Sunni Muslims make up 90% of the world’s Muslim population. Within Islam the Shia are very much a minority.
The current wars in the Middle East are to a great extent a power play between the two great schools of Islam.
The difference between them has to do with authority. The Shia believe the true leaders of Islam should be the direct family of the Prophet Muhammad. The Sunni believe it is his in the line of the Caliphs.
Both schools treat the Quran as the word of God, but they disagree on the authority of who should lead, and since Muhammad’s death, this has been the cause of endless conflict between them.
Geographically Shiite Islam basically falls within Iran and the so-called Shia crescent that neighbours upon Iran. Iran as the only official Shia country within the Muslim world is the unofficial leader of the Shia.
Sunni Islam is divided amongst many schools but has increasingly fallen under the influence of Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi movement of which Saudi Arabia is the home.
Both of the two great schools of Islam have their extremists.
The Shia have a clear central authority in the person of Iran’s Supreme Leader and the Marja, in effect Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors in Iran, and the senior clerical leadership of Iran and Iraq.
The Sunnis have no central authority. This was confirmed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who said that they do not take orders from any central authority within Islam.
The West continuously tells us that it is Iran which is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Is this however really true?
Statistics in fact show that Sunni extremists account for by the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities. Up to 2013 more than 5,700 incidents were attributed to Sunni extremists, accounting for nearly 56 percent of all attacks and about 70 percent of all fatalities.
Among this perpetrator group, Al Qaeda and its affiliates were responsible for at least 688 attacks that resulted in almost 2,000 deaths, while the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted over 800 attacks that resulted in nearly 1,900 deaths. Furthermore, all terrorist attacks that took place in the US, were at the hands of Sunnis Muslims. More specifically, the attacks were overwhelmingly the work of Wahhabi Muslims following the teachings of the movement which is centred in Saudi Arabia sect. By contrast not a single attack can be traced back to Shiite Iran.
What the US is saying is actually something of a play with words. Iran is the sponsor or prime backer of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organisation.
By contrast Al Qaeda, which is a much bigger terrorist threat than Hezbollah, does not receive any direct “official” sponsorship from any state. On the strength of that one fact the US calls Iran a supporter of terrorism though on any objective assessment the “terrorist” group it sponsors – Hezbollah – is completed dwarfed in terms of its terrorist practices by Al-Qaeda.
Is Al-Qaeda however actually without state sponsorship?
An expert on Al Qaeda, Paul Cruickshank, a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University’s School of Law, agrees that no specific country is officially sponsoring Al Qaeda, whereas there is a definite relationship between Iran and Hezbollah. Osama bin Laden was therefore able to say
“I haven’t received state support from anybody, which makes me free to do what I like. Hezbollah is restrained by these different powers and I can do what I like. We can launch the operations we want to.”
Additionally, Sheikh Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has admitted that
“as long as Iran has money, we will have money”
thereby essentially confirming the connection between Iran and Hezbollah.
However, though the point may be disputed, Paul Cruickshank notes that Hezbollah hasn’t launched a terrorist attack which specifically targets civilians, whether in Lebanon or outside it, in many years. It has launched missiles into Israel which have killed civilians.
However it hasn’t organised car bombings or launched suicide attacks and it has not been engaged in what might be classically understood as terrorist activity in years.
One has to go back to the 1980s, for examples of terrorism by Hezbollah in places like Argentina. However in the last few years it simply has not carried out the sort of indiscriminate terrorist attacks that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are nowadays regularly responsible for around the world.
That cannot be said about the Sunni Wahhabist branch of Islam, which is unofficially sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the US.
Saudi Arabia is the centre of the Sunni branch of Islam. It is also the home of Wahhabism (or “Salafism”) the most violent and radical sect within Islam. Every single radical Islamic attack that has happened throughout the world in the past few years has been carried out by a Wahhabi Sunni Muslim.
Every major Islamic terrorist group from ISIS to Al Qaeda has at its roots the Wahhabi beliefs of which Saudi Arabia is the home.
Which brings us to the key contradiction at the heart of Western policy.
Both Russia and the West say they oppose terrorism. Russia has chosen Shia Iran as its main ally in the Middle East. This is consistent since as we have seen Iran is not a prime sponsor of terrorism.
The West by contrast sides with the Saudis whose radical Wahhabist version of Islam is the seedbed and inspiration of Islamist Jihadi terrorism. In other words the West whilst claiming to oppose terrorism has sided with the country whose ideology creates it. Why?
The reason why the West has sided with Saudi Arabia is oil. The West ultimately depends on Saudi oil and on the oil of the Gulf States which are Saudi Arabia’s allies. The fact that Western oil companies extract and sell this oil provides Saudi Arabia with a powerful corporate lobby in the West to defend and promote its interests/
Indeed, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 has actually said
“even if the Saudi government was behind 9/11 we need Saudi oil too much to do anything about it”.
Wahhabist Sunni terrorist attacks on the US including 9/11, the Boston Bombings, the Benghazi murder of the US Ambassador in Libya, are the work of Wahhabi Sunni terrorists and of their silent Saudi sponsors who fund them.
Moreover the West has been complicit in this activity, supporting Wahhabi Islamist terrorist groups for decades in order to achieve its goals. Examples include:
Al Qaeda Sunni terrorists in Libya (to topple Gaddafi) and in Mali
Sunni terrorists in Chechnya in the 90’s
Sunni MEK terrorists in Iran
Al Qaeda Sunnis in Bosnia
Sunni terrorists in Syria
Meanwhile the West is also supporting hardline Saudi sponsored state repression of Shia and others in the Middle East in places like Bahrain and Yemen
At the end of the day, despite what the the US claims, Iran is not the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Its openly admitted support for Hezbollah hardly qualifies it for that role.
The explanation for the problem of terrorism which afflicts the modern world is more to be found in the ideology and policies of the US’s allies, Saudi Arabia first and foremost, and to the policies of the US itself.