Archive for July 31st, 2013

The Islamic Vortex (Part 2)

The central contention advanced by part 1 in this series is that the basic trend manifested in the Middle East today – most evidently across its northern arc — is the disintegration of the modern state system (and with it all the questions of political progress that have been incrementally globalized since the Treaty of Westphalia in the mid-17th century). To continue to discuss this process in terms of ‘Lebanon’, ‘Syria’, and ‘Iraq’ is becoming increasingly quaint. Within this region, in particular, states no longer conform to contiguous territories, but rather to hubs, characterized by the inheritance of a comparatively organized security apparatus, a vestigial international status (also inherited, from the dissolving state system), and specifically a recognized Westphalian-era territorial sovereignty, stripped of domestic credibility. A realistic political geography of the emerging northern Middle East begins from this point.

Because the names of nation states can only suggest (Westphalian) contiguous jig-saw pieces, it is essential to understanding that we start elsewhere. The Crescent, stretching from western Iran, through Iraq, and Syria, to the Lebanese Levant, spilling – no doubt – into south-eastern Turkey to the north, and down into the northern Gulf states and Jordan to the south, can be considered an exaggerated Fertile Crescent, a (Sunni-paranoiac) Shia Crescent, a Crescent of Disintegration, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that the state apparatuses (and international political sovereigns) existing in this area occupy it in the manner of islands, populating or inhabiting it — among other collective bodies of strategic consequence — rather than dividing it effectively among themselves.

If the Crescent is maximally extended to the eastern borders of Iran (and perhaps further into the Hazara areas of Afghanistan, and Quetta in Pakistan), northwards into Azerbaijan and blurrily into the areas of Anatolian Alevi ethnicity, and south along the western Gulf coast, encompassing Bahrain (but stretched further along the Saudi Gulf coast and beyond, into Yemen), it incorporates the entirety of Shia Islam as a strategically potent entity. Beyond this area, the Shia exist only as pogrom-fodder among overwhelmingly dominant Sunni populations. Constituting something over 15% of Moslems worldwide, but over a third of those in the Middle East, the Shia either prevail in the Crescent, or go under. (For our purposes here Alawites / Alevi are Shia by strategic affiliation and adoption.)

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July 31, 2013admin 16 Comments »
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