عنوان مقاله [English]
The region of West Asia and the Middle East has witnessed scores of unrest and political protests in recent years. These turmoil and conflicts have increased in the second decade of the third millennium with the occurrence of Arab Spring, which denoted the widespread citizen revolts in the Arab World in 2011-2012. These chains of political events were also called the Islamic Awakening. Regarding the lack of meaningful integration in the Middle East, researchers have considered various factors, including regional competition, foreign intervention and the legacy of colonialism. Nevertheless, an examination of recent events reveals a key point—The rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey which advocate three different views of Islam (i.e., Shiite, Salafi-Takfiri, and the Sunni Islamist Moslem Brotherhood) have led them to vie for power and spiritual influence in the region. We argue that this competition is one of the main factors of crisis escalation in the Middle East. The efforts of the three rivals to increase the size of the advocates of their preferred attitudes towards Islam in order to form a stronger coalition to weaken their opponents have added to the complexity of the problem of seemingly constant turmoil and political crisis in this strategic region.
The three main objectives of the present study are: a) to explain how these three views of Islam were formed; b) to analyze the reasons for the competition between the advocates of these points of view; and c) to describe the consequences of the continued rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey over this issue from the perspective of regional stability and prosperity. Therefore, the authors try to succinctly answer the following research questions: 1. What factors have led to the political changes in the attitudes of the proponents of these views of Islam towards the Middle East developments? 2. To what extent have the formation, growth, and increasing competition of these three views of Islam contributed to the occurrence of conflicts in the Middle East? In the research hypothesis, it is stated that the competition between the proponents of the three different conceptions of political Islam (i.e., Shia Islam, Salafi-Takfiri, and Ikhwani) has increased unrest and violence in the Middle East. Using a qualitative-analytical approach, we collected data on the Arab Spring events and information about the official statements of the political leaders and decision-makers in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey regarding the regional uprising and crises, particularly as related to the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, and the inter-Arab crisis over Qatar. The findings of the research show that the rotational changes in the attitudes of the advocates of different brands of political Islam on a continuum from cooperation to confrontation have had an impact on the crisis escalation and unrest in the region.
The 2011 Arab pro-democracy movements initially encouraged the proponents of the three views of political Islam to come closer to these movements. For example, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as the supporters of Salafi-Takfiri and Akhwani views formed a coalition against the Shiite-backed Iran. Incidentally, Qatar also supported the Brotherhood's viewpoints. The most significant policy of the Salafi-Takfiri camp’s coalition against the Shiite camp was to support the Syrian opposition in a bid to overthrow Bashar al-Assad regime. They even provided assistance to those who established and operated ISIS, and created an economic, military, and ideological challenge for the Iraqi Shiite government. However, the cooperation among the members of this coalition did not last long because of disagreement over key issues such as the future of the Egyptian regime after Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi came into power, the future of the Assad regime in Syria, and the crisis in Qatar-Saudi relations. The consequence of these developments was that the supporters of the Brotherhood moved away from the Salafi-Takfiri proponents in order to counter the Saudi threats against Qatar. Turkey started moving closer to Iran and Russia to secure its interests in the post-war Syria; and this resulted in a temporary reduction in Saudi influence in the region. But this does not mean the end of competition over political clout and influence in the region by smart coalition-building. Therefore, the most crucial strategy of the IRI should be to strengthen its coalition-building strategy and use the vacuum created in the Salafi-Takfiri and Brotherhood camps, along with continuing cooperation with Qatar, tension-reduction with Ankara as well as expanding economic relations with Turkey for the purpose of intensifying the isolation of the Salafi-Takfiri camp.