The Great Divide: Sunni vs. Shi’a Reply

The Democrats and Republicans of the Middle East. Whenever I get asked why I don’t vote, I always respond “Because I don’t care who wins.” Often, the questioner will come back with “Why not?” and I will respond with something like “Well, what’s your position on the rivalry between the Shi’a and the Sunni?”

From the conflicts in Iraq and Syria to the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the struggle between Sunni and Shi‘a groups for hegemony is tearing apart the region and shows no signs of abating. But for all the religious discourse permeating the conflict, much of its roots are political, not religious. How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?

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