A few days ago I came across a map as part of research intended to expand the current Shia/Sunni labels applied to the Syrian conflict into the regional actors that fuel it. Egypt was given a prominent role that likely dated back to thinking about the United Arab Republic, formed early on in the Cold War. Today I undertook creating a map based on current conditions.
Turkey certainly has a role, with Syria melting down on their doorstep, and Iran views Syria as an ally, part of the Shia arc from the northeast Mediterranean to Iran’s eastern border. Egypt is bogged down with internal issues and the other player is a composite of the Saudis and the Qataris, both of whom fund radicalized Sunni groups. The 68 million population number is for all countries of the Saudi Arabian peninsula, not just the two who fund adventures.
Twenty percent of Saudia Arabian peninsula residents are Shia. Tiny majority Shia Bahrain, home to the U.S. 5th Fleet, has simmered with dissent over injustice that flows from the Sunni dominated regime, and Saudi Arabia has intervened directly in order to keep the troubles from overflowing into their own Shia population, some 10% of the total, and concentrated in the provinces near Bahrain.
Yemen, formerly the nations of North and South Yemen, who merged in 1990, is evenly split between Shia and Sunni adherents, and has been at a rolling boil for the last four years. As recently as three weeks ago U.S. drones struck al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership in Yemen.
I recently posted Bipartisan Opposition To Syrian Intervention, a report on both sides of Capitol Hill weighing in on their disinterest in an unsupervised adventure in Syria. Congressman Peter Welch had this to say:
Syria is in a brutal and tragic civil war the roots of which go back hundreds of years
Phi Beta Iota: Brother Neal has a gift for finding superb graphics. What we are noticing is that the conflict among Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia has moved south into Africa and as best we can tell, the U.S Government has not noticed. It is useful to track where the national airlines have extended, what airports they are refurbishing, which rebel groups are receiving advisors and arms, and so on. Among the three, Iran has been the most discreet, Turkey the more practical, and Saudi Arabia the more aggressive. The Chinese are constructing, the US is killing, and no one is focusing on connecting all the children of Africa to the Internet with free cell phones and call centers educating them one cell call at a time.