Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pacific News Service > News > The Emerging Shiite Bloc

Pacific News Service > News > The Emerging Shiite Bloc: "The Emerging Shiite Bloc
Commentary, William O. Beeman,
Pacific News Service, May 21, 2003
The U.S. lifted the veil on the real face of power in Iraq by bringing down the secular regime of Saddam Hussein. A powerful Shiite Muslim bloc now exists across the Middle East. PNS contributor William O. Beeman probes the religious, social and political reasons for its strength.

The war in Iraq has produced an unintended consequence -- a formidable Shiite Muslim geographical bloc that will dominate politics in the Middle East for many years. This development is also creating political and spiritual leaders of unparalleled international influence.

It is easy to see the Shiite lineup. Iran and Iraq have a Shiite majority, and so does Bahrain. In Lebanon, Shiites are a significant plurality. In Syria, although they are a minority, they are the dominant power in government. They are the majority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, and have a significant presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

The United States is used to thinking of the world in terms of individual nation-states. But the Shiites are a transnational force.

The United States unwittingly supplied the key linkage for this bloc. By destroying the secular government of Saddam Hussein, it brought that country's Shiite majority to the fore, revealing a solid line of Shiite majority nations from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.

This force is magnified because devout Shiite followers have a primary loyalty to spiritual leaders rather than secular officials, and that leadership is supremely well equipped to secure the loyalty of its followers. Shiite leaders are organized, well funded, and set up to provide charitable aid, health care "

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