The forces are cementing their positions readying for a battle for the heart of the Middle East. ISIS has firm control of areas spanning Syria and central Iraq where they are facing the Kurds holding their own to the north supported by Iranian and United States efforts. Iran has given the Kurdish fighters some needed light weapons and the United States has provided crucial air support especially in Kobane. To the south ISIS faces Iranian and Iraqi forces supported by Iranian and United States air power yet still appears to be complacent cementing their positions and slowing their assault as their forces are approaching their limit until they are able to amass additional recruits to augment their ranks. ISIS should not be underestimated as they possess some potent arms and are mostly lacking in air power, barring a solution it is this lack of airpower which may sink ISIS in the end. It is very difficult to mass forces for attacks on positions when you do not control the skies over your heads leaving massed forces vulnerable to airstrikes.
Iran is utilizing a number of outside forces to extend their control. They have Hezballah fighting to assist their tenuous hold onto Syria by Bashir al-Assad and Lebanon. The IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) are assisting in Syria as well as fighting ISIS within Iraq where they enjoy air support provided largely by the Iranians as well as coalition bombings headed by the United States. In Yemen Iran has been supporting the efforts of the Houthis who recently forced the government to resign as they took complete control over the nation’s capital and captured the former President of Yemen. This development will deliver a strike on United States plans of using mostly drones to target mostly al-Qaeda leaders in southeastern Yemen. These forces are currently facing a direct challenge from the Houthis armed and directed by Iran who aim to take control over all of Yemen placing Iranian control over the mouth of the Red Sea and controlling the southern access and departures from the Suez Canal through the mouth of the Red Sea. Such control would also blockade the southern Israeli port at Eilat. This would augment the Iranian threat over the Straits of Hormuz through which much of the world’s oil flows.
Two of the richest targets lie within Saudi Arabia and will be well defended. These two main assets are of wildly different influences. The obvious are the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam. The others are the equally obvious oil fields clustered largely in the north eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. It is through their control of these supplies and their high potential for output that the Saudis also control the going price of a barrel of petroleum. Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family recently suffered from the loss of their monarch, King Abdullah, who was replaced by King Salman who was often referred to as the Warrior Prince. This may prove to be an auspicious timing of placing a more militant leader on the Saudi throne just as they are facing threats from the northern and southern borders.
Then there have been rumors emanating from Ankara, Turkey where President Erdogan has been making innuendos to his taking a more permanent role perhaps in the nature of a monarch or sultan where he would rule absolutely through his power equal to that of the legislature and other offices in Turkey. The designs of President Erdogan to assume higher and permanent power in Turkey have been well known as have his delusions that from such a position he would be empowered to reform the grandeur and control of the former Ottoman Empire. Additionally, President Erdogan has been playing a duel game when it comes to ISIS. On the one hand, Turkey belongs to NATO and as such must support the efforts to contain and ultimately degrade and destroy ISIS which the Turkish government has done so very reluctantly. On the other hand Turkey has permitted ISIS to utilize Turkish crossings into Syria through which to resupply ISIS forces as well as run their recruitment within Turkey and thus provide them with access to a border crossing which permits the flow of manpower in and out of ISIS occupied Syria.
The other force is probably the most interesting force in all of the lands of Islam. We are referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who recently addressed Al-Azhar University in Cairo signaling his desire to have a reformation of Islam to facilitate making the religion more accepting of modern standards and allowing for separation between state powers and religious powers. His address to Al-Azhar University, probably the central and most well accredited of all universities which teach and define Islam to the rest of the Muslim world. His speech along with a video excerpt can be found in our article titled “The Islamic Reformer in Egypt.” Should President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi succeed in his call for a reformation of Islam being undertaken it could prove to be one of the greatest reformational redefinitions of religion since the Protestant Reformation of Christianity, a change which made way for the flourishing of science and an eventual coexistence being formulated whereby each took responsibility for their own ideas and ideals while permitting the other the freedom to do so. The ensuing blossoming of scientific research and discoveries would be known as the Renaissance. What a similar reformation to Islam might bring is almost beyond imagination. If such a change in Islam and the practice of such beliefs as were in effect during the Golden Age of Islam such could change the face of the world.
This is where the struggle for the heart and soul of Islam is being fought and much of the world is simply sitting on the sidelines ignoring the potentials before them. It is not often that the world is offered up such potentially defining a moment as sits before us today. Islam very well could take a huge stride towards modernity if only the correct forces could take control in the near future. We are guaranteed that should ISIS or Iran become the preeminent force in Islam and define the path for Muslims for the next thousand years we will see nothing change and Jihad will continue to mean first and foremost the conquest of the world for Islam, bringing wars and terrorism to every nation bordering Islam or having a significant Muslim community making up over twenty percent of the population. Should the Saudis become the leading force in Islam the pace of reformation would be painfully slow, but there would be potential for eventual changes necessary for Islam and the modern world of science to flourish and be in harmony. But there is greater hope if only the world will heed and echo the cry from Cairo.
The one ray of true hope comes out of Egypt and currently consists of one man’s cry from within the darkness demanding that the lights be allowed to once again shine over Islam. That cry comes from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who is challenging the leading Imams to answer his plaintiff cry for the modernization of Islam. What is fascinating is that the ideas President el-Sisi is demanding are also a call for Islam to return to reclaim its place as a home leading the world for scientific research, medical breakthroughs, poetic and prose literature, mathematical formulas and other academic pursuits as were the norm during the Golden Age of Islam. President el-Sisi desires for Islam to reclaim their place as the leaders in cultural development and scientific discoveries. The change that President el-Sisi champions can only be made possible by a change of heart from most of the Islamic leadership, the Islamic teachers and Imams throughout the Muslim world. President el-Sisi made his first speech at the preeminent Al-Azhar University which is the leading institute of learning in all of Islam. If there is any reality to the mantra we hear constantly after every Islamic terrorist assault that “Islam is the religion of peace,” then the call by President el-Sisi is the answer and call behind which this reputed majority could stand and bring about that transformation to an honest religion of peace the world has been waiting. Missing this opportunity and the struggle for the heart of Islam will be won by Isis, the Mullahs of Iran or whoever proves to be the most violent force. Islamic leadership, and this includes the Mullahs of Iran and the hate filled preachers who hold the current heart of Islam. Every major change throughout history began with that one singular, plaintive cry from out of the darkness for change and the turning on of the light which would only forever grow brighter eventually reaching even the most remote corners of the recesses from amongst the kingdoms.
Beyond the Cusp