Depending on your point of view, the deal with Iran that was crafted in Geneva last month either stinks or is rosy. But what most of the world missed was the real motivation for both sides.
On the Western countries’ side (led by the United States), there were billions of dollars to be had in the lifting of sanctions on Iran. And the Islamist “Shia” mullahs of Iran knew that only too well.
Having grown up in the Middle East, I often heard a riddle that went something like this: “Who is the god of the West?”
The answer always was: “Money.”
The Geneva accord confirmed that perception, at least to the fast-growing segment of the Arab population that no longer trusts the U.S.
The motivation of the mullahs on the other hand, who know Islamic jurisprudence only too well, can be explained by “Taqiyya.” That word can be spelled different ways, but its meaning is always clear. Its essence is this: When you are in trouble with your enemy, agree with him as much as you can, but not too much. Once you gain the upper hand, you can renege, deny, or otherwise abrogate the agreement.
Thus the Geneva accord is not worth the paper it is written on. No wonder they were celebrating in the streets of Tehran that day. After all, Iran has given up almost nothing and gained everything.
Many people think the only loser in the deal is Israel, but they need to think again. There are others.
There are three major factions in the Muslim world who are clamoring for the mantle of succession to the leadership of Islam (and the dreamed-of single Islamic state, the caliphate). Most people by now are aware of the difference between the Sunnis and the Shiites. That historic division took place over who was the rightful heir after the death of Islam’s founder—the prophet’s cousin who formed Shi’at Ali, the party of Ali; or the friends of the prophet, who founded the Sunnis, “the people of the tradition of Muhammad.”
But those who know the score today, know there are two further camps within Sunni Islam. That division stems from another historical enmity between Arabs led by Saudi Arabia and those led by Turkey.
In recent years, the Islamic Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been trying to reclaim the mantle of the caliphate—after all, the Ottoman Turks controlled the last caliphate before being dismantled during World War I. To add insult to injury, the Muslim Brotherhood movement attached itself to the Turks rather than the king of Saudi Arabia, who is considered the guardian of the holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
Prior to Erdoğan’s rise in Turkey, that division wasn’t problematic. Ever since the days of Kemal Ataturk, the Turks had prided themselves on being a secular country and uninterested in historic Islamic divisions. But now, the Turks, in addition to the Qataris and the Muslim Brotherhood, have formed a second block in opposition to the House of Saud.
For years, the U.S. and most of Europe sided with the Saudi’s camp, which included pre-2011 Egypt and the Gulf States. But with the rise of the so-called “Arab Spring,” and the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab in Egypt with U.S. support, the Saudis felt betrayed by the U.S. That prompted the King of Saudi Arabia to lament that the U.S. is “unreliable.”
But to make matters worse, the West is now giving the Saudi’s historic and entrenched rivals, the Shiites in Iran, a pass to nuclear weapons development, albeit at a slower pace.
The West appeased their god by opening the door to making some Iranian dollars.
But the price to be paid could be alarmingly high. The West’s behavior has deepened the suspicions of all three dominant divisions within Islam, thus increasing the possibility of another September 11-type attack.
Will the money be worth it then? Time will tell.