[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Middle East Earthquake
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2007


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In geology, a fault is the movement of two masses of rocks on each side of a break in the earth’s crust. Most, if not all, earthquakes are due to movement along faults. As I happen to read this in an old college geology textbook last week, it occurred to me that here is a useful metaphor for what’s happening in the Middle East.

The Sunni and Shiite communities are masses of people; the equivalent of masses of rocks on each side of a break in the earth’s crust. The break between them is the fissure which occurred in the Islamic world over the succession to Mohammed. The Sunnis’ murder of Mohammad’s grandson, the Shiite candidate for leader of the Muslim world, is the event which led to the fissure.

Stability existed more or less between Sunnis and Shiites during much of the twentieth century. Sunnis, wealthy and more powerful, dominated in the Middle East. Shiites were for the most part the impoverished lower class.

Two major events, movements in geology terminology, have occurred in recent years, each leading to an upheaval. The first is the fall of the Shah of Iran, formerly Persia. Despite having a Muslim population that is almost entirely Shiite, the Shah’s secular pro American government kept the religious community under tight control. Liberals faced the same repression. In a very clever move, Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers reached a temporary alliance with liberals whom they ultimately devastated, to topple the Shah and create an Islamic Republic. Most important it isn’t merely an Islamic Republic. It is a Shiite Islamic Republic, and thereby despised by the Sunni Muslims.

Saddam Hussein, the Sunni despot of Iraq, recognized the tremendous implications for the Middle Eastern Muslim world of the new government in Tehran. That’s why he launched his long and bloody war with Iran. His driving motive wasn’t to pit Arab against Persian, although that’s what occurred. It was to pit a Sunni state (Iraq) against a Shiite state (Iran). The irony is that Saddam’s cannon fodder in the war consisted of poor Shiite boys and young men from southern Iraq. While the war was raging, an American official remarked, “we win as long as neither Iraq nor Iran prevails, and they keep fighting.” Well they stopped; and the Shiites solidified their hold on Iran.

The earth settled and stability in the Middle East Muslim world was again achieved. Then Saddam launched his Kuwaiti takeover which led to the first Gulf war, sanctions and ultimately his demise. The man was a horror. He killed more than a million Iraqis, primarily Shiites and Kurds. Whether he had or didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, the world is a better place without Saddam. What has been unleashed, however, is the next major earthquake, control of Iraq, an Arab state, by a Shiite, government, currently led by Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. No, I am not blaming President Bush for this. With sixty percent of the Iraqi population being Shiite, it was inevitable that the Shiites would seek to take control of the Iraqi government at some point. Equally inevitable was the bloody sectarian civil war which is now occurring.

If anyone doubts that Shiite control in Iraq is a cataclysmic event, consider what happened last weekend. Saudi King Abdullah, the leader of the Sunni Arab world, refused to receive Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki for a visit in the Saudi capital. His calendar wasn’t fully booked. He had time to meet with the Japanese leader. Unquestionably, it was one Arab ruler snubbing another. Abdullah’s motive was hardly disguised. He believes that Maliki’s government favors the Shiites in Iraq over the Sunnis. And of course, he’s right.

What Abdullah’s snub of Maliki confirms is that tension is growing between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East. Iran, meddling in Lebanon, among Palestinians and elsewhere, is the despised enemy. Iraq is increasingly being viewed as a pawn of Tehran.

Although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is spending half her life in airplanes shuttling to and from the Middle East these days, there’s not much the United States can do to reduce these tensions. The earth has not yet settled from the last earthquake. We are in for further disturbances. Call them aftershocks. As a nation, we had better look for other sources of energy. The Middle East has become a more dangerous place. As individuals, while we watch Sunnis square off against Shiites, let’s remember to keep out gas tanks full. The price of oil has only one way to go.