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Mideast Expert Pipes: Let Sunnis, Shias Slug It Out

By    |   Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 06:24 PM

As radical Sunni and Shia Muslims battle for regional dominance, the best U.S. policy might be to put a thumb on the scale for whoever's losing — the better to keep both factions at war until they're spent, Mideast expert Daniel Pipes told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

"We don't want a clear victory by the Sunni jihadi or the Shiite jihadi, so let's … keep them fighting each other," Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Pipes acknowledged the play-both-sides approach as "cynical" and open to debate, and he said that any choice the U.S. makes in the region will be complicated and difficult.

"I'm no supporter of President [Barack] Obama, but I have some sympathy for his troubles," he said.

Pipes said there are two primary actors behind the violence and chaos across the region: "One is Shiite and supported by Iran; the other is Sunni and supported by Turkey and Qatar."

"They're both jihadi," said Pipes. "They're both killers, and what do we do when they're fighting each other? My solution is to encourage them to keep fighting each other — not to take part in the fight. To have them weaken each other.

"Others have different points of view, but it's not a simple black and white thing," he said.

Pipes argued that the United States should limit its involvement in the Middle East "except to help those many poor people who are refugees" as a result of warfare involving jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

"Our goal should be basically humanitarian at this point," he said. "And if we have a more military role, it would be to support whichever side is losing."

"It's a pretty cynical approach," said Pipes. "But given these horrible forces that are at war with each other, I don't know how one can draw up an innocent and cheerful approach to this."

Pipes discussed the Islamic State's recent setback in Kobani, where Kurdish forces backed by U.S. air strikes pushed the militant army out of the strategically important city near Syria's border with Turkey.

He said that ISIS is also experiencing something like growing pains in its violent campaign to launch an independent religious state — a caliphate — on territory seized from Syria and Iraq.

"ISIS expanded incredibly fast; they had tremendous victories," said Pipes. "Now things aren't going so well."

Besides the loss of Kobani, the Sunni jihadists are also finding it difficult to run the cities they still control, he said.

"The water doesn't have chlorine, electricity is on for only a couple hours a day, medicine has disappeared, and the like," said Pipes. "So they're facing real problems and they're worried."

But they're also becoming "a bit more flexible" in their approach to funding and carrying out their plans, he said.

And then there's Shiite Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism that has made "extraordinary" gains across the Middle East, including Yemen, where Iranian-backed rebels last week toppled a democratically elected government aligned with the United States.

Between ISIS and Iran, "I don't think there's a good side here," said Pipes.

"It's a little reminiscent of World War II with Hitler and Stalin," he said. "You could debate all day which one is worse. They're both horrific, and we have to pick our way through this mess and try to find something that is least-evil. It's not easy, and it's certainly open to debate."

Pipes also remarked on the announcement of a visit between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said that like most dictatorial rulers who break bread, these two will find "they don't really have much in common," except enemies, but that might be basis enough for a relationship.

Because Russia has become more internationally isolated, with the world condemning its aggression against the Ukraine, finding an ally — even one as isolated and eccentric as Kim — could pay some strategic and economic dividends, said Pipes.

Of the two leaders, he said, "I think Kim is more dangerous."

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As radical Sunni and Shia Muslims battle for regional dominance, the best U.S. policy might be to put a thumb on the scale for whoever's losing — the better to keep both factions at war until they're spent, Mideast expert Daniel Pipes told Newsmax TV on Thursday.
sunni, shia, muslims, fight, iraq, syria, yemen, isis
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2015-24-29
Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 06:24 PM
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