The Muslim Civil War
Is the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East now deeper than the antagonism between Israel and the Arabs? You might think so given the response of some Arab governments to Hezbollah’s decision to attack Israel. Even as Israeli bombs fell on Beirut and Tyre, Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most conservative Arab Muslim state of all, openly condemned the actions of the Shia Hezbollah in instigating conflict with Israel. Never before in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict has a state that considers itself a leader of the Arab Muslim peoples backed Israel so openly.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s breach with Hezbollah is not a one-time occurrence. Egypt and Jordan have also roundly condemned Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, for their adventurism.
What is behind this stunning development? Are we seeing a fundamental shift in relations between Arab nationalism and Islamic sectarianism? Is Saudi Arabia’s Sunni government more concerned and frightened by Shia Islam than it is committed to Arab unity and the Palestinian cause?