US president Donald Trump has threatened war against Iran if it is proved that the country is behind the attack on Aramco oil sites in Saudi Arabia. The attack which took place on Sunday has shot up oil prices. The hike has been steepest since 1991. This has roiled global markets. On its part, Iran has denied that it was behind the attack on Saudi oil facilities which constitute 5 percent of the global oil production. Tehran has said that the ongoing war in Yemen was the reason for the attack and has urged the world to address the conflict in the country. But as things stand, there is unlikely to be any effort to bring to end the war in Yemen, the root cause of the instability in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are daggers drawn over Yemen where Tehran supports Houthi rebels against the government and Riyadh supports the government. Saudi Arabia has made Houthis a target of its air strikes. However, the power play between the two countries spans many countries. Both train, finance and equip rival militants in the Syrian civil war, and support opposing sides in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen. Behind this unremitting rivalry is the jockeying between the two countries for the leadership of the Muslim world.
However, a lingering hostility between the two countries is a cause of deep concern. For it could split the world of Islam down the middle. And such a state of affairs would be a tragedy at a time when the Mideast is being torn asunder by the sectarian strife. And not only will this undermine the fight against radical groups in the region but also impact the sectarian relations among Muslims across the globe. Thankfully, these developments have left Kashmir untouched. True, Valley has not been altogether innocent of sectarian clashes but they have for the most part been a rare phenomenon. And whenever these have taken place, it is only a miniscule minority which has indulged in them. And while there is no denying the fact that a relatively tense religious argument has shaped up around the nature of the practice of Islam in Valley in last decade – a phenomenon which even otherwise is not alien to Muslim societies – what distorts the picture is the attempt to project on to it the imported narrative of global terror discourse which predominantly looks at the current upheavals in Muslim world in terms of the orthodox versus moderate Islam and Shia versus Sunni Islam.
But at the same time, we shouldn’t also live in a denial mode. There is a need for introspection among Muslims of all sectarian persuasions about the current state of Muslim world and our continuing decline and fall. There has to be a Muslim led concerted effort to restore peace and stability to the Muslim world. And one important step in this direction would be for Saudi Arabia and Iran to join hands to address the turmoil in Mideast and to start with firm steps to defeat the rise of radical and extremist groups which have only further vitiated the environment.
That said, it is important for the US not to be a part of one more war in the gulf. Its consequences will be catastrophic not only for Saudi Arabia and Iran but also for the entire region.