Iran, the Rainmaker

Forecast for the War on Terror: Sunni, but with a chance of Shi‘a.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2007

EVER SINCE its start six years ago, the United States has been waging the War on Terror chiefly on the Sunni side of the religious divide within Islam. The principal targets have been Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. As recently as September 2006, the White House's counter-terrorism strategy was still focused overwhelmingly on the Bin Laden network and its offshoots, which were seen as the vanguard of "a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals" threatening the United States.

By contrast, the vision articulated by the president in his 2007 State of the Union Address is substantially broader. It encompasses not only Sunni extremists, but their Shi‘a counterparts as well. And, for the first time, it clearly and unambiguously identifies not just "terrorism" but a specific state sponsor-the Islamic Republic of Iran-as a threat to U.S. interests and objectives in the greater Middle East.

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