Does the Sunni-Shiite Construct Really Help Explain Electoral Politics in MENA?


How many of you feel that using the “Sunni-Shiite” construct better frames political discussions in the MENA region?  Does the Sunni-Shiite Construct Really Help Explain Electoral Politics in MENA?

The irrelevance of American rhetoric in recent weeks should, but won’t, put to rest the mythology of 2009, namely that by speaking out Obama would somehow have changed the outcome.~United States political science scholar, Marc Lynch, Director of Middle East Political Science Project at George Washington University // Tweets as @AbuAardvark

Case in Point: We still have trouble reviewing political elections through the construct of “Sunni-Shiite” and “Secularists versus Islamist” politics, as many North American and predominantly Anglo-Saxon scholars continue to do.  Such binary labeling leaves little room for moderates to assume a role… but maybe that’s the point of this constant practice of labeling.  For example, Thomas Friedman has made millions in booksales with his Sunni-Shiite obsession–I mean framework.  Kind of in the same vein, Kirk Sowell uses this framework to review Iraq’s 2018 elections.  However, he identifies Sunnis and Shiites as vested interest groups who shift to form coalitions.  So perhaps all is not lost through this persistent analysis of Sunni versus Shite political organizing strategy.

But, we digress from our main point: socio-economic grievances drove social movements, which led to protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and in a non-Arab uprising in Iran.

Better-organized and disciplined movements are more capable of sustaining nonviolent campaigns over time. The leaderless Iranian protests seem more likely to be open to escalation on the ground, regardless of any strategic decisions. The more protesters use violence, the easier it will be for the regime to justify unleashing its repressive machinery.~Source: Washington Post, Marc Lynch, Director of Middle East Political Science Project at George Washington University // Tweets as @AbuAardvark

There’s much more to follow up regarding the hopes and expectations of Iraqi’s in their elections process, Iranians and Tunisians in their organized protests, and the interplay of Arab Gulf countries providing arms to different parties in Syria and Yemen.  But to be honest: given the dramatic social movements (Women’s March, Tea Party, Ultra-Nationalism/Populism, Our Revolution, #MeToo, #EnoughisEnough) that have developed within the United States, our home, we are hard pressed to conjecture or analyze what is occurring in the MENA region.  Since the current U.S. president has done the following:

  • Called for reimposing sanctions on Iran (but not Russia);
  • Defied international conventions and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while disregarding peace group efforts among Jews, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, and Armenians;
  • Threatened to attack Iran, then Pakistan–then withhold aid– with intermittent bombardment of Yemen–triple the number from 2016;
  • Bombarded Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles –in a 180 degree turn from President Obama;
  • Danced around with Arab Gulf leaders (literally) while preaching about building-bridges…here’s the video:

The current U.S. President has bombed the Middle East & North Africa region more than his predecessor.  All in the name of defeating ISIL sprinkled with Islolationism/”America First” and over White Nationalistic tendencies.  And it’s only been one year for him.

So as we at PITAPOLICY continue to apologize for his poor decision-making, which is costing civilian lives overseas, please know that we are following your social movements and inspiring startup stories .(See HALA Systems and how they use technology to develop a tool that facilitate humanitarian assistance in Syria.  They received investment from a social venture capital fund called The Impact Engine.) .  We still believe that developing social capital in the MENA region is the only tool to endure and prevent conflict.

And, yes, in addition to following, we are also praying that the social movements pitaconsumers are developing–or reforming and questioning and revising–moves your respective countries’ institutions in the direction that your citizens feel best. Because the U.S. does not know better.  We truly feel that the Sunni-Shiite divide is a pretext to create division and deride social institutions.   Nor have we demonstrated it via our current president.  Please keep tweeting us your experiences in the MENA region.  We’re listening… and learning.  We promise that we’ll return to bi-weekly blogging on the political economy and business news.  #Godspeed


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