This became an oft-repeated expression used by many to highlight the supposed danger represented by Tehran and its allies to the US-aligned bloc of so-called moderates.
At the height of the “War on Terror” which followed the 11 September 2001 attacks, and in the midst of the US aggression against Iraq, the idea of a Shiite crescent reflected Washington’s cynical use of sectarianism to stoke fear, and thereby strengthen its domination through the tried and tested imperial strategy of divide and rule.
The US would mobilize these sectarian politics all over the region – even when they didn’t fit.
Palestinian resistance groups like Hamas, for example, are not Shia and the support they receive from Iran cannot be explained in sectarian terms.
Yet after its invasion, the US installed an explicitly sectarian system in Iraq and attempted to exploit and fuel sectarian sentiment in its regime-change proxy war against the government of Syria – even though in Syria as well support and opposition to the government does not fall neatly along sectarian lines.
After Lebanon’s Hizballah dealt invading Israeli forces a humiliating military defeat in 2006, Israel lobbyists and Washington planners tried to spin the confrontation not as one between a US-backed settler-colonial aggressor and legitimate indigenous armed resistance but in sectarian terms.
Martin Indyk, a longtime US official and veteran Israel lobbyist, for instance, argued that Israel’s dismal performance in Lebanon “highlighted the dangers facing the Sunni Arab world from the Iranian-led Shia axis, from Iran to Iraq – which has a Shiite-dominated government – to the minority Alawite regime in Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon.”
“That actually provides a common interest to the Sunni Arab world and Israel,” Indyk said hopefully.
Indeed the notion of a Sunni Arab alliance with Zionism against Shia Iran has been Washington’s guiding principle for years. It underpinned the logic of the normalization deals between Israel and various Arab regimes in the context of the Abraham Accords.
But almost 20 years later, the US sectarian strategy lies in tatters.
The much anticipated wedding between Israel and Saudi Arabia – the flag carrier of the Sunni “moderates” – has been called off, and instead Riyadh eloped with Tehran.
The historic reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by Beijing in March is one major consequence of geopolitical shifts that are accompanying China’s rise and America’s decline.
Others are quickly following: moves to end the war in Yemen, and the reintegration of Syria into the Arab fold. China may even end up playing a key role in brokering an end to the war in Ukraine.
In a recent interview, I argued that we can now talk not about the phantasmic “Shiite crescent” but a very real resistance crescent stretching from Iran all the way to Palestine – particularly Gaza – that is gaining strength, confidence and support.
I joined Rania Khalek on her BreakThrough News program Dispatches last week to talk about how the emerging multipolar world is reshaping the region and especially what impact it may have on the liberation struggle in Palestine.
It is not just about politics but economics and human development: While Washington has brought little but chaos and destruction, people all over the world are embracing China’s focus on building infrastructure and promoting cooperation.
You can watch the video above.
And if you want more perspectives on these topics, I participated in an online discussion organized by the International Manifesto Group on 28 May, on the theme of the end of US hegemonism.
The broad discussion touched on how China’s growing role is seen as a hopeful development for people in West Asia, including Palestine.
At the same time we talked about what motivates the United States and its vassals, particularly the European Union, to insist they have to compete against, dominate and defeat China instead of cooperating to solve the serious problems facing humanity.
I was honored to participate in the discussion alongside Australian academic and international antiwar campaigner Tim Anderson; Yao Jinxiang, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies; British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic, campaigner and journalist Lowkey; Mazda Majidi an anti-war activist with the ANSWER Coalition and a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation; and Mohammad Marandi, professor of North American studies at the University of Tehran.
The session was facilitated by Radhika Desai, professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba and convenor of the International Manifesto Group.
You can watch that discussion in this video: