Saturday, October 4, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, October 4

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:

Two Sunni States -- Turkey and Jordan -- border the ISIS-contested region between Shiite Iraq to the southeast, and Lebanon and Alawite Syria to the west. We think that this ISIS-controlled region will not be ruled by Syrian or Iraqi Shiites; they both must retain their own geographically limited state formation to survive.  

Turkey and Jordan have very different claims and relationships to the area. During the centuries-long reign of the Ottoman Empire, this land was contiguous with Turkey and many Islamists see a merging with present day non-Arab Turkey as a reemergence of the caliphate. There is a substantial group of Muslims inside Turkey who identify with the goals of ISIS and see the trajectory of Turkey's history as a natural return to a larger Islamic entity. They see President Erdogan as a transitional transforming force against the secular Turkey that Ataturk created following World War I. In Erdogan's speech to the UN he had hostile words against the legitimacy of Egypt's government and their suppression of the elected Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey is much more adamant in its hostility to Assad of Syria than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS. Turkey does not want to see the Kurds of Turkey join their ethnic brethren in a new state, and some say Turkey welcomed the role of ISIS in battling the Kurds. At the same time President Erdogan is not going to subordinate his nation of 75 million to less than 100.000 fighters of a new caliphate. On Wednesday, Erdogan placed forces on the Syrian border, but expressed concerns about fighting ISIS while emphasizing his desire to remove Assad from power.

Jordan (population 6.3 million) makes a very different claim to this land and harbors a much deeper enmity against ISIS in terms of its own history as an Islamic Arabic monarchy. Jordan has welcomed refugees from all the fights of the Mideast, has made both peace and war with Israel, and has allowed Shia and Christian communities to exist and worship in peace. The Hashemites of Jordan are a major target of ISIS and, unlike the ambivalent Turks, are willing to fight with ground troops. One cannot understand the Mideast without understanding the peculiar claims of Hashemites to the Holy Cities now ruled by the Saudi Wahhabii alliance, their restorative role in Jerusalem's Holy Places as well as their leadership in the Arab nationalist movement against the Ottoman Turks. The great grandfather of the present king of Jordan envisioned himself ruling a Greater Syria that would have included most of present-day Syria and Iraq as a new Arab nation. He was betrayed by the British and French as well as the underlying Shia-Sunni differences which necessitated a smaller map for his great grandson. The story behind the Saudi Wahhabi alliance that replaced the Hashemites from ruling Mecca and Medina can be told in many ways but an excellent summary is found here.  

Setting aside who will govern the ISIS-occupied lands in Syria and Iraq, Pat Buchanan offers a realistic view of a winning combination of States against ISIS.

Meanwhile in Brazil, the possible election of Evangelical Marina Silva is an early warning sign of the emergence of Christian political movements and personalities who will drive South American political life from the exhausted Marxist vs the Generals paradigm as well as replacing the new crony elitism of  passing power to candidate wives in the name of Western feminism.

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his speech to the UN, made clear that his country sees the nuclear program of Iran as the greatest threat to Israel and the region. He has the Saudis and radical Sunnis very much with him as well as almost all of the Republican opposition to President Obama (with the notable exception of Senator Rand Paul). We do not concur with these arguments. Netanyahu is a forceful and eloquent speaker. In his best speeches he is combative and then poetic and always closes with a prophet or Biblical truth in Hebrew. The missing religious voice among the religious nations is the Christian statesman.

As the voice of the Christian statesmen remains silent, the voice of a one Christian leader - Cardinal Timothy Dolan - proves unhelpful amid the current Ukrainian crisis. Rather than addressing the geopolitical and religious situation on the ground, or the larger history surrounding Ukraine and Russia, Dolan found it easier to label Orthodox Russia as a nation of "thugs and thieves" whose "jackboots have apparently come out of storage." We would expect more from the influential Archbishop of New York.

A recent Washington DC conference to defend Mideast Christians became a dispute about Israel after the keynote speaker Senator Ted Cruz walked out of the conference  at the end of his talk because of loud booing during his comments on Israel. This article by Ross Douthat of the NYTimes describes defenders of Cruz, while referencing Douthat's original article and others who think Senator Cruz missed something essential.

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