Culture: A Bite Size Summary of The Biggest Topic in the News ... Unstable Times.
President ASSAD of SYRIA is a UK educated eye doctor married to a British born girl Asma. West Friendly and courted throughout Europe.
His father before him had been President before him but was a hated dictator, anti west ( from colonial times ) and pro Soviet Russia .
After the American/ Western intervention in Iraq ( about 2003 ) and fall of hated dictator Saddam Hussein , the West looked forward to OIL /GAS from QATAR (near Dubai ) and Gulf States TONS of GAS and OIL and a plan was hatched for a pipeline from QATAR via JORDAN ( Europe/UK friendly ) and SYRIA to TURKEY and then on to EUROPE ( see map ).
EUROPE DELIGHTED as otherwise they would be nearly TOTALLY dependent on RUSSIA (Putin) for oil and gas ( particularly Germany who has NO OIL or GAS ) ( UK has some -in the North Sea ------off Scottish coast ) but fast running out.
SHIA /SUNNI DIVIDE in ISLAM
This is a CRUCIAL long standing divide and it has a HUGE INFLUENCE on ALL MIDDLE EAST POLITICS
How and when did Islam split into Shiite and Sunni sects? How do their practises differ?
The year 632 AD (11 AH) is where it all begins, the year the prophet Muhammed died. The split occurred as the question was who should succeed Muhammed as leader (caliph) of the Muslim community.
The answer split the community into two.
- Sunnis - supported the ascension of Abu Bakr - a friend of Muhammed's, and father of his wife Aisha
- Shiites - was opposed to Abu Bakr's and instead believed Muhammed's son-in-law/cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, should be caliph;
The Sunnis believed the Koran (Qur'an) endorsed a public consensus in who should be caliph.
The Shiites believed such a decision was ordained by Muhammed himself and even commanded by God - not a matter of public consensus among Muslims, but God's command alone and, to an extent, divine right.
Things continued to diverge from there, and many caliphs that came after Abu Bakr (who did manage to become the first caliph after Muhammed) continued to be sources of conflict and disputes. The roles of Imams, various religious practices and interpretations and more are also areas in which Shiites and Sunnis disagree. But as far as how the split originated and where it first arose, Muhammed's death in 632 was essentially the start.
Whilst the news focuses on this Sunni/Shiite divide the majority live side by side in harmony.
Assad in Syria is ALAWITE (a form of SHIA ISLAM ) and didn't want a SUNNI inspired pipeline running through Syria (Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are all Sunni ) on its way to Europe .
Assad did a deal with IRAN ( SHIA ) which has SHED LOADS OF OIL to have a "SHIA " pipeline connecting---------IRAN------IRAQ ------SYRIA. Southern Iraq power based in Baghdad for the last 4 years has been SHIA led (by corrupt Maliki who has now been removed). Maliki hated the Kurds in Northern Iraq because they are Sunni - so hasn't been paying for their oil which they have SHED LOADS OF and are owed Millions of dollars by the Baghdad government.
Soviet ( Communist ) RUSSIA had many military and political and historical links with Syria. THE ABOVE MENTIONED SHIA PIPELINE suited RUSSIA. They have a military base on the Syrian coast. A combination of RUSSIA and the SHIA pipeline from IRAN going via Syria would mean Europe was at the mercy of RUSSIA more or less for its oil and gas.
EUROPE does NOT LIKE THAT and does not trust PUTIN ( ie annexing UKRAINE etc where will it stop ? )
SAUDI ( SUNNI )
Saudi has the BIGGEST OIL RESERVES in THE WORLD (although Venezuela has shed loads too )
SAUDI did not like having their pipe line to the west threatened .
SAUDI and US are long standing allies (US sells SAUDI arms and defence expertise . SAUDI sells the US its oil).
In 2013 Saudi asked US and UK for military assistance to sort out Syria. ( very complicated country with many different tribes / both Sunni and Shiia ( and including Christian ), Yazedis etc. Saudi was unhappy about an increasingly powerful SHIA presence in Syria and an increasingly vicious Shia ( Alawite ) regime .
UK & USA
David Cameron wasn't able to get it through the House of Commons and Obama was worried he would have problems too . So US and UK both turned their back on SYRIA . SHAME ON THEM. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians have been killed and tortured and displaced partly because they TURNED OUR BACK on them .
BECAUSE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Saudi and Qatar started to fund disaffected Sunni administrators and soldiers and offer them wages and self respect and that is how ISIS started.
ISIS is funded by SAUDI ARABIA and QATAR donors .
And with Isis has come the destruction of beautiful Islamic Art and Buildings. How could anyone let this archaeological wonder be destroyed?
The ancient city of Palmyra, located in war-torn Syria, flourished as a Roman trading outpost around A.D. 200. ISIS militants seized it in May 2015, and are destroying some of its historic buildings. PHOTOGRAPH BY YOUSSEF BADAWI, EPA/COBIS
So that is the story so far.
What could happen next?