October 3, 2011: Among the many commemorations of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, those coming from Iran and al Qaeda were interesting in how they differed. Iran claimed that the attacks were staged by the United States, to provide an excuse to make war on Islam. Al Qaeda took credit for the attacks, as it always has. Al Qaeda has openly criticized Iran for trying to deny Moslem holy warriors credit for this momentous operation.
What's really going on here is a continuation of the ancient feud between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. This split goes back to a feud between early Moslems over who should lead the Moslem world. The Shia faction lost, and remains a minority group (about ten percent of all Moslems). The Sunni faction is not only the majority (80 percent), but controls the most sacred Islamic holy places.
This feud is made worse by the fact the Iranians (most of whom are Shia) are not Arab. They are Indo-European, and have a low opinion of Arabs in general. The Iranians have been dominant in the Persian Gulf region for three thousand years. One of the few times Iran was conquered was in the 7th century, when the newly formed Arab Islamic army caught the Iranians in the midst of one of their many civil wars. When Iranians were not fighting their neighbors, they would fight each other. Just to stay in practice.
The Arab army was soon gone, leaving the Iranians Moslem. The history of the world would have been quite different if the Iranians were not divided when the Arab Moslem army arrived. But ever since that conversion, the Iranians have conspired to take the leadership of the Islamic world. The latest attempt began in 1979, when a revolution, led by Iranian clerics, replaced the monarchy with a clerical dictatorship. The Iranian clerics dedicated themselves to uniting the Moslem world under their leadership. But most of the Moslem world was Sunni, and did not want to be ruled by Shia Iranians. So when September 11, 2001 came around, the Iranians did not want to believe that the despised Arabs could pull off such an attack. So the Iranians, along with many Arab Moslems, declared that the attack was actually an American/Israeli plot to make Moslems look bad.
Al Qaeda claimed credit for the attack, much to the chagrin of many Moslems. For a lot of Moslems, the September 11, 2001 attacks were a shameful event, and they preferred to believe that Moslems were not involved. This encouraged the Iranians, and here was a chance to take the lead when it came to paranoid fantasies. Al Qaeda would normally enjoy a fantasy that involved Americans or Israelis being bad guys. But in this case, al Qaeda is making louder and louder noises about how Iran is trying to take away one of the few Arab success stories of the last few centuries.