Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On the Middle East: An Interview with Gilbert Achcar

by Cihan Aksan and Jon Bailes from ZNet (US: Massachusetts)

Iran uses the Shiite card as a tool to expand its influence, but it is careful not to play it openly in a sectarian way as a counterforce to Sunnis. In that regard, there is a clear difference between the Iranian discourse, emphasising Islamic unity, and the ultra-sectarian Wahhabi discourse originating in the Saudi kingdom. To be sure, Wahhabis have always been very much anti-Shiite sectarians ideologically, but politically too, the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies are whipping up Sunni sectarian feelings against Iran because this is the only ideological weapon available to them in order to counter what Tehran is doing, since they can certainly not outbid Iran in anti-Western anti-Israeli statements due to their close links to the United States. They are trying to throw oil on the fire of sectarian tensions everywhere. The most recent major case is Lebanon, where there was no history of Shiite-Sunni friction, but in the last couple of years this has emerged prominently as a real danger and it is increasingly so very worryingly, fanned by depictions of Hezbollah as a mere Iranian puppet in order to discredit it.

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