By Barry Rubin in the Rubin Report
Reviewed by Norvell DeAtkine
In this article, Dr. Rubin takes on an issue making the rounds in various academic circles addressing the comparative level of the threat from the Shia or Sunni Islamists. Up front, Rubin identifies the Shia as the primary threat, but only because of the power and reach of the Shia Iranian state. Iran is the greatest strategic threat in the Middle East, because it is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons and the primary sponsor of the region’s terrorism.
Rubin nevertheless writes: “the margin isn’t that big and depends on the specific place and time.” As the author notes, the Obama Administration, after four years of fruitless negotiations, will continue to seek talks for at least another year. After Iran’s June elections, the Administration will presumable hope for a more moderate Iranian regime. This is unlikely to happen, however. In fact if recent news reports are accurate, the likely successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be even more intransigent.
Rubin posits that the Sunni extremists lack the unity and money of Iran. The Saudis and Gulf states have the money but they are ostensibly on our side. In any event they fear the Iranians enough to make common cause with us.
While pundits declared the early demise of the Assad regime, there are now doubts about that prediction and fears that Assad may prevail. If so the strength of Hezbollah and Iran will only grow.
Rubin makes the important point that promoting Sunni fundamentalism is no panacea for stopping Iranian pretentions and simply consists of substituting a short-term threat for a longer one. The reviewer would also add that the history of the Iranian revolution to date gives no comfort to those who continually insist that the burdens of governing will moderate the extremists.