy is to overthrow the Asad regime. A secular anti-Iranian democratic government in Damascus would emasculate Hizballah’s army, break-up the Shi’i Crescent, and contain Tehran.




Iran’s strategic interest in Iraq need not necessarily be more successful in controlling Iraq’s government under a Shi’i government than it had been under the four centuries of Sunni Ottoman sultans or the Sunni governments since the end of the First World War. Loyalty to Iran by Arab Shi’a should not be exaggerated. Arab Shi’a are more likely to favor Iraq. There are the deeply rooted differences in language, ethnicity, and culture between Iran and Arab societies. The spiritual heart and soul of the Shi’a is in Iraq, not Iran: The twelve imams are all Arab, and seven of Shi’ism’s holiest mosques are in central Iraq (four in Medina and only one in Iran). Moreover, Iraq is rich. As of January 2013, it had 141 billion barrels in proven oil reserves, 85 billion of which are located in the Shi’i south.[67]

Badr al-Din al-Huthi, the 83-year-old Yemeni Zaydi leader, reportedly sent in May 2005 an appeal to Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and to the Muslim Council of Najaf asking them to intervene and support the Zaydi sect, which he claimed was the victim of “genocide.”[68] He also sought the intervention of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.[69] Significantly, he did not seek help from Iran’s ayatollahs.

A future government in Baghdad might reverse Nouri al-Maliki’s obsequiousness toward Iran. In the 2010 Iraqi parliamentary elections, Maliki almost lost the premiership to Iyad Allawi, the secular Shi’i former prime minister (2004-2005). Allawi won two seats more than Maliki,[70] and Maliki spent eight months cobbling together a ruling coalition.




Iraq connected the Shi’i Crescent from Iran to Hizballah. The Shi’i Crescent poses a great threat to the GCC states. Aside from its nuclear ambitions, Iran emboldens the Shi’a in the Arabian Peninsula to demand justice, if not representative democracies, let alone constitutional monarchies, self-rule, or independence. In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, turned the country into an Iranian vassal state. He is the leader of the Islamic Da’wa Party (Proselytizing Party). Established in 1958 by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Da’wa was the first Shi’i party in Iraq. Da’wa envisioned a generation of revolutionaries who would one day seize power to establish a Shi’i theocratic state. The Khomeini regime supported Da’wa. Maliki spent two decades in exile during Saddam’s regime, at first in Iran, then mainly in Syria.[71] Riyadh believes Maliki is an Iranian agent.[72] The Saudi king even refused to receive him in May 2007.[73] Da’wa activists are thought to have helped build Lebanon’s Hizballah in the early 1980s. Iyad Allawi told the Washington Times on March 22, 2012, that Iran was “swallowing” Iraq and that some U.S. officials “concede secretly” that “Iran won, got the best advantage of what happened in Iraq.”[74]

Another member of the Shi’i Crescent is the sectarian, dysfunctional Lebanon, where Hasan Nasrallah rules with the gun. Nasrallah turned Lebanon into an Iranian vassal state. A strong religious bond between Iran and the Shi’a of Lebanon was established five centuries ago. In 1502, Shah Isma’il found it profitable to introduce religious zeal into the conflicts Persia had with Sunni Ottoman sultans (1280-1918). In an act of mass conversion, the Shah made Shi’ism the religion of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1737). Lacking the clerics to teach the Shi’i ways, scholars from Lebanon were invited to establish schools and train Persian clerics. Thus, a bridge between Iran and Lebanon was established through marriage and religious affinity.

As for the Alawi member of the Shi’i Crescent, the Asads turned Syria into the third Iranian vassal state. While Iraq and Hizballah are of strategic importance to Iran, Syria’s relevance is as the mule that delivers Iranian weapons to Hizballah. Iran pays heavily for this service: First, the Asad regime is an economic and military burden on Tehran. Second, the Alawites are a minority of 12 percent with dubious religious connection to Shi’ism. Third, Syria has little religious significance to Shi’a, save for the alleged burial place of Zaynab, sister of Husayn, near Damascus (Zaynab’s tomb might be in the mosque that bears her name in Cairo).




Riyadh has vigorously opposed Khomeini’s revolution from its inception. In May 1981, the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) was created in order to contain Iran. The Saudis also helped finance Saddam’s war against Iran (1980-1988) with $25.7 billion.[75] Riyadh has also been lobbying Washington to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites. As the EU imposed oil sanctions on Iran in January 2012, Saudi Arabia quickly responded by increasing its oil production.

In 2011, the Saudis sent 1,000 soldiers to Bahrain as a part of a GCC deployment to help the al-Khalifa clan crush Shi’i demonstrations.[76] Yemen’s Huthi uprising poses a threat to Riyadh, with Zaydi “heresies” and by providing arms to the Isma’ilis in nearby Abha, Jazan, and Najran. Until 1934, the area was Yemeni territory. On November 5, 2009, the Saudi air force bombed Huthi strongholds.[77]

In Lebanon, fearing the rise of Shi’i power under Musa al-Sadr, Riyadh invested in Rafiq al-Hariri. He moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965, swiftly rising from rags to riches. After his assassination on February 14, 2005, his family reportedly inherited $16.7 billion.[78] Hariri crafted the 1989 Ta’if Accord, which ended Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990) and made him prime minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004). With his assassination, Riyadh lost most of its investment in Lebanon.

In Iraq, with help from its lobbyists, the Saudis managed to keep Saddam Hussein in power for 24 years. In 1991, following the expulsion of Saddam from Kuwait, the U.S. army did not go to Baghdad. However, during the weeks leading up to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the al-Sauds could not save Saddam. They were more concerned with saving themselves by staying away America’s crosshairs in the aftermath of September 11 than with whether Baghdad would be Shi’i or Sunni-ruled.

A decade later, the al-Sauds managed to deflect Wahhabi culpability for September 11. With its renewed self-assurance, Riyadh rejected in October 2013 membership in the United Nations Security Council in protest at the Council’s failure to end the war in Syria and other regional issues.[79] With a $657 billion reserve fund (December 31, 2012),[80] Riyadh has been leading the Sunni crusade against the Shi’i Crescent. In Syria, the Saudis have been supporting the war against the Alawi regime. A new regime in Syria is the key to breaking up the Shi’i Crescent, emasculating Hizballah, removing the ayatollahs from the Levant, and containing Iran.




Wahhabism rendered the Sykes-Picot configuration unworkable. It replaced what was in the 1920s a relatively peaceful existence among ethnic and sectarian groups with hatred and bloodshed. Western inaction in Syria since the start of the March 2011 revolution allowed Bashar al-Asad to transform a peaceful uprising against tyranny into a regional existential conflagration between Shi’a and Sunnis.

Western inaction in Syria might suggest a shift in U.S. strategy from protecting the al-Sauds and GCC shaykhs to engagement with Tehran. This shift could lead to a separate Alawi state along the Mediterranean coast linked to a Shi’i-dominated Lebanon, which combined with Shi’i-dominated Southern Iraq would confirm Iran as the region’s superpower. Wahhabis and GCC money would then continue to pay Islamists to undermine Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and the Arab inhabited oil-producing Khuzestan province in Southern Iran. The Huthi rebellion in Yemen would intensify and Bahraini Shi’i protests would become lethal, spilling over to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

This war will last for decades. Regardless of who eventually prevails, and despite the fact that the war is ridding the world of Islamist terrorists of the nastiest kind, hoards of hardened terrorists will metastasize to fight another day.


* Elie Elhadj, born in Syria, is a veteran international banker. He was Chief Executive Officer of the Arab National Bank in Saudi Arabia during most of the 1990s. After retiring, he received his Ph.D. from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.



[1] Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs, 10th edition (London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1970), p. 180.

[2] Mid-2009 Shi’i population estimate: Iran: about 68 million; Arab countries: roughly 38 million (Iraq: 20.5 million; Lebanon: 1.5 million; Syria: 3.5 million; Bahrain: 0.45 million; Kuwait: 0.6 million; Saudi Arabia: 3 million; Yemen: 9 million). 68 million + 38 million = 116 million out of 180 million of the world’s Shi’a population = 60 percent. See: The Pew Forum,Mapping the Global Muslim Population hangers-on, October 7, 2009,

[3] Verses 2:285, 3:32, 3:132, 4:59, 4:66, 4:81, 5:92, 8:1, 8:20, 8:46, 24:54, 47:33, 64:11. See,

[4] The chief of staff to Iran’s former PresidentAhmadinejad proposed building a major thoroughfare to prepare for the arrival of the Twelfth Imam, “Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Iran’s Next President?” PBS, March 31, 2011,

[5] Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 396-97.

[6] Al-Bukhari (d. 870): 7,397 traditions; Muslim (d. 875): 7,563 traditions; Bin Majah (d. 886): 4,341 traditions; Abu Dawud (d. 888): 5,274 traditions; Al-Tirmithi (d. 892): 3,956 traditions; and Al-Nasai (d. 915): 5,761 traditions. It takes a great act of faith to believe that every tradition was authentic. In addition to the great Arab conquests during the 13 generations between Muhammad’s death and the collection of the Hadith, there were four major Muslim civil wars, seven state capital cities, and numerous violent political and religious rebellions.

[7] Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 395.

[8] The roots of wilayat al-faqih can be found in the work of the Najaf Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. In his 1975 book, Islamic Political System, al-Sadr formulated his political ideology in four principles: Absolute sovereignty belongs to Allah; Shari’a is the basis of all legislation; the jurist holding the highest religious authority in the state is the representative of the Hidden Imam; the people, as vice-regents of Allah, are entrusted with executive and legislative powers. To give executive and legislative actions legality, the jurist must confirm these actions. As such, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr constructed the wilayat al-faqih concept as the basis for Shi’i governance. In 1979, the Khomeini revolution in Iran was born.

[9] Albert Hourani wrote of Badr al-Din bin Jama’a (1241-1333), “an official apologist of the Mamlukes.” He advocated that the ruler is “the shadow of God on the Earth…. The community must accept him whoever he be…. The imam can either be chosen or can impose himself by his own power, and, in either case, he must be obeyed. If he is deposed by another, the other must equally be obeyed… We are with whoever conquers.” On Taki al-Din bin Taymiyya (1263-1328), Hourani wrote, “an official of the Mamluke sultans.” He believed that the essence of government “was the power of coercion…. The ruler…. could demand obedience from his subjects, for even an unjust ruler was better than strife and dissolution of society.” See Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1789-1939 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 14, 18-19. These men were the product of not only the era of the Mamluk soldiers but also of the traumatic era of Mongol’s destruction of Baghdad and the caliphate (1258) and the rise of Ottoman rule (1280-1918).

[10] Among other examples, a man can marry four wives simultaneously and divorce any of them without giving cause, misyar marriages are permitted, and two women equal one man in legal testimony and inheritance. In addition, every woman must have a guardian (father, husband, brother, or son) responsible for her actions. She cannot travel without his written permission, stay in a hotel alone, engage in business, or be treated in a hospital. Women are prohibited from driving cars, for fear of damaging their ovaries, warned a leading Wahhabi cleric. See: “Saudi Cleric Says Driving Risks Damaging a Woman’s Ovaries,” BBC News, September 29, 2013, Women must be segregated from men outside the home and covered in public from head to toe in a black garment. A brutal religious police enforces these rules. Further, there is the Saudi common saying that women are light on brains and religious belief. Muhammad reportedly said that most of those in hell were women (according al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Tirmithi) and that women’s “lack of intelligence” is  the reason a woman’s testimony in an Islamic court of law is equal to half that of the testimony of the Muslim male (al-Bukhari; al-Tirmithi). Moreover, the alleged reason women are prohibited from praying and fasting during menstruation is due to their being “deficient in religious belief” (al-Bukhari; al-Tirmithi).

[11] Intolerance toward Christians and Jews is found in the following verses, among others: 2:65, 2:120, 5:51, 5:60, 5:78 and the first part of 5:82. Violence against non-Muslims appear in, for example, verses 2:191, 2:193, 2:116, 8:60, 9:5, and 9:29.

[12] Madawi Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 191.

[13] Elie Elhadj, “The Arab Spring and the Prospects for Genuine Religious and Political Reforms,” Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), Vol. 16, No. 3 (Fall 2012),

[14] Saudi Arabian Central Bureau of Statistics and Information, 13. 11.458 million out of 16,527 million = 69.3 percent, Table no. 2, p. 47.

[15] Ibid; 9.235 million out of 16.527 million = 56 percent.

[16] Assuming 10 million expatriates from 1993 to 2013 and 5 million during each of the preceding 20 years since 1973 = 300 million. Assuming that the average worker stays for three years, the average number of expatriates would be around 100 million. If 1 percent was radicalized, the number of Islamists would be one million.

[17] Prior to its banning by the United Nations Security Council Committee on January 26, 2004, (see, the al-Haramain Foundation claimed to have built 1,300 mosques in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, sponsored 3,000 preachers, and produced 20 million religious pamphlets from the time of its formation in the early 1990s until its closure. See “Saudis to Sue Senior US Officials,” al-Jazeera, May 15, 2005,

[18] Declan Walsh, “WikiLeaks Cables Portray Saudi Arabia As a Cash Machine for Terrorists,” The Guardian, December 5, 2010,

[19] Syria’s Sunnis are aghast at the Asad regime’s open blasphemy. Following the death of Hafiz al-Asad’s son Basil in a racing car accident in 1994, government employees and school children in the coastal city of Latakia were ordered by government officials to dress in black and demonstrate, chanting, “Oh God, oh God, it is about time You step aside and let Basil sit in your place” (“Ya Allah hallak hallak wa Basil ya’akhaz mahallak”). When Hafiz died in 2000, the same performance was repeated for three months, replacing the name Basil with Hafiz, and this time with visits to Hafiz’s mausoleum in Qardaha, the Asad clan’s hometown.

[20] Patrick Seale, Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p. 173.

[21] International Labor Organization, The Syrian Arab Republic Constitution of 2012, Arabic–en/index.htm.

[22] The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity,August 9, 2012.

[23] BBC, Religions, Sunni and Shi’a, August 19, 2009,

[24] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Bahrain,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2012,

[25] “Bahrain Emerging As Flashpoint in Middle East Unrest,” Christian Science Monitor, February 15, 2011,

[26] Human Rights Watch, Bahrain: PoliceBrutality, Despite Reform Pledges, Minors Regularly Beaten; Impunity Remains Key Problem, April 29, 2012,

[27] Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, December 10, 2011,

[28] Kuwait’s Public Authority for Civil Information,

[29] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Kuwait,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2012,

[30] Ibid.

[31] BBC, Kuwait election: Shia Candidates Suffer at Polls, July 28, 2013,

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices–2003, Kuwait,

[35] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Kuwait,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2012.

[36] According to the 2004 census, Saudi nationals in the Eastern Province numbered 2.6 million (Table 1, p. 46) and the rate of Saudi nationals’ growth was 2.5 percent (p. 23). The Province’s population ten years later, in 2014, could be estimated at 3.9 million. See Saudi Arabian Central Bureau of Statistics and Information,

[37] Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The World Factbook,

[38] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Saudi Arabia,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2012,

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Joshua Teitelbaum, “The Shiites of Saudi Arabia,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, Vol. 16, August 21, 2010,

[43] Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia p. 89.

[44] Ibid., pp. 146-47.

[45] According to the 2004 census, Saudi nationals in the Najran Province made up 349,000 (Table 1, p. 46), and the rate of population growth was 2.5 percent (p. 23). The population in Najran ten years later, in 2014, could thus be estimated at roughly 500,000. Since it is well known that the majority of Najran’s population is Isma’ili, assuming a 75 percent majority, the estimated size of Najran’s Isma’ilis would be around 375,000. Further, there are Isma’ilis in the nearby Jazan Province. Jazan’s Saudi population was estimated in 2004 at 994,000 (Table 1, p. 46) with a growth rate of 2.5 percent (p. 23). It could thus be estimated that the Jazan population ten years later, in 2014, at around 1.5 million. At an Isma’ili proportion of 20 percent, the Isma’ilis in Jazan could be around 300,000. Thus, in Najran and Jazan, the Isma’ilis could number around 675,000.SeeSaudi Arabian Central Bureau of Statistics and Information,

[46] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Yemen,” International Religious Freedom Report for 2012,

[47] Fethullah Guler, Zaydiyya and Its Conflict with the Salafiyya in Yemen, January 1, 2013,, p.1.

[48] “A Lasting Peace? Yemen’s Long Journey to National Reconciliation,” The Brookings Doha Center Analysis Papers, No. 7, (February 2013),

[49] “Houthi Group Appoints Arms Dealer as Governor of Sa’ada Province,” March 27, 2011,Yemen Post,

[50] Momen, Introduction to Shi’i Islam, p. 93.

[51] Ibid., pp. 91-92.

[52] “Hezbollah to End Beirut Seizure,” BBC, May 10, 2008,

[53] “Lebanon Rivals Agree Crisis Deal,” BBC, May 21, 2008,

[54] “Short History of Nuclear Talks with Iran,” American Foreign Policy Project, November 9, 2009,

[55] CIA, “Iran,” The World Factbook,

[56] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Iran,”International Religious Freedom Report for 2012,

[57] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Iraq,International Religious Freedom Report for 2012

[58] Ibid.

[59] For the full text of the constitution:

[60] CIA, The World Factbook,

[61] Aside from the Asad family, among the top families that moved from rags to riches are: Duba, Khuli, Makhluf, Mamluk, Nasif, Shalish, and Akhras, Khaddam, Shihabi, Tlas.

[62] Eighty percent of Alawites who represent about 12 percent of Syria’s population = 9.6 percent, or 10 percent + two-thirds of Christians who represent some 6 percent of the population = 4 percent + 10 percent of Sunnis, who represent 75 percent of the population, = 7.5 percent, or 8 percent. The total would be 10 percent + 4 percent + 8 percent = 22 percent.

[63] “Syria Accused of Torture and 11,000 Executions,” BBC, January 21, 2014,

[64] Some of the most prominent Shi’i ulama families in Najaf (such as Sahibuljawahir, Ashshaykh Radi, Bahrululum, al-Jawahiri, and Tabatabai al-Hakim) and Karbala (such as al-Hujja al-Haeri, Tabatabai al-Haeri, Tabatabai Burujurdi, and Shahrastan) trace their genealogical roots to long lines of intermarriages with illustrious Iranian families in Burjurid, Isfahan, Kirmanshah, and Tehran. For a lineage tree showing intermarriages among Shi’i ulama families in Iran and Iraq from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, see Momen, An Introduction to Shi’i Islam, pp. 132-34.

[65] Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 294.

[66] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran, March 28, 2013,

[67] US Energy Information Administration, “Iraq,” April 2, 2013,

[68] “Yemeni Religious Scholars Reject Repression Charges of Zayidis,” Gulf News, May 8, 2005,

[69] Ibid.

[70] “Analysis: Defining Iraqracy,” Globalpost, March 29, 2010,

[71] Juan Cole, “Saving Iraq: Mission Impossible,” Salon, May 11, 2006,

[72] Helene Cooper, “Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials,” New York Times, July 27, 2007,

[73] Robin Wright, “Saudi King Declines to Receive Iraqi Leader,” Washington Post, April 29, 2007,

[74] Ben Birnbaum, “Allawi Cites ‘Dictatorship,’ Iranian Control in Iraq,” Washington Times, March 22, 2012,

[75] According to King Fahd, al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, p. 157.

[76] “Gulf States Send Forces to Bahrain Following Protests,” BBC, March 14, 2011,

[77] “Saudi Jets Bomb Yemeni Houthis,” al-Jazeera, November 5, 2009,

[78] “Rafik al-Hariri,”,

[79] “Saudis Reject Security Council Seat, Angry over Mideast Inaction,” Reuters, October 18, 2013,

[80] CIA, “Saudi Arabia,” The World Factbook,