Five was the number of explosions occurred last May in Kirkuk, a city in the northern Iraq. And it is in this delicate context that the Islamic State (ISIS) has decided to show that it still exists.
Many jihadists, in fact, have returned and are returning from Syria. On the basis of what has been stated by Iraqi and US sources, there are 15 thousand militants of ISIS in Iraq.
The fighters of the Islamic State want to reorganise their activities starting from the new Iraqi bases, with the risk of destabilising Iraq’s precarious political and institutional balance, and bringing the country back into the ethno-confessional polarisation that sees Sunni and on the other hand the Shiites.
The geopolitical situation in the Middle East is determined not only by political reasons but also, and above all, by doctrinal contrasts.
The two main religious factions of Islam are Shiism and Sunnism, and they still play a decisive role that highly influence the balance of this area. The Sunnis, by now almost all Salafis, represent 80 percent of the Islamic population.
Within this current there is a further division: on the one hand those who consider the “Saudi mother” as a religious reference point, and on the other hand those who accuse her of treason for having made agreements with the West.
Another radical Sunni force, which appeared in Egypt in 1928 and is now banned by this state, is that of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose main objective is to bring Islam into political and social life.
The Muslim Brotherhood is at odds with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates, while they enjoy the protection of Turkey, Qatar and part of Tunis and Palestine.
Recent news informed us that Mohamed Morsi, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first democratically elected Egyptian president, died during a court hearing. Thanks to Saudi interference, he had been deposed and accused of espionage. He was on trial for conspiracy with Hamas and Hezbollah and for conspiracy with Qatar, all close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Also the Libyan crisis can be read under the same perspective. The conflict between Haftar and Serraj is to be transferred between their sponsors Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Fayez al-Serrj contrasts the offensive of General Khalifa which are politically and ideologically directed against the Muslim Brotherhood and those who, in one way or another, are ascribable to them.
In this historical context in the pro-Saudi Sunni world the biggest concern therefore is related to Qatar’s funding in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Both the Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, and the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, managed to persuade Egypt and Bahrain to embrace the cause that sees them deployed against Qatar.
At the base of this new crisis between Doha and Riad there is not only the religious question and the fight against terrorism but the attempt by Qatar not to align itself with the politics of the Saudi royals, which is why it maintains relations even with the great enemy of the area, Shiite Iran. Doha and Tehran have the South Pars / North Dome, the richest natural gas field in the world located right in the Gulf.
As a result, the two countries cannot help but cooperate, as both gain about two thirds of their national gas production from the field. Furthermore, the embargo adopted against Qatar has further strengthened relations with Tehran, in fact Iran has become Doha’s main supplier of goods, guaranteeing an unprecedented penetration of the Iranian government into Sunni territory.
Moreover, within this context, Qatar can also count on the support of Erdogan’s Turkey leader (leader of the Muslim Brotherhood), who thanks to the presence of his troops in the Qatar military base strengthens his alliance with Doha aspiring to a leading role in the Gulf.
However, the main protagonists of this complex situation remain Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have interests that go beyond the religious question. Both, in fact, are contending the hegemony of the Middle East and it is for this reason that they are tightening political alliances, commercial and military agreements with their respective allies.
Donald Trump’s America has decided to stand up against Shiite Iran by proposing, in this regard, an anti-Iranian coalition that sees the Saudi dynasty among its main supporters.
Saudi Arabia has always been one of the main allies of the United States and the current American president sees Riyadh as a fundamental partner, not only with regard to oil fields but also with regard to armaments. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is among the first US customers in this sector.
But while the president of the United States has favoured only Sunni Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, Putin’s Russia has adopted a less defined strategy. Moscow, in fact, managed to make agreements with Riad on oil, arms and Syria, while continuing to maintain solid relations with Shiite Iran.
Even China moves with prudence. One of Beijing’s main interests is to intensify relations and agreements with Riad, in order to integrate Saudi Arabia into the ambitious “One Belt One Road” project. The Saudi ports in the Red Sea, in this regard, would represent a fundamental springboard for the development of the Maritime Silk Road. But he does not want to come into conflict with Iran in order to exploit the terrestrial silk route.
However, it is clear that there is no unity among the Arab countries and at the moment the only solution is the continuation of this phase of crisis that seems to have become normality. How far will it be possible to maintain this apparent balance? The interests at stake are too large. And it is important in this regard to remember that the cold war between the Shiite and Sunni states is not only fought with alliances or power games but also, and above all, with the indoctrination to the Khomeinist or Wahhabi belief.
There are many Muslims scattered around the world who are joining and adhering to these radical religious factions, often losing the critical sense and becoming pawns of the absolute powers that govern these regions. The balances of the Middle East are therefore being tested by religious, political and strong economic interests.