Crescent unsettles Sunnis
Shiite ascent unsettles Iraq’s Sunni neighbors - MSNBC
[ Sunnis affraid of rise of Shia power in the Middle East. ]
MSNBC - 29 January 2005
SHIITE CRESCENT ASCENT UNSETTLES IRAQ'S SUNNI NEIGHBORS
Sunni Arabs concerned over a 'Shiite crescent' of power in Mideast
While the United States waits with optimism for Iraq’s elections, neighboring Arab nations are nervous. They fear the vote could signal the rise of Shiite Muslims in their Sunni-dominated region, embolden their own Shiite communities and perhaps strengthen Iraq’s ties with Iran.
Arab nations long have been wary of non-Arab, Shiite Iran and worry that an alliance with a Shiite-ruled Iraq would shift the balance of power in a region dominated for centuries by Sunni Muslims. The largely Sunni Muslim regimes also fear such an alliance would inspire unrest among their Shiite populations, which have long complained of discrimination.
“This is really historically unprecedented,” said Farid el-Khazen, chairman of the political studies department at the American University of Beirut. “For the first time in the history of the modern state, Shiites have a share in ruling a country such as Iraq.”
'A Shiite crescent'
Jordan’s King Abdullah II told The Washington Post in December that Iran was seeking to create “a Shiite crescent” in the Middle East that would include Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The comments angered Iran, and the king later said he was not opposed to Shiites.
Still, the words exposed the barely hidden fears about Shiite power.
Lebanon’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, said Friday that concerns of a Shiite takeover in Iraq “are unfounded.”
“Shiites are not seeking to take control of the government in Iraq,” he told The Associated Press after Friday prayers in south Beirut.