A proxy war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which could dramatically further destabilize the Middle East, may be about to erupt, sources are reporting. It would pit Iran, Syria’s regime and Hezbollah on one side and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states and Syrian rebel forces on the other may, according to a report by Ryan Mauro in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The individual indicators are cumulative:
Just about a week ago, the European Union agreed to an embargo on Iranian oil after Saudi Arabia promised to increase production to make up the difference. Iran immediately threatened that Arab countries assisting with the embargo would be “held responsible” and “one cannot predict the consequences.”
There have been reports Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to help buy weapons for the Free Syrian Army, the rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Free Syria Army is headquartered in Turkey. Assad is a close ally of Iran and Hezbollah and both are accused of secretly helping his security forces to crush the uprising against his rule.
In mid-January, the emir of Qatar called for an Arab military force to enter Syria to end the violence. The Arab League also has submitted a resolution to the U.N. that would condemn the Syrian government for its crackdown.
Then on Jan. 27, Saudi Arabia officially recognized the Syrian National Council, a body of opposition figures, as the representative of the country.
But Iran and Hezbollah have made saving the Syrian government a top priority. A Revolutionary Guards official recently confirmed that Hezbollah helped defend an Iranian base in the city of Zabadani. Iran also is accused of sending weapons, equipment and advisers to Syria to help orchestrate the work. In October, the Washington Post reported that the Shiite-led government of Iraq is also siding with the Syrian government.
The Free Syrian Army claims it is holding five members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards captive. The rebels claim to be 40,000-strong, though some experts believe that to be a major exaggeration. It has grown in strength over the past two weeks, taking the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border and suburbs of Damascus.
Egyptian newspaper reported that Assad’s family tried to flee the country but came under fire from the rebels. On Jan. 30, the Syrian military retook the suburbs but the Free Syrian Army said it chose to disperse and carry out guerrilla-style attacks.
The increasing Shiite-Sunni tension prompted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to warn of a “regional Cold War” on January 4.