Bush, the Great Shiite Liberator

(New York Times) Lee Smith - In the Arab world, Shiites have largely been second-class citizens since the year 656. The rise of the Shiites is normally ascribed to the American push to democratize the Middle East. But many Middle East experts and intelligence analysts, like George Friedman, author of America's Secret War, say it is more directly the result of the Bush administration's strategic planning for its global campaign against terrorism. The idea, they say, is to use regional threats like the Shiites to gain leverage over some of America's Sunni allies, especially Saudi Arabia, and force them to crack down on home-grown Islamic radicals and preachers. After the assassination of a close Saudi ally, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the Saudis deemed the Syrian Alawite regime to be responsible for it. As Michael Young wrote in the Beirut Daily Star, the Saudi royal family is now eager for "regime change in Damascus." That would both redress the crime and restore Syria's Sunni majority to power, tipping the regional scales back in favor of the Sunnis.

2005-05-03 00:00:00

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