Beyond the Cusp

December 28, 2011

How Many Heads Does a Caliphate Need?

The obvious answer is a Caliphate, by definition, has only one head. That then leads to the big question of which country, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or who? This is the question currently leading to much of the posturing and maneuverings of the different Muslim counties and the results are anything but obvious as of yet. Some might suggest that perhaps having a committee of three countries leading the Caliphate with each assigned their own areas of control, then the three current primary contenders, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia could claim preeminence and such a compromise might allow things to progress somewhat smoothly. I think not, that would never work as none of the three would agree to share power. Then there might be those who would suggest seven. That is too Christian end-times for it to work for a Muslim Caliphate. Assuming for the moment that all the talk about the coming unification of the Muslim World under one leader and the reemergence of the Caliphate is actually in the works, then who has the best claim or chance of taking the lead might be a good question to answer.

Turkey claims that since the Ottoman Empire was the last and longest holder of the title of leader of the caliphate that they are the logical choice. Needless to say, this argument has not exactly inspired any great confidence or following. Iran is claiming that their military superiority, imminent conquest of nuclear power (for peaceful purposes, of course), and the fact they are the only true Sharia Governance under the guidance of a Supreme Leader who is an Imam and is supported by a Supreme Council comprised of Imams making them the most Islamic and thus the preeminent choice for leading the Caliphate. They are also the loudest which also seems to matter. Then there is Saudi Arabia and the Family Saud, the Keepers of the Holy Cities, Mecca and Medina, the Guardian of the Holy Places, and I am sure numerous other titles to do with being the birthplace of Mohammed and Islam. Saudi Arabia also has one of the best armed militaries, even if they have shown little ability to actually use their military hardware, and are the current leadership of the GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, which is an alliance which will be further defined later in this article. The one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that until the Arab Spring, Arab Winter as we call the change of oppression from dictator to Sharia, finishes shaking out and the new leaderships have taken their positions and cemented their power, we may have additional contestants in this deadly gamesmanship of who is the most powerful and most Muslim within the Islamic realms. One definite entry will be Egypt which has been the central power of sorts ever since Gamal Abdel Nasser became the Egyptian President in January 1955 when the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) appointed him as president. I will assume there are other pretenders to the Caliphate, but time will reveal those with claims of consequence.

Iran and Turkey, both being non-Arab Muslim countries, are pretty much stand-alone entities which are making their claim to head of the Caliphate on simply their own merit and force of will, or force of arms if such becomes their only option, the option of last resort. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is very much an Arab country and as such can use this to their advantage to draw support from other Arab countries in their efforts to claim the title of Caliph. Normally, the contest for leader of the Arab Muslim World usually exists between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This has usually resulted in Egypt being the face of the Arab World to the West and Saudi Arabia settling for the vast network and influence they have bought though their financing of the Wahhabi movement and network of Mosques and Madrasas, a world-wide network that is spreading faster today than ever. This, in reality, pits the two largest networks of Sunni Islam against each other, Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia is also taking a secondary route to preeminence through the GCC. They have recently pressed forward with the idea that the GCC should transform from a strictly political and trade organization and become a military alliance using fear of Iranian expansionary threat as a motivating force. At the same time, the Saudi Monarchs are also putting forth an idea of expanding the GCC beyond the Gulf State by offering non-Gulf States membership. This invitation has already been extended to Jordan and an invitation to Egypt is under consideration. Should the expansion of the GCC become the link which allows the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabis to unite this would circumvent a potential divide in the Sunni alliance and allow for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to work as allies instead of as separate contenders for the crown.

The next immediate confrontation that bears observation is, of course, Syria, and as a consequence, Lebanon, Hamas, Hezballah, the PLO, and the rest of the alphabet soup of Palestinians terror networks and groups. Syria is the focal point upon which all the rest are balanced. Syria is more than another uprising of the Arab Winter, it is also a contest of wills and influence between Turkey and Iran. Iran is backing President Bashar Assad while Turkey is backing the Syrian rebel forces along with Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, and the West. The importance of this conflict is the affect it will have on the other militarized groups dependent currently on Iran for their support in all areas including arms, finances, training, logistics, political cover, and other sundry supporting factors. Should Syria be torn from its current ties with Iran and realigned with Turkey, or the less likely Saudi Arabia, then the supplying of Hezballah and their stranglehold on power in Lebanon becomes far more difficult. With Syria and Turkey allied and should Saudi Arabia extend their control to include Egypt, all routes from Iran to Lebanon, and also Gaza, even should they gain strong influence over Iraq, something we at BTC honestly expect in the not too distant future, become impossible to maintain. All air routes would be required to cross Syria and likely also Turkey and all sea routes which are tenable would require use of the Suez Canal, thus Iran would lose their ability to supply and thus influence Hezballah, Hamas and any other of their satellite groups who border Israel. This would seriously weaken Iranian influence and virtually remove their current threat abilities against Israel and would serve to inflate the standing of Turkey and remove much of the threat of Iran against Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Middle East. Such a break might even give Iraq reason to resist Iranian influences and ally with Turkey though unlikely to align with Sunni Saudi Arabia or join the GCC.

Israel is still the main focus for most of the Arab and Muslim World of the Middle East and much of North Africa. I would expect that we should expect that the new leadership in Libya, once that all shakes out and gets settled, something that may take a good while, will take a renewed interest in Israel and aiding the Palestinian resistance, something they have already attempted to do by shipping captured weapons during the civil war in Libya. Egypt has already shown that their peace treaty with Israel is negotiable if not null and void. Jordan has been invited to join the GCC whose membership is currently at war with Israel and might require Jordan to relent and break their treaty. Where this, on the surface, appears to be making things worse for Israel, should the Caliphate actually appear to be an imminent possibility, then the competition for the leading position might distract everybody into chasing the golden throne and forget Israel for a while. That might prove to be a welcome reprieve with a not so wonderful result unless the contesting countries destroy each other along the way, a distinct possibility.

Beyond the Cusp

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