| Academia Nomad
WAIGANI - Numerous articles and commentaries on social and mass media are focusing their attention on the issue of would the Middle East be at peace if Israel vanished.
In this short analysis, I want to discuss three related issues that I believe form the core of present conflict in the Middle East: the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran; the religious rift among Muslims; and the shared animosity of Arab countries against Israel.
The Sunni - Shia religious divide
Just like Christianity has numerous churches and denominations, so the Muslim faith is divided into numerous sects, the two main ones being Sunni and Shia. These sects offer differing interpretations of the Quran, just as numerous Christian denominations have different interpretations of the Bible (such as whether the holy day of worship should be Saturday or Sunday).
Shiites hold that Imam Ali, the prophet's son-in-law, should have succeeded him as leader of the Muslim world and that the prophet's lineage should be the source of future leadership.
Sunnis disagree that a hereditary line of succession should be used to determine Muslim leadership.
There has been and still is carnage as a result of these divisions. In Syris, for example, the conflict involves Shia rebels seeking to topple the Sunni dominated government.
Saudi Arabia is the largest and richest Sunni nation in the Middle East and among Muslims and the richest and most powerful Shia nation is Iran. Both aspire to lead the Muslim world and their opposing religious philosophies prevent them from cooperating in other areas. Both nations provide funding for conflict and unrest in the Middle East.
Iran, for example, is arming and financing the Shia rebels in Syria who are battling the Saudi Arabian-backed government forces, who are dominated by Sunnis. Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the US and Iran collaborated to eradicate ISIS, a Sunni terrorist organisation. So, in light of these factors, how does the conflict between Hamas and Israel conflict make sense?
The Abraham Accord & Iran
The Abraham Accord, a peace agreement signed by Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Morocco under the auspices of the Trump administration, was planned to bring about peaceful co-existence between the Arab countries and Israel.
The Abraham Accord posed a great problem for Iran’s goal to become undisputed leader of the Muslim world because of Saudi Arabia’s alignment with Israel as a membership of the Accord. Iran has defied convention by arming and training Hamas militants, a Sunni organisation (noting that Iran is Shia not Sunni).
It seems the Iranian strategy was that an attack on Israel by Hamas would lead to an Israeli rampage which would trigger Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to take concerted action against Israel. So far this has not happened.
Hamas, Iran & the conflict with Israel
Notwithstanding their differences in faith, Shia Iran and Sunni Hamas share the common objective of eradicating Israel from the Middle East. Hamas opposes a two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis would coexist. The hatred of Hamas for Israel is so strong it turned to Iran for support despite their religious differences.