Hezbollah, Iran and Islamic Identity

NPR’s foreign correspondent, Deborah Amos, was interviewed on Morning Edition this morning about the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. Particularly interesting in her report was a comment that for many on the street, Hezbollah‘s action has united Sunni and Shi’a muslims. Hezbollah is a Shi’a organization, but the Sunni population of the region is largely supportive of them.

That’s particularly significant in the broader current context, since one of the distinguishing features of Iran (within the region) is it’s Shi’a government and population. Some hawkish commentators have suggested that other Middle Eastern countries would welcome western intervention in Iran, and that religious differences would hold them back from becoming involved. What those commentators miss is that while the fault lines between Sunni and Shi’a are very real, Middle Eastern and Islamic identity will always trump that division once outside forces become involved.

While some neighbouring governments–particularly those such as Qatar who have been welcoming to US bases–may be slow to come to Iran’s aid, their populations are likely to have other ideas.

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