I’ve just taken a wonderful trip through Northern California – Sonoma County and San Francisco. I’m now back home at the beach in Southern California and feeling refreshed and at ease. I’m putting the finishing touches on my novel, CHINA SEA. A final proofreading.
The news of the day is about the Iran nuclear negotiations. The U.S. executive branch has made a deal. The other branch of government, the congress, is going to make it a “hard sell”. The prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, slipped behind the president’s back and made his speech to congress. A bunch of senators broke protocol and sent a letter directly to the Ayatollah. A lot of purely domestic politics in the mix.
The most dangerous conflict in the Middle East, indeed in the world, is the one between the Muslim Sunnis and the Muslim Shias. This is a clash that has been going on for something like 1,400 years. It started with a disagreement over who should succeed the Prophet Mohammad. It became a wound that never healed.
Here is an excerpt from my novel, CHINA SEA (to be published this summer).
Wadi Haddad’s Russian code name was Natsionalist. The KGB didn’t know he knew.
He uttered to himself, “All profess to be nationalists.”
Wadi pondered on the most fickle creed of all. Muslim nationalism. It stretched from distant Indonesia to Pakistan, into Afghanistan and through the Arab and Persian worlds. The clashing Sunnis and Shiites who hate each other. And onward, west to North Africa and the south of Russia. So many unconnected races and cultures in disarray, cultures with little in common except for the pillars of Islam, if that.
And he reflected on Arab nationalism. Nasser had tried and failed. There were too many rivalries and jealousies in the mix. And leaders who loathed one another. And who paid lip service to Palestine’s cause, Palestine’s liberation.
“There is but one true nationalism, the only meaningful one: Palestine.” Wadi Haddad sneered, grinding his decaying teeth.
My opinion, born out by recent events, is that the Sunnis (personified by each of the 9/11 terrorists, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Chattanooga) pose the gravest threat to the United States and to what was once called the “Free World”. I would go so far as to say that the U.S. and Europe have more in common with Iran’s society and political system (Shia) than they have with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabis (Sunni). I think the American president, at heart a realist, senses this as well. There is potential for an American reconciliation with Iran after these thirty-six years of friction. The current negotiations have evidently laid the groundwork for it. My prediction – Iran will, eventually, follow the example of another former enemy, Cuba.
The geostrategic reality is that the Saudis have the oil. Even if the United States becomes energy independent, America’s friends and allies (and adversaries) will continue to need Saudi oil. Thus the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet will continue to patrol the Persian Gulf.
And then there is Israel. That country, through its Washington lobby, has significant political influence on the conduct of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Israelis no doubt experience anxiety regarding the building of a rapport between the U.S. and Iran. That seems counter-intuitive to me. If the U.S. had a meaningful relationship with Iran then perhaps Iran could be persuaded to behave itself in the region. As things are now, the U.S. has no influence at all on Iran’s behavior.
In short, we have a complicated and dangerous mismatch of interests and cultures. The Sunni/Shia chasm will not be overcome in our lifetime, if ever. And one wonders if the Israeli/Palestinian (Shia) conflict will ever be resolved.
As for nuclear weapons in the region – no, Iran should not have them. And neither should Pakistan for that matter (yet they do). Pakistan is arguably far less stable and more a failed state than Iran.