REPORT FROM EGYPT….The growing regional hostility in the Middle East between Shia and Sunni has been getting a lot of play lately, and Marc Lynch says it’s for real. Here’s his report after spending a week in Cairo:

Anti-Shia stuff is really spreading rapidly, and seems to have the Egyptian government’s approval (at a minimum). Sensational-looking books about the Shia are all over the bookstands, along with stories in the tabloids and scare-mongering editorials….Even Egyptian TV has been hosting some pretty nasty anti-Shia rhetoric.

….Why all this anti-Shia discourse now? One popular theory is that the Egyptian government, backed by the US, wants to prepare the ground for confrontation with Iran. By this theory, the government is stoking hatred of the Shia as a pre-emptive move to shape the political space in such a way as to make it hard for Iran to appeal to Egyptian (and Arab) public opinion in the event of a war — and to prevent a repeat of anything like the outpouring of popular support for Hassan Nasrullah last summer.

….Whatever the case, I’ve seen a lot more anti-Shia discourse than I expected or have ever seen before, and it alarms me.

Read the whole thing for additional observations. Among other things, he reports that “everyone here seems keenly aware that the United States has backed off of democracy promotion.” No surprise there.

UPDATE: Of course, “anti-Shia” is more or less synonymous with “anti-Iran.” Laura Rozen has more on the subject here.

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