The Washington Post notices that President Obama’s deal with Iran has been followed by an “uptick” in violence between Sunni and Shiite in the Middle East. The uptick is not a coincidence. It almost surely is the product of the shift in U.S. policy towards Iran, including but not limited to the “bail out” features of the deal, that Obama has wrought:
As Sunni Arabs push back against a reordering that they suspect will leave them marginalized and a newly confident Iran asserts its gains, “this is more likely to play out in a manner in which everyone is fighting with everyone else to secure their interests,” said Hussein Ibish of the Washington-based American Task Force on Palestine. “There would be intensified campaigns of spoiling, more proxy conflicts, more waves of bombing.”
Things are playing out this way already:
Since the Geneva accord, sectarian sentiments seem only to have hardened. The execution of 18 Sunni men in a Baghdad neighborhood last week echoed the sinister killings that signaled the start of sectarian war in Iraq in 2005, and it suggested that Shiites are gearing up to fight back against a wave of al-Qaeda bombings that has killed more than 8,000 Iraqis this year.
A fresh outbreak of fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, between local Sunnis and Alawites drawn from Assad’s minority sect, has proved unusually intense, killing more than a dozen people since Friday.
And the beheading of three fighters from Hezbollah, among more than a dozen killed during a rebel offensive east of Damascus, underscored the extent to which the sectarian divide is playing out on the ground in Syria. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, which receives funding from a shadowy network of sponsors in the Persian Gulf region, posted pictures on the Internet boasting about the decapitations.
But is this increase in violence between Sunni and Shiite problematic from an American standpoint? I think so.
In a hyper-violent atmosphere, the bad will crowd out the less bad. Why? Because ruthlessness is at a premium and extreme ideology fuels ruthlessness.
Thus, the more intense the Sunni-Shiite struggle becomes, the more the jihadist and virulently anti-American elements will come to the fore.
We have seen this in Syria. After Assad/Hezbollah/Iran ramped up the violence, and after it became clear that Obama would not meaningfully respond, the worst elements in the Sunni opposition became increasingly dominant.
When the dust settles to some degree in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, probably with the worst Sunni and Shiite elements both controlling significant chunks of territory, these elements will likely turn their attention back to the United States and Israel. Given their ideology, why would they not?