President Bush is deepening the principal rift in Islam—that between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
During his just-concluded Middle East trip, most of which consisted of stops at Sunni-majority Arab countries, Bush repeatedly stated that Iran posed a "threat to world peace" and urged Arab nations to “confront” Iran “before it’s too late.”
By engaging in such rhetoric, he is stoking up tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
The most telling stop in this regard was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and global disseminator of Wahhabi Islam, which scorns Shiites as unbelievers.
“As Wahhabism has become increasingly influential across the Muslim world and become the theological driving force behind Salafist movements, the tenor of the Shia-Sunni conflict has become more strident,” Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite Islam, states, as quoted in David Barsamian’s “Targeting Iran.” “In many ways, the greater violence of Shia-Sunni conflict in recent years flows from the spread of Wahhabi influence.”
But the Saudis aren’t currently acting anti-Shiite enough for Bush. He’s apparently annoyed that Saudi King Abdullah has played host to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Recently, Ahmadinejad was a guest of Saudi Arabia at the Hajj in Mecca, and he and King Abdullah were also seen walking arm in arm at the Gulf Council of Cooperation,” Craig Unger, author of “House of Bush, House of Saud,” told Amy Goodman. “So they’ve not been as hostile to each other as Bush would like.”
The recent National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that the Iranians have stopped working on their nuclear program, has not cured Bush of his delusions. Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column points out that he has derided the findings of his own intelligence agencies: “In meetings with leaders, he privately pooh-poohed the National Intelligence Estimate asserting that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.”
Bush doesn’t seem to realize that the intelligence report has seriously damaged what’s left of his reputation.
“The truth about Iran appeared to shatter the last shreds of credibility of the White House's bomb-Iran brigade—and especially that of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been stumping haughtily for war,” Joe Klein, of all people, writes in Time magazine. “It was a political earthquake.”
Not helping the Bush Administration’s case are revelations that the reality of the recent U.S.-Iran confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz differed significantly from the Pentagon’s spin. For instance, the threats to the U.S. ship came quite certainly not from the Iranians but from a heckler who has for decades been jumping into radio conversations.
Undeterred, Bush carries on with his vilification of Iran, warning of "serious consequences" if the Iranians attacked American ships and asserting that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.” If increased Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Middle East are a result of such language, that’s a small price to pay in the eyes of the Bush folks.