Now that the dust of the Gulf War has settled over the Middle East, it is clear that some unexpected winners have emerged, blinking in the sunlight. Across the Gulf, Shia Muslims are waking up to their growing political power, their ability to organize themselves - and the gift that lies literally under their feet. Oil.
After years of repression at the hands of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Shia are tasting freedom - and spurring their religious counterparts throughout the Gulf to become more assertive. They’ve also woken up to the accident of geography that has placed the world’s major oil supplies in areas where they form the majority - Iran, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and southern Iraq. Welcome to the new commonwealth of “Petrolistan.”
Their new-found power in this volatile region therefore represents a major challenge to both the old Sunni ruling establishments - outside Iran - and to the United States. The years of Shia subservience are over. Now they are about to make waves.
So what are the Shia planning? What is their inspiration? If they want democracy - will anyone recognize it? Will they be ruled by bearded men in turbans and veiled women - or will we see suits and high heels?