The Sunni-Shiite civil war is revving up to dangerous speeds. ”Saudi Arabia expressly will not allow Iran to win in Syria,” wrote Jamal Khashoggi earlier this week at Al-Arabiya (h/t Michael Weiss over at NOW). Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who is considered close to Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Director General of Saudi intelligence, is pretty well plugged in. “The kingdom’s security is at stake.”
This may not be throwaway rhetoric. It dovetails with other remarks by leaders around the region that suggest that victories in Syria by the Iran-Hezbollah-Assad axis have made a deep impression on the entire Sunni Arab world. The Sunnis, it seems, are preparing to push back, hard.
As we noted earlier this week, Egypt severed ties with Damascus. In addition, at a conference of Sunni clerics in Cairo last week, a Brotherhood official urged “jihad with mind, money, weapons—all forms of jihad.” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia cut short his summer vacation to return home and meet with his national security team. And King Abdullah of Jordan is exercised too: “If the world does not mobilize or help us in the issue [of Syria] as it should, or if this matter forms a danger to our country, we are able at any moment to take measures that will protect our land and the interests of our people,” he said on Monday.
“Let the objective be to bring down Assad fast,” Khashoggi writes. “The objective is bound to draw together multiple forces ranging from the Anbar tribes to Hamas to Egypt’s Brothers to Tunisia to the Gulf Countries. That would entice Turkey to partake in the alliance.”
This, then, is the state of play in the Middle East today. To intervene in Syria or not was never going to be an easy call, but if administration officials thought the choice would get easier with time, they were wrong. As Weiss concludes: “The United States has just earned a court-side seat to exactly the kind of transnational Sunni-Shiite confrontation it wished to avoid.”
[Image of combatants in Syria courtesy of Shutterstock]