Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trump in Riyadh: a Message to Tehran

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring

On Saturday 20 May, US President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for what was to be the first stop on a nine-day tour of the Middle East and Western Europe. The tour included visits to religious centres Jerusalem (Judaism and Christianity) and the Vatican (Roman Catholicism), but not Islam’s Mecca, as infidels are not permitted there.

During his two day visit to Riyadh, President Trump participated (albeit uncomfortably) in a ceremonial sword dance, and delivered a 34-minute speech to an Arab Islamic American Summit attended by the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations.

In his speech, President Trump praised Sunni Arab leaders for their fight against terrorism, as if unaware that Saudi Arabia is not only one the world’s leading sponsors of international Islamic jihad, but the engine-room driving the “Wahhabisation” of Sunni Muslims worldwide.

He applauded Turkey for its hosting of refugees, as if unaware that Turkey’s President Recip Tayyap Erdogan – who is also one of the world’s leading sponsors of Islamic jihad – bears much of the responsibility for creating most of the refugees he is hosting, refugees he uses as pawns in foreign policy.

But the trump card in Trump’s speech was his singling out of Iran, which he lambasted as the cause of all regional instability through its sponsorship of international terrorism and fuelling of sectarian conflict and chaos. In this regard he made specific mention of Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who alone stood accused of “unspeakable crimes”.

While in Riyadh President Trump also brokered a deal to sell Saudi Arabia some $460 million worth of precision-guided munitions: nearly $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years – as if unaware that Saudi Arabia is funnelling arms to all manner of Sunni jihadists in Syria, and is responsible for the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [On Tuesday 13 June, the US Senate voted -- 53 to 47 -- in favour of supporting the arms deal.]

If President Trump thought his Iran-bashing would engender and consolidate Sunni unity, then he was gravely mistaken, and in truth, should have known better. Irrespective of whether the report that the Emir of Qatar had questioned the wisdom of isolating Iran was “fake news” or true, it detonated the tension in the Saudi-led bloc, exploding any pretense of unity.

[See also: “A Brief Guide to Middle Eastern Alliances”, by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 28 June 2017.]

President Trump’s performance, speech and weapons deal in Riyadh might not have engendered Sunni unity, but it did send a message to Tehran: that the US will stand with its allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel) to resist Tehran, whom it will fight -- albeit indirectly -- even by toppling the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

It seems the conflict in Syria is about to move to a whole new level, and with it, the Christian crisis in the Middle East.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Brief Guide to Middle Eastern Alliances

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring

The complex, volatile and exceedingly fragile alliances between the Middle East’s powers and sects are unpacked in detail my book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

What follows below is but a brief (and consequently simplistic) guide to the tangled web that is the Middle East.


Map by Elizabeth Kendal
click on map to enlarge
click here for pdf

At the heart of the Middle East is Mesopotamia: the land between the two rivers (the Tigris and the Euphrates). Comprising modern-day Syria and Iraq, this resource-rich Fertile Crescent has long been regarded as the cradle of civilisation. The homeland of ancient peoples – Armenians and Assyrians (also known as Syriacs and Chaldeans) – Mesopotamia is today (after numerous invasions, conquests and occupations) both a buffer zone and melting pot. Terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky has labelled it, “the fertile crescent of minorities”.

The Mesopotamian heartland is surrounded by the region’s three imperial powers: TURKEY, ruled today by the Neo-Ottoman, Sunni Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan; IRAN/Persia, ruled today by its revolutionary Shi’ite clerical regime; and the Wahhabist Kingdom of SAUDI ARABIA representing the Sunni Arabs. Today, as a century of Western hegemony comes to an end, these three imperial powers are struggling not only for hegemony over resource-rich Mesopotamia, but for leadership of the Muslim world.

The Middle East is divided along sectarian lines: between Islam’s two mains sects, the Sunnis (who follow Arab tradition/sunna in being led by a strongman) and the Shi’ites (who maintain that only a blood relative of Muhammad can lead the Muslims). Because Shia doctrine deligitimises all Sunni Caliphs, Sunni Islam has long sought to deligitimise Shi’ism as heresy, and demonise Shi’ites as rafida/rejectionists to be killed. Like the three imperial powers, these two Islamic sects are fighting for hegemony over resource-rich Mesopotamia and for leadership of the Muslim world.

The Middle East is divided along political lines: the north-south Turkey-Arab Sunni Axis comprising NATO-member Turkey and the US-allied Sunni Arabs; and the east-west, Iran-led, Shia-dominated Axis of Resistance (often called the Shia Axis) comprising Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Lebanon’s Hezballah, along with various Sunni “resistance” groups such as Hamas and even al-Qaeda. These powers and groups are united by their commitment to “resisting” America’s and Israel’s presence in the Middle East. ISIS would be in this axis too if ISIS were not so inflexibly takfiri (anti-Shi’ite).

But nothing is ever that simple. Within these political axes the allied states routinely display widely diverging interests -- including economic interests -- and this is where it gets complicated.

Regarding the east-west Iran-led, Shia-dominated Shia Axis / Axis of Resistance.  This axis is not as united as it seems (or is made to seem). The interests of the Alawite-dominated secular government of Bashar al-Assad do not fully align with those of sectarian, revolutionary Shi’ite Tehran. The relationship between the Alawite-dominated government in Damascus and the clerical Shi’ite regime in Tehran is purely strategic. Like Baha’is and Ahmadiyyas, Alawites revere Muhammad as the founder of Islam, but follow as subsequent (and indeed more pacifist) prophet. Alawites follow Abū Shuʿayb Muḥammad ibn Nuṣayr (who diverged from Shia Islam), which is why they were historically known as Nusayris. The French convinced them to change their name to Alawites so as to hide their link to Nusayr while emphasising their link to Ali (Muhammad’s son-in-law, and the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph of Islam). A century on, the name Nusayr is being revived by fundamentalist Sunni jihadists.

Fundamentalist Islam regards those who follow a subsequent “prophet” as heretics deserving of death. Consequently, when the long-persecuted minority Alawites came to power in Syria (1971), they knew they needed allies. Cognizant of this and sensing an opportunity, Shi’ites in Lebanon and later revolutionary Tehran, proposed an alliance. Since then, the Alawite-led government in Damascus has provided Shi’ite forces with strategic depth, while Lebanese Shi’ites and Tehran provide Syria's minority Alawites with legitimacy and protection. For the Alawites this alliance is about little more than surviving as an existentially imperilled religious minority in a hostile region. For Hezballah and Tehran this alliance is all about geo-politics; they would sacrifice Assad in a flash if he resisted them. Of course Assad knows this, which is precisely why he is looking more to secular Russia (which happens to be pro-Israel) than to sectarian Shi'ite Tehran, which is not merely fighting in Syria, but working to Islamise and “Shi’itise” the Syrians, much to their horror.

Regarding the north-south, US-allied Turkey-Arab Sunni Axis.  This axis contains both pro and anti Muslim Brotherhood (MB) factions. Qatar and Erdogan’s Turkey are strongly pro-MB; while Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, along with President al-Sisi’s Egypt, are strongly anti-MB.

Over recent years the anti-MB faction has grown increasingly frustrated with Qatar, due to the way Qatar uses its state-owned media company, al-Jazeera, as a tool of foreign policy and as a weapon with which it interferes in the affairs of other states. Indeed, al-Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood were central players in the misnamed “Arab Spring” which commenced in Tunisia in December 2010, and either toppled or threatened anti-MB regimes across the region throughout 2011 until it finally met its match in Damascus.

Even within the anti-MB faction, tensions exist between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Not only has Egypt steadfastly refused to send troops into Yemen in support of Saudi forces, but Egypt has also steadfastly rejected Saudi calls to send troops into Syria to help overthrow the Syrian government (which, like al-Sisi, is strongly anti-MB). In October 2016, Egypt voted in favour of a Russian resolution in the US Security Council which called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, particularly in Aleppo, and demanded that all parties prevent material and financial support from reaching groups associated with Al-Qaida including Jabhat al-Nusrah, or  ISIS (ISIL/Da’esh). While the resolution failed (4 in favour, 9 against, 2 abstentions), Saudi Arabia was furious with Egypt. Labelling Egypt’s support for the Russian resolution a “betrayal”, Saudi Arabia immediately suspended its monthly shipments of discounted oil to the cash-strapped state. [Shipments resumed in March 2017.]

Q) Why is anti-MB Saudi Arabia working alongside pro-MB Turkey and pro-MB Qatar to topple the anti-MB government in Syria? As usual, the answer is money, pipelines, oil and gas! In 2009, Damascus rejected a proposal to have a Qatar-Saudi Arabia-[Syria]-Turkey pipeline traverse its territory, thereby stifling Sunni plans to sell gas from the Persian Gulf to Europe. Then, in 2010, Damascus approved a proposal for the construction of an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would transport gas from Persian Gulf to the Syrian coast for export to Europe. Can anyone think of a better reason for the US and NATO-backed Turkey-Arab Sunni Axis to covet regime change in Damascus?

Q) Apart from the threat Shia doctrine presents to the monarchy, why does Saudi Arabia feel so existentially threatened by Iran?  Again, the answer is money, pipelines, oil and gas, along with refineries and the status and power that comes from wealth!

Though Shi’ites comprise only around 10 percent of Muslims worldwide (Sunni Islam having been spread worldwide by nomadic peoples), in the Middle East they comprise around 50 percent. More critically, in the lands around the oil and gas rich Persian Gulf – and that includes Saudi Arabia’s resource-rich Eastern Province – Shi’ites comprise around 80 percent. If Iran ever decided annex Eastern Province – ostensibly on the pretext of rescuing/liberating its persecuted Shi’ite majority – the Saudis would be back in the desert with nothing but camels and sand. And while the Saudis would still be custodians of the Two Holy Mosques (a profitable business indeed!), it is doubtful they could hold that position for long if Iran was in control of all the oil and gas in the region. When we consider all this in the light of the fact that Saudi Arabia’s military is no match for Iran’s, it is easy to understand why the kingdom will do virtually anything to retain its US security umbrella. [See composite map at the top of this article.]

Q) What about the jihadists/terrorists? The jihadists – be they allied to al-Qaeda (which co-operates with Shi’ite Tehran) or ISIS (which refuses to; hence the split) – are all nothing but proxies. All jihadist groups of any significance are totally dependent on state backing, be it from NATO-member neo-Ottoman Islamist Turkey, US-allied Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, or Revolutionary Shi'ite Iran. Cognizant of this, Russia – which has been supporting the government of Syria, at its invitation – has been appealing from the very beginning for an end to the funding and arming of all Islamic militant groups; to no avail.

Q) What about the Christians? In Iraq, the displaced and destitute Assyrian remnant currently has security and liberty in Iraqi Kurdistan, for which they are phenomenally grateful. However, as they watch the Kurds occupy their lands -- remembering, as they do, the long history of massacres and genocides -- the Assyrians cannot help but harbour deep suspicions as to what Kurdish ambitions and intentions might actually entail.

Bishop Moussa enjoys Palm Sunday
parade outside the
Church of Saint Elias in Damascus.
9 April 2017
In Syria, Christians  in government-controlled areas (including many thousands of IDPs) are not only protected, but they enjoy full religious liberty meaning they are free not only to worship but to minister to the wider community. In August 2015 the situation looked dire and had Russia not intervened then the government would surely have fallen. While Hezballah and Tehran are fighting in support of the Assad government, their foreign Shi’ite fighters have no love for Christians. Russia on the other hand, which not only has a long history of relations with and interests in secular Syria, also has an even longer history – a history of which it is very proud – as a protector of Eastern Christians.

Right across the Middle East it is overwhelming the case that Christians, feeling themselves betrayed and abandoned, are no longer looking to the West for help.

Q) What is the US doing in Syria? Having facilitated the rise of Iran (through the removal of Saddam Hussein and the “democratisation” of Shia-majority Iraq) the US is now desperate to rein it in, for an ascendant revolutionary Iran poses an existential threat to America’s allies (Saudi Arabia and Israel) and interests in the region.

Though still officially a US ally, Iraq is in reality lost, and is now little more than an Iranian vassal. Consequently the battle against Iran must be fought in Syria. Indeed, for the US, the war in Syria has always been about Iran.

Initially the US-Sunni strategy was to affect regime change in Damascus. Failing that, plan B has been to hammer a north-south Sunni bloc through the east-west Shia Axis to serve as a bulwark and base of operations against Iranian ambitions.

US troops patrol with fighters from
Maghaweir al Thowra (MaT)
(Revolutionary Commando Army) in Tanf.
Long War Journal (14 June)
Having established a garrison in Tanf (near the Syria, Iraq, Jordan border triangle) -- which is now protected on account of its being deemed a "deconfliction zone" -- the US-Turkey-Arab Axis is working with its Sunni militant proxies to establish a Sunni bloc that would stretch from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey through eastern Syria severing the Baghdad-Damascus Hwy, ostensibly under the guise of fighting Islamic State.

Of course this is something the Axis of Resistance powers will not tolerate. . .
. . . meaning this conflict is about to move to a whole new level.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Middle East Crisis Entirely Predictable

Sir John Chilcot right to say hindsight not required
by Elizabeth Kendal

How often do you hear it said that the current crisis in Middle East is “unprecedented”?

Despite being routinely parroted by our political, academic and media elites, this assertion is absolutely false.

Those who make this claim are either embarrassingly ignorant of history, or desperate to excuse their utter cluelessness and/or deflect criticism from their catastrophic policy failures.

Surely one of the most pivotal sentences in the 150 page executive summary of Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry is one found on page 129 under the heading “Lessons”, subheading “The decision to go to war”, in paragraph 828: “When the potential for military action arises, the Government should not commit to a firm political objective before it is clear that it can be achieved.”

Could the US-led West's objectives in Iraq have been achieved? 

Iraq straddles one of the most volatile religious fault-lines on the planet. Consequently, even the most basic understanding of Iraq’s sectarian dynamics and history would have given anyone considering war cause for concern.

Likewise, anyone with a basic understanding of the Islamic worldview would have known that an invasion of “infidel” forces would have triggered Islamic resistance. Furthermore, anyone with knowledge of the history of Muslim-Christian relations in the Middle East would have anticipated the consequences for local Christians should Islamic resistance be triggered or an Islamic order restored.

The events of 1979—the successful Shi’ite revolution in Iran and the failed Sunni revolution in Saudi Arabia—heightened Islamic and sectarian zeal, and set in motion the wheels of global Islamic radicalisation. One generation later, the Middle East was a radicalised Islamic tinderbox just waiting for a spark. Had Western policy-makers truly understood and appreciated that fact, then they might have heeded the warnings and accepted an alternative. Yes, there were alternatives!

In late 2002, Russian President Vladimir Putin advised the administration of President G. W. Bush that instead of going after Saddam Hussein, it should concentrate on the real sponsors of Islamic terror, specifically Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and put an end to the Saudi funding of Wahhabi extremism.
Presidents G.W. Bush and Vladimir Putin (2002)
As terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky explains: “Russian experts warned that the problem in Iraq was not just Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, but rather the prevailing radical militant trends. They urged the Americans to be ready to deal with radicalized populations, Sunni Islamist militancy, a radical Shiite population under Iranian influence, the flow of al-Qaeda operatives, and Kurdish-Turkish and Turkman-Arab hatred—all of which were likely to intensify in reaction to an American invasion of Iraq.” The Kremlin’s position was that rather than defeating terrorism, a US-led invasion would actually create and open new venues for terrorism.

In receipt of an abundance of intelligence from all sides, the onus was on Western policy-makers to assess that intelligence. Unfortunately our political leaders were ill-equipped for the task. Lacking knowledge of history and understanding of religion; blinded by arrogance [“where everyone else failed, we will succeed!”] and hamstrung by bias [“we are not going to listen to Russia!”], they were incapable of discerning wisdom from fantasy, or interest-driven propaganda from plain hard reality.

When US-led forces bombed and invaded Iraq in 2003, and removed Saddam and the Baathists by force, they liberated not “the Iraqi people”, but the Iraqi Shi’ites—facilitating the rise of the “Shia Crescent”.

By 2005 Iraq, once part of a north-south Sunni bloc, was fully integrated into an east-west "Shia Crescent" (more accurately known as the Axis of Resistance) with Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1982 vision of a continuous arc of Iranian influence extending from Tehran “to Jerusalem . . .  through Kabala” (in southern Iraq) awaiting only its final installment.

That Iraq’s political realignment would trigger Sunni resistance in Iraq, and have regional implications for oil and gas pipeline politics, and existentially imperil the region’s US-allied Sunni regimes—was entirely predictable.

Driven from their home in Mosul, by ISIS/ISIL fighters,
Assyrian Christian refugee, Radwan Shamra and son, Martin (3),
stand on the roof of St. Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Church
in Amman, Jordan. 1 Oct. 2014.
(Photo: Warrick Page/The New York Times)
That conflict in Iraq would attract international jihadists, and result in the genocide of minorities—including the region’s indigenous Christian nation (the Assyrians)—was all entirely predictable to anyone with knowledge of history and understanding of religion.

Sir John Chilcot was absolutely right to reject Tony Blair’s contention that the difficulties encountered after the invasion could not have been foreseen.

“We do not agree that hindsight is required,” Chilcot said. “The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability and al-Qaida activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”

What a pity the Chilcot report had not been released in 2010, before the US-led West chose to back regime change in Damascus.


Elizabeth Kendal is a long-time religious liberty analyst and advocate, author of the weekly Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin. She serves as the Director of Advocacy at Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) in Canberra, Australia, and is an adjunct research fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

Her second book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA) was released in June 2016. For more information see:  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Syria and the Middle East Today

written by Elizabeth Kendal, 29 Jan 2014
for the National Alliance of Christian Leaders (NACL) Australia

Syria and the Middle East Today
-- 2013 was a pivotal year 

The war in Syria is integral to the Sunni-Shi'ite struggle for regional and Islamic supremacy. The Sunnis may have reigned supreme for well over a millennium, but the US-led war in Iraq (commencing 2003) changed the balance of power, facilitating a Shi'ite ascendancy. 

See: Religious Liberty Trends: Shi'ite Ascendancy (5 February 2007)
and Religious Liberty Trends: 2007-2008 (15 February 2008), under the subheading A word on the Middle East

Iraq's move into the Iranian orbit completed the "Shi'ite Crescent": the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezballah strategic alliance that enables Iranian influence to stretch all the way from Tehran to Israel's northern border and the Mediterranean Sea.

Subsequently, US influence in the Middle East declined -- plummeting after the financial crisis of Aug-Sept 2008 -- leaving US-allied Sunni Arab dictators increasingly isolated and vulnerable. Initially a movement to protest corruption and poor living standards, the "Arab Spring" was quickly hijacked by the region's most politically organised group: the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The Obama administration's decision to ditch its allies in favour of the MB -- believing that support for Islamic "democracy" would put them "on the right side of history" -- brought angst to Riyadh, but joy to Tehran. For while Egypt's Mubarak had been aligned with the Sunni axis -- which consists of Sunni Arab US-backed monarchs and dictators that have signed peace treaties with Israel and host US military bases -- Iranian axis which comprises regimes that resist US hegemony and are belligerent towards Israel.[1]

While the Iranian regime was delighted by the rise of the MB, talk of a restoration of Ottoman and Saudi hegemony gave them pause for concern. Though Syria is a Sunni Arab-majority state, it has been ruled by a coalition of minorities since WWII.[2] In 1973 a Lebanese Shia cleric issued fatwa declaring the Alawi to be a sect of Shia Islam (rather than a heretical movement). Alliances with Iran and Hezballah provide the vulnerable Assad regime with protection from Sunni aggression. Conversely, Iran and Hezballah see Syria as their most strategic asset; they were never going to let Syria fall.[3]

On 5 June 2013, the situation in Syria pivoted dramatically when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) -- supported by fighters from Hezballah (Lebanon), Iraq and Iran -- liberated the strategic city of Al-Qusayr near the border with Lebanon. Whoever controls Al-Qusayr controls supply lines into Homs and the centre. The SAA had effectively changed the balance of power on the ground.

On 21 August 2013, Sarin gas was released in Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, just as the SAA's Operation Shield of the Capital was making great and highly strategic gains against rebels and CIA-trained Arab units there. There is absolutely no doubt that the rebels released the Sarin gas with the aim of triggering a US-NATO intervention on their behalf.

See, SYRIA: Who is Deploying Chemical Weapons? (28 Aug 2013).

However, as the Obama administration realised, US air strikes on Syria would totally ruin President Obama much-heralded detente with new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. So the US backed off, abandoning the rebels to their fate. Rebel forces are now totally demoralised.

In early October, the SAA broke through the rebel encirclement of Aleppo, opening the road between Damascus and the northern city, enabling supply and liberating Christian and loyalist areas long-besieged by Islamist forces.

In November 2013, US-Iran rapprochement went ahead, horrifying Saudi Arabia. And so we enter 2014 with Iran ascendant once again. Without military support from the US, the rebels cannot achieve a military victory. Though fighting will subside, terrorism will continue for many years yet, especially if the rebels believe the West supports their cause.

As Assad consolidates his gains and secures his territory, al-Qaeda elements are changing tack and concentrating on carving out a base of operations in the Kurd and Christian dominated lands of north-eastern Syria and in the hot-bed of Sunni resistance that is Anbar Province, western Iraq.

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and prayer advocate. She is the Director of Advocacy at Christian Faith and Freedom (Canberra) and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths (CSIOF) at Melbourne School of Theology (MST). Her book -- Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today  (Deror Books, Dec 2012) -- applies a Biblical response to suffering and persecution to today's realities.

[1] Some analysts maintain that the Iranian regime is belligerent towards Israel primarily for political purposes. Historically, Iran has been allied to Israel against Sunni Arab aggression. And while the Saudis maintain peace with Israel and friendship with the West, that also is primarily for political purposes -- and all the while they are spreading their toxic Wahhabi ideology worldwide and funding international Islamic jihad. Morsi's pro-Iran leaning was one reason why the Saudi regime backed the 3 July 2013 military coup in Egypt that ousted him from the presidency and the MB from power. A rapprochement between Gaza's Hamas and Iran is underway as I write.
[2] The Sunnis allied with the Nazi during WWII. After the war, the French empowered the minorities so as to keep the Sunnis in check.
[3] Had the Assad regime fallen, the Iranians would have done all in their power to draw the Syrian MB and al-Qaeda elements into the Iranian axis; and it probably wouldn't have been too difficult at all.