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The Cutting Edge: Blog of Ed Knudson
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Members of Trump's Religious Advisory Council Have Not Resigned  8/25/2017  (715)

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Rand Paul Disqualifies Himself  2/4/2015  (1867)

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Senators Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst Don't Know the Difference between Sunni and Shia Islam

It is impossible to even begin to understand what has been happening in the Middle East without knowing the difference between the Sunni and the Shia in Islam. Most people in the west know the religious difference between Protestant and Catholic and that, especially in the past, there has been real hostility, indeed, European wars, between the two groups. But in many places in the Middle East there is still very strong hostility and active conflict between Sunni and Shia. The difference goes back to early disagreements about the line of authority after the death of the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century A.D. This difference is what defines the warfare going on in Iraq and Syria right now and the whole rise of ISIS.

In Iraq the minority Sunni ran the country made up mostly of Shia (and Kurds, a different ethnic group, in the north). So when Saddam Hussein was overthrown by George W. Bush and people were allowed to vote for a new government they chose Shia leaders who were extremely hostile to the former Sunni rulers. It is alienated Sunnis who make up the leadership of ISIS, now in both Iraq and Syria (and moving into other parts of the world now too). ISIS means "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria." Just weeks before the Iraq war George W. Bush was not aware of the difference between Sunni and Shia; the man had no idea what he was doing when he invaded that country.

Iran, next door to Iraq, is made up of Shia, not Sunni, and the people are a different ethnic group, Persian, not Arab as in Iraq. So when the government in Iraq became Shia there was a natural affinity between Iraq and Iran. George W. Bush had no idea that he was increasing the power of Iran when he started the Iraq war. Iran now has a great deal of influence in Iraq.

Watching on C-Span testimony on ISIS in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this past week I heard Joni Ernst ask about Iran, stating that President Obama didn't seem to want to go after Iran and this helps explain what is going on with ISIS. She has it completely wrong. ISIS is made up of Sunni militants who are hated by Shia Iran. Iran is actually on the side of the U.S. and others against ISIS. Things are complicated in the Middle East. Joni Ernst, new senator from Iowa, does not know what she is talking about but there she is with a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Marco Rubio is also a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence. But he too does not know the difference between Shia and Sunni as evidenced from a speech he gave yesterday. This is such a serious error that it is incomprehnsible how he can continue to be considered a serious candidate for president.
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) inexplicably told a conservative audience on Friday that President Barack Obama lacked a military strategy to confront ISIS because he feared upsetting Iran, a country that has actually committed itself to defeating the terrorist group.

Speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, Rubio told radio and TV host Sean Hannity that “if we wanted to defeat them militarily, we could do it. [Obama] doesn’t want to upset Iran.”

Referring to the United States’ ongoing negotiations with Iran to contain that country’s nuclear program, Rubio continued, “In [Obama’s] mind, this deal with Iran is going to be the Obamacare of the second term, and he doesn’t want them sending military to the region because they think the region belongs to them.”

There’s just one problem: Iran has been fighting ISIS just like the United States and has publicly urged America to take a larger role in the operation. Obama has even sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting anti-ISIS cooperation.
Senator Rubio is not just wrong, he has a completely false picture in his mind of what is going on the Middle East. If he were president he would order the military to do things completely against the interests of the people of the United States. It is because of vast incompetence that the United States attacked Iraq in the first place. This war has been a colossal mistake, an incredible tragedy costing immense sums of money and the lives of America's young people. Still today twenty-two veterans are taking their own lives every day; they know they fought for nothing in Iraq. And just think of the unbelievable suffering of the people of Iraq due to the invasion of the United States. Senator Rubio has no sense of the realistic results of the war in Iraq. And it appears he knows nothing about Iran.
As the Obama administration and its global partners have “dropped more than 8,200 bombs and missiles on ISIS targets in 2,500 air strikes” in Syria and Iraq and are now preparing to train moderate Syrian forces and the Iraqi army to take on the combatants, Iran, which sees Iraq as a strategic buffer against Sunni Arab states, has worked to ensure that Iraq does not pose a military threat to its influence in the region.

Tehran has launched military strikes against ISIS militants. It has tried to prop-up the Iraqi government, sent General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to coordinate the defense of Baghdad and has worked with the country’s Shiite militias to stop the militants’ advance. Last month, more than 2,000 Iranian troops traveled to Iraq to tackle the insurgency and publicly Iranian officials urged the world to fight.

“The expansion of terrorist elements of [ISIS] and their violent acts in Iraq was a warning for the region,” Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said in June. “There is a need for attention and action from governments and the international community.”
I hope readers will keep this in mind about Rubio so that if you hear someone mention his name as a serious presidential candidate you can let them know how ignorant he is of the situation in the Middle East. And watch the language of other Republican presidential candidates to see whether they understand the seriously important difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.

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