by Col. Tom Snodgrass (Ret.)

Analyzing The Sunni-Shia Religious Sectarian War From The U.S. Standpoint

Enemy Belief System

Islam is divided into two primary sects. They are the Sunnis that constitute 80-85% of the 1.6 billion Islamic followers worldwide and the Shia that comprise 10-13% of the other adherents. There are additional component factions of Islam such as the Sufi, Druze, Alawi, Alevi, and Ahmadiyya that make up the remainder of the "umma," or Islamic world community. But the Islamic contingents that are in active war with the U.S. and Western Civilization are the Sunni Salafi Wahhabis and the Shia Khomeinist Twelvers.

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These two strains of Islam comprise an Islamic enemy that is dedicated to overthrowing[1] the U.S. Constitution and replacing it with Islamic Sharia law. These Muslim sects both believe Islamic scripture mandates that Islamic Sharia theocratic-jurisprudence must supersede all man-conceived, secular-governmental-legal systems (i.e., democracy, communism, fascism, monarchy) because the Islamic Sharia-religious-legal system is based on divinely-revealed canons. Therefore, it cannot be subordinate to any human-conceptualized legal codes. So, according to Islamic scripture, no other legal system can coexist in the same physical territory at the same time with Islamic Sharia.

In order to install Sharia theocratic-jurisprudence in non-Muslim lands, Muslims are conducting "jihad" religious war. If and when the jihadist "soldiers of Allah" succeed in their jihadist conquest, the non-Muslims have only one of three options:

  1. convert to Islam

  2. surrender and agree to be part of Islamic Sharia-ruled society as second class citizens with only limited rights by acknowledging the superiority of Islam through paying annual "jizya" — that is, mafia-like "extortion-protection money,"

  3. resist and fight to the death

Islamic jihad is the "forever war" because Muhammad declared he had been ordered by the Islamic god Allah to fight until all non-Muslims declare their allegiance to Allah and Muhammad: "I have been commanded to fight people[2] until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." The recitation pledge that Muhammad demanded of non-Muslims is the Islamic creed or oath of belief[3] (Shahada) signifying religious conversion to Islam: "There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." (The Islamic "Shahada" is comparable[4] to the Christian "Nicene Creed" and the Jewish "Shema Yisrael.") Muhammad is considered by Muslims to be the "perfect man"[5] that all Muslims are exhorted to emulate, so Muslims are enjoined in this declaration to fight like Muhammad until the worldwide victory of Islam is achieved. One of the "forever war" Quranic injunctions that Muhammad was encapsulating with his never-ending war declaration is contained in Sura 8:39:[6] "And fight them [non-Muslims] until there is no fitna [disbelief, or the disorder that results from unbelief in Islam] and (until) the religion, all of it, is for Allah."

So, to summarize, the United States Government is confronted by Islamic enemies from both the Sunni and Shia sects. These Islamic sects are in fact existential adversaries of the U.S. Constitution and advocates of the Islamic Sharia in its place; hence Islamic Sharia religious-political doctrine is a nemesis of the very idea of the liberties, freedoms, and separation of church and state embodied in the U.S. Constitution and U.S. legal system. Furthermore, Islamic scripture calls for Muslims to wage war without end until they succeed in Islamizing the entire world. The strategy of jihad warfare is that, once Sharia jurisprudence is instituted as the law of the land, all obstacles (human, legal, and cultural) to making Islam the sole, dominant religion can be systematically removed.

Enemy Divisions

However, besides conducting the jihadist war on the U.S., the Sunni Salafi Wahhabis and Shia Khomeinist Twelvers are engaged in an Islamic sectarian religious civil war to convince the umma that theirs is the ascendant Islamic jihadist sect to follow. This same competition between Sunni and Shia has been continuous in various forms and intensities since the death of Mohammed in the 7th century. These sects have cooperated in the past 1400 years in waging jihad against the "infidel" West, so the West should not be surprised should they do it in the future, but at this time the Sunni Salafist Wahhabis and Shia Khomeinist Twelvers are so fanatically committed to destroying each other that the twofold Islamic threat facing the U.S. currently must be understood within that sectarian existential paradigm.

Furthermore, the battlefield has yet another complicating factor in order that the conflict be accurately understood. It is that the Sunni Salafi Wahhabi force component is divided further into three subdivisions competing to be recognized as the preeminent Sunni leadership. Among the warring sub-sects is al-Qaeda along with multiple al-Qaeda-allegiant groups around the world in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Sinai, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Somalia, and Europe. Opposing al-Qaeda for the mantel of Sunni leadership is the Islamic State and its numerous Islamic State-allegiant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sinai, Indonesia, Philippines, and Europe. The third Sunni contender for power is more nebulous and operates in a covert, psychological warfare and seditious mode, which make it a very difficult-to-counter, shadowy threat. This seditious Sunni entity is the Muslim Brotherhood anchored in the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Gaza, and Europe. While the Muslim Brotherhood is not the same type of armed kinetic threat as al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, it is as great or greater threat because they are now very successfully carrying out subversive preparation of the operational battlespace on the U.S. domestic front by silencing criticism with "Islamophobia."

Dispelling A Myth

There is one additional point that requires clarification to understand the complex, multifaceted, simultaneous war within Islam and against the U.S. and the rest of the non-Muslim world. That point is the fact that Islam is a creed based on firm scriptural doctrine contained in the Quran (reputedly the verbatim words of the Allah god), the Hadiths (collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), and the Sira (biography of Muhammad). These three doctrinal sources are together referred to as the Sunna, which is the basis for Islamic Sharia canonical law prescribing both religious and secular duties and retributive penalties for lawbreaking. That the Sunna and Sharia are the doctrinal foundation of Islam negates the contention that, because not all Muslims are jihadists or accept the violent jihadist injunctions, Islam is "moderate." It does not matter how individuals or even groups of Muslims believe or interpret Islamic scripture, what matters is what is recorded in the Sunna and Sharia. Individuals and groups come and go, but the Sunna and Sharia are unchanging. Moderate Islam is a mythical deception. There may be moderate individual Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam. Sharia-allegiant Muslims, Sunni and Shia, are committed to the fundamental Islamic organizing principle — spreading Islam through spreading the Sharia. It is those Sunni and Shia Sharia-allegiant Muslims that should be the focus of U.S. security concerns.

The On-Going War Across Jihadistan

At present there are tri-cornered conflicts occurring in Iraq-Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. And of course those clashes don't include the Islamic jihadist insurgencies in Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand to name some of the better known. But the hostilities of immediate concern to the U.S. are the ones in Iraq-Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya.

In the Iraq-Syria struggle the U.S. is providing combat air support to the Iranian dominated Shia Government of Iraq, thus putting the U.S. on the Shia Khomeinist Twelver side against the Sunni Islamic State Salafist Wahhabis. In Afghanistan the U.S. is fighting the Taliban, which is the stalking horse of the al-Qaeda Sunni Salafist Wahhabis, while the Islamic State Sunni Salafist Wahhabis are also in Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban, U.S., and the Shia Khomeinist Twelvers. In Yemen the U.S. is aligned with Sunni Saudi Arabia in their war against the Shia Houthis, the surrogate for the Iranian Shia Khomeinist Twelvers. The paradox from the U.S. point of view is that oil-rich Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia are the clandestine financial backers of the Islamic State Sunni Salafist Wahhabis that the U.S. is fighting in Iraq-Syria. In Libya al-Qaeda Sunni Salafist Wahhabis are vying with Islamic State Sunni Salafist Wahhabis for supremacy of the U.S.-created political and social morass. The U.S. is primarily a helpless spectator to this internecine Libyan Sunni blood-letting. In the U.S. itself the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to purge FBI and U.S. military training materials of accurate jihad information and counter-jihad tactics by convincing the White House that these things were politically incorrect Islamophobia.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The U.S. is aligned against itself. In the Iraq-Syria theater the U.S. is actively assisting the Shia against the Sunnis. In Yemen the U.S. is supporting the Sunni side against the Shia. In Afghanistan the U.S. is aligned with a Sunni government against the Sunni Taliban surrogate of the al-Qaeda Sunni Salafist Wahhabis. In Libya the situation is spinning out of control as the two Sunni components battle, while the U.S. is a paralyzed observer. In the U.S. the Obama regime has opened many channels to the Muslim Brotherhood in order to receive its guidance for countering Islamic jihad. And finally the Obama regime says it is on the verge of concluding a treaty with the Iranian Shia Khomeinist Twelvers that guarantees they acquire nuclear weapons, according to the treaty in a decade or sooner by cheating.

Obvious Conclusions

The first obvious conclusion is that the Obama regime has absolutely no coherent strategy to repel the Islamic enemy.

The second obvious conclusion is that the U.S. has dual Islamic enemies that are Sunni and Shia Sharia-allegiant Muslims.

The third obvious conclusion is that the Muslim Brotherhood and its various front organizations operating in the U.S. are covert agents of Islamic jihad and must be exposed as such and be removed from all positions of government policy influence.

The fourth obvious conclusion that any treaty that puts nuclear weapons in the possession of Shia Khomeinist Twelvers is absolute insanity and needs to be stopped.

The fifth obvious conclusion is that the U.S. desperately needs to finally stop dealing with Islamic jihad by employing tactical crisis management solutions and adopt a comprehensive strategy which is based on the reality that the U.S. loses regardless who triumphs in the Islamic religious sectarian war: Islamic State Sunni Salafist Wahhabis, al-Qaeda Sunni Salafist Wahhabis, Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, or Shia Khomeinist Twelvers. The U.S. has no allies that share our values in any of these Islamic groups. In fact, each of these Islamic groups is dedicated to replacing the U.S. Constitution with the Islamic Sharia jurisprudence. They are all existential enemies.








Col. Thomas Snodgrass, USAF (retired) served over a year in Peshawar, Pakistan, working with Pakistani military intelligence. During his year in Vietnam he daily scheduled 130 U.S. Army and Air Force intelligence collection aircraft. In his final overseas tour he was the U.S. Air Attaché behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland. As an Intelligence Officer or an International Politico-Military Affairs Officer during a thirty-year military career, he served duty tours in seven foreign countries, as well as teaching military history and strategy at the Air War College, US Air Force Academy, and USAF Special Operations School. He was awarded an Air Force scholarship to get a history master's degree in revolutionary insurgent warfare at the University of Texas, as well as being granted a year's educational sabbatical to teach and to write about international relations as an Air Force Research Associate in the graduate school at the Center for Advanced International Studies, U of Miami, Florida. This article was published May 27, 2015 on the Rightside News website and is archived at analyzing-the-sunni-shia-religious-sectarian-war-from-the-u-s-standpoint Thanks are due Dr. History for sending this article to Think-Israel.

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