In the year of Our Lord 15 Hijri (about 636 AD), the Muslim Arab fighters won a big victory at the Battle of Qadisiyyah in what is today’s Iraq. That opened the door for the spread of Islam to Mesopotamia and Persia and beyond.
In September of 1980, while Iran was in revolutionary turmoil, Saddam Hussein’s army invaded the Iranian province of Khuzistan (a.k.a Arabistan). Saddam made several demands and goals for his invasion, none of which were met at the end of the war. Seeing the dire situation inside Iran, he had expected a quick victory, as did most Arabs and many in the West (even the once-venerable The Economist wrote stupidly in 1980 that Iran might become an Iraqi satrapy). Saddam got the support of all the GCC states of the Persian Gulf, moral support, propaganda support, money support, and weapons. He also got the support of all the Western powers: weapons, intelligence, even some limited military action. As well as supplies of chemical weapons and overlooking his use of WMD against Iraqi Kurds and Iranian soldiers.
Now we have the Wahhabi terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, ISIL) sweeping across northern Iraq. The same great Gulf GCC tribal sectarian minds that cheered Saddam before 1990 are now cheering ISIS. Many of them are claiming that ISIS is really a nationalist rebirth of the Baath Party, apparently a softer Iraqi Baath Party that can now get along with the absolute tribal rulers of the Gulf. Maybe it is not the same Baath Party that invaded Kuwait and threatened the terrified Saudi princes until the Americans showed up and chased them out. Now they claim they are cheering for the disenfranchised Sunnis of Iraq, the 20% who have not reconciled to losing power.
Diehard sectarians in the Persian Gulf region are coming out of the closet, out in the open; not that they were ever well hidden. From tribal academics to media stars to liberal-Wahhabi-men-and-women-about-town to the clownish chief of the Dubai Police Dhahi Khalfan, they are all in justification mode, using crass sectarian terms. The same crass sectarian terms they used in the 1980s until Saddam’s tanks moved toward the south in 1990.
Now they see this new turmoil in Iraq as a third Battle of Qadisiyyah, or maybe as a second Battle of Karbala, as the Wahhabi invaders in Iraq are hinting at.
It is as if on my Gulf they have not learned any lesson from the past few decades. It is as if delusion is like an heirloom handed down from foolish fathers to foolish sons and daughters in the GCC countries of the Gulf.