In our native region, the origins of symbolic crescents go back deep into history. In modern times it makes for some memorable sound bites. From the original Ramadan Crescent we have gone through others. From the Fertile Crescent to Zbigniew Brzezinski‘s Arc (or Crescent) of Crisis of 1978 to the more recent sectarian “Crescents”.
Remember when the “Shi’a Crescent” was the fashionable term among the foreign policy connoisseurs of the West? That was when they talked about a Shia Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) and the media picked on it and spread it? That one imploded early in 2011 with the explosion of what became the doomed Arab Uprisings.
Remember when some started to talk of a broad “Sunni Crescent” (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi, GCC, Syrian Opposition, etc)? All these were cute sound bites that sought to summarize and hence (mis)represent the march of events and history across the Middle East. As usual, the sound bites simplified and grossly misrepresented a set of complex situations.
Then there is the more specific “Wahhabi Crescent” that is defined by Saudi Arabia and Qatar at one end (one tip), and by the Jihadist terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and Al-Nusra and the Salafi movements at the other end (the other tip). There is some serious interaction in between. No need to go over Taliban and Boko Haram and their ilk.
What we have now is one huge wide Arc of Sectarian Turmoil and Violence that spreads from the northeastern shores of the Tigris and Euphrates south to Yemen and north up through the Sinai and across the Nile and into Libya. I am not even including the distant peripheral neighbors like Afghanistan and Pakistan and northwest Africa. Now, more than three years after the so-called Arab Spring, we are having the beginnings of a possible regional bloodbath. In some cases like Syria and Iraq and Libya and Yemen it is well advanced, in other cases like Egypt and Palestine-Israel it is somewhat controlled and sporadic. The violence is also nibbling at some other states of the region, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Lebanon, threatening to get out of hand.
Oddly, or maybe not, the non-Arab countries and quasi-countries of the region are quite stable, given the storms raging around them. Turkey, Iran, Israel, and even Iraqi Kurdistan have managed to go through non-controversial political processes, in one case with smooth and peaceful leadership change. Yet these same non-Arab countries are deeply involved in the turmoil raging through the eastern part of the Arab world. In some cases feeding it, in others exploiting it.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum