Latest development of the opposition between Sunnis and Shiites: Yemen
The division between Sunnis and Shiites dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD and has marked the history of Islam from the beginning.
The belief was that the top of the Shia Islam should be the descendants of the prophet. The current Sunni, however, believed to be driving the Islamic community were to be the best people.
For the Sunnis the legitimate successor was Abu Bakr, chosen by companions of Muhammad . Bakr became the first Caliph, without any religious role but only a duty to ensure the perfect unity of the community.
For Sunnis, in fact, enough Qur’an and example of the Prophet Muhammad to lead the believers and the Caliph is the unity of believers and has no religious significance.
There is, therefore, a real clergy. Therefore any Muslim who has studied can become an imam. The Imam is the one who leads the prayer, that is, one who stands before the faithful and leads worship and it is enough to be wealthy, or elderly, or have a role of visibility and accountability in groups, associations, community, or society, forget this honorary title, in a sign of respect or deference of shaykh.
Currently the majority of Muslims, about 80% of the total, are Sunni.
The Shiites claim that the legitimate successor to Muhammad was’ Ali, his son-in. Their name comes from Shi’at ‘Ali, which means “Party of’ Ali.” Politics and religion are welded in such a claim, because according to the Shia God could not leave the community without a Muslim religious leader. For that claimed that the heirs of Muhammad were to be imams, spiritual leaders and at the same time descendants and successors of ‘Ali, so the claim illegitimate Caliphs and dynasties Sunni
On the identification of these imams, the same Shiite split soon in seven.
10-15% of Muslims consists of several Shiite currents (Twelver, the principal, and then Ismaili, Zaydi). Shiism is widespread in Iran (the majority of the population), Iraq (one third of the Muslim population), Pakistan (20%), Saudi Arabia (15%), Bahrain (70%), Lebanon (27%), Azerbaijan (85 %), Yemen (50%), Syria, Turkey, and other parts of the world, including the West.
Shiism has a clergy organized, prepared in specific universities of Islamic sciences or in the Hawza (theological schools). To become shaykh need a ceremony, while, to go up in the hierarchy, the believer must continue to study, to become mullahs and ayatollahs then. In Shia Ayatollah (ayatu-l-Lah, a sign of God) is considered the highest dignitary of the clergy. It is a title conferred on those who have obtained merits, both proclamations for appointment by another ayatollah. To become an ayatollah, in addition to specific studies and a great knowledge of the religion, the faithful must be a direct descendant of Muhammad.
The imam is the one who has to drive religion in the absence of the Prophet. The Shiites have a tradition of independence of religious leaders than politicians. However, the state is subject to the clergy, which monitors and decides if a ruler is worthy to rule and if it respects the Islamic guidelines.
The origin of the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is so political, and dates back to the early history of Islam.
The Sunnis have always looked askance at the supporters of Shiite conceptions. Accused them of giving too much importance to the imams and sometimes even considered them quite as god, and then move away from the traditional direction which then established himself in Sunnis, based on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad.
This division marks the reality of the Islamic world today and determines sides of the great powers as Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the one hand, and those of the other Shiite, like Iran and Syria. Pale ecumenical efforts have sought to reconnect in the twentieth century Sunnis and Shiism Imam, but always with little success. The collapse of States in the Arab world started in 2011 and the conflict that followed has instead revived the sectarian division and reopened wounds soothed by authoritarian regimes. And after Iraq and Syria, Yemen also risks being overwhelmed.
In Yemen, currently, there is another act of war millennial involving Sunnis and Shiites.
The key difference with the past is in the formation of alliances and coalitions opposing. Among the Sunnis has created an alliance Morocco- Pakistan- Egypt- Giordania- Saudi Arabia, which has the support of the United States. The Shiite axis involving Iran and Syria, and is supported by Russia.
Yemen to date has been the country typically divided into tribal clan (Houthi- Sunniti- al Qaeda). The Houthi are Shiites, but theologically are much more similar to the Sunnis that the Shiites in Iran. In recent times, the country has undergone continuous change of fronts.
Specifically, recent events have led to an agreement of co-existence between different clans, made with the help from Saudi Arabia. Under this agreement was elected a president and a vice-Houthi Sunni. The events of the Arab Spring have forced the president to flee and made the old vice-president the new president. The latest developments in the former president seem to leader of the revolt against the new president – forced to flee in Riyadh.
The precarious balance of Yemen is established in a Middle East in which the general balance changed: first the invasion in Afghanistan has removed the Taliban Sunnis and many anti-Iranians. Second, the war in Iraq has removed Saddam, or the defensive bulwark that would stop Iran in the region. Finally, the so-called “Shia crescent” has grown in recent times: in Iran and Iraq (Shiite majority) were added to the Syrians and Lebanese Hezbollah.
Finally, Saudi Arabia is intimidated by the aggressiveness of Iran. His current main goal is not to have a strong Iranian presence on the southern borders. To achieve this objective, Arabia, has recently started to bomb Yemen. The choice is sustainable even under the economic availability Arabia, by which try to buy the tribes to re-establish a new balance.
The Yemeni rebels were classified as threatened, and led the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Riyadh, decide to react to what he considers a direct threat, given openly in Tehran. Saudi Arabia mobilizes 150,000 men along the 1,800-kilometer border with Yemen. For their part, the US military focus in Djibouti.
The events that took place between 25 and 26 March in Yemen have highlighted sharply sides and alliances.
A coalition of ten countries, in fact, launched air strikes against Al-Houthi and its allies. Equipment of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar (which for the first time finds himself allied with Riyadh), Jordan, Morocco and Sudan are committed in the operation “Storm Decisive”. Military facilities, airports, stores across the country have been victims of bombed. Several countries volunteer to participate in any operation of the earth, among them Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and even Pakistan. For the latter, there is no question of intervening in Yemen, but to “defend Saudi Arabia” from any external aggression. Egypt has sent emergency warships in the Red Sea to deal with the Iranian ships that already crossed the sea of Oman, engaged in counter-piracy. Saudi Arabia has imposed a blockade of all ports Yemenis and decreed that the airspace of this country is an area subject to no-fly zone. The Americans have helped with logistical support and intelligence. France, Britain, Spain and Belgium applaud the Saudi operation. Moscow, Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah Lebanese protest against “the intervention of foreign forces” in Yemen.
The interests of the various parties Yemenis can be summarized as follows:
• Former Yemeni President Saleh aspires to return to the government, in person or through any of his.
• The Houthis have always felt abandoned and despised by the central government in Sanaa. Also they are in open conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood who support the regime of the current president Hadi
• AQPA, the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda “historic canal”, is opposed both the regime of President Hadi that the Al-Houthi, considered “apostates”. The problem is that the victorious offensive of Al-Houthi has produced a “sacred union” between the separatists of South Yemen, the Sunni tribes related to President Hadi, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA, although no comprehensive agreement was formalized. Nothing is better than a common enemy to create alliances of circumstance, even if ephemeral.
• Helping with supplies of arms and training the Al-Houthi, Tehran “rings” his opponent Arabia. Furthermore, if the Al-Houthi were able to take over permanently the west coast of Yemen, the Pasdaran could send forces able to directly threaten the Straits of Babel-Mandeb, which controls the Red Sea and then the Suez Canal. They are already able to close the Strait of Hormuz, thanks to the many land-sea missile batteries, which have deployed in fortified positions along the Iranian coast and nearby islands. Conversely Tehran clashes with a vital geographical problem: Yemen is far and supplies to the rebels can be prevented by the imposition of an air and sea blockade that already is being organized. In the longer term, Iran does not have the financial means to support any new government, even if limited to the western part of the country. It should provide for the basic needs of a population that is already extremely poor.
• All countries of the region Sunnis fear the possible closure of the Red Sea, which would cause a catastrophe for their economies. It ‘s an extremely important issue for the current systems in Egypt and Sudan, for which a severe economic crisis would have fatal consequences.
• Saudi Arabia clashes now openly with the Shiite Iranian opponent. E ‘managed to secure the alliance of Qatar – and this is a political victory – Pakistan – and this assures a political-military impressive – Morocco and the Gulf countries, and this was entirely predictable. The free movement of hydrocarbons in the Middle East is the crux of this crisis. The proof is the fact that the price of oil has increased by 6% on the day after the start of “Decisive Storm”. The contradiction arises from the fact that Riyadh has other mortal enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA. It seems that the Saud family has chosen to make an order of priority: first deal with Iran and its allies Yemenis, then hit the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA. It is not certain that it was the best choice, since the Salafi-jihadists today represent a danger of destabilization much looming Iran, the Arab-Muslim governments.
Another possible scenario could involve Turkey, because of the possibility a regional conflict between Muslims, especially after the vicious attack launched by President Turkish Erdogan against Iran. The words used by Erdogan against the country’s Shia are clear and hard, Iran, according to the president Turkish, “seeks to dominate the Middle East region,” we cannot allow that. Everything begins to annoy us, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries. Really is intolerable. “” It would be better that those who have caused irreparable damage to their strategic blunders and ambitious policies now adopt responsible policies to restore peace, “the replied shook increasingly concrete possibility of an agreement between Tehran and the ‘5 +1 ‘(US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany) on the nuclear issue.
Moreover, Iran is the only country in the Middle East to oppose ISIS with the Kurds and with what’s left of the Iraqi army. This choice was undoubtedly a positive publicity for Tehran.
Ankara has meanwhile given its political support and promised logistical support to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Coalition Sunni who started to bomb Houthi Shiite forces in Yemen.