A Shiite Superstate or America and Israel's Worst Nightmare
It's a well know fact that most of the World's proven oil reserves can be found in the Middle East. The figure is about 70% and as the supply in the rest of the World dwindles over time, then this proportion is sure to increase. It is a less well known fact that even though Shiites make up only around 10 to 15% of all Muslims in the World, the proportion of Shiites compared to Sunnis in the Middle East is 36.5%. What's more these Shiites just happen to be located exactly where most of the Oil in the Middle East is to be found, i.e. in Southern Iraq, Iran and Eastern Saudi Arabia.
The revered historical figure of Imam Ali from whom the Shiites derive their name and reason for existence, is said to have instructed that on his death his body should be tied to a camel which is should then be left to wander. Where the Camel eventually stopped then that's where he wanted to be laid to rest. The Camel happened to stop roughly where most of the World's Oil is and over centuries Shiite communities formed and grew around this general geographical locale. Fast forward 13 hundred years and we have a current situation where Shiites are either the most numerous and/or dominant in those areas of the Middle East where the main Oil reserves are located.
The future possibility of a Shiite Superstate armed with Nuclear weapons and possessing the bulk of the World's remaining oil reserves would definitely be a major headache for America and also Israel. Currently the most powerful Shiite nation i.e Iran, doesn't possess nuclear weapons. Also there is a racial impediment to the unification of the Shia, which is that the Shias of Iran are Persian and those of the rest of the Middle East are mainly Arab. However someone may quite feasible take on the role of Mahdi and with sufficient charisma and intelligence be able bridge racial and doctrinal divides, thereby bringing together a disunited Shiite Islam. And once nuclear weapons are obtained, something already in the works it would seem, then an invasion of Eastern Saudi Arabia by a united Shiite Iran and Iraq, coupled with a mass uprising of the Shiites who are the majority of people living there, becomes a distinct possibility.
Then we would have our Shiite Superstate encompassing Iran, most of Iraq, large chunks of Saudi Arabia and perhaps other strategic Oil rich areas too. A unified political entity in control of most of the World's oil, nuclear armed, heavily militarized in the service of the Mahdi and with a keen dislike of America and Israel, would become something to watch. The problem of access to and availalibility of Oil would be a particularly acute for the United states which with 4% of the World's population consumes about 25% of the Worlds Oil but has itself only less than 1% of its proven reserves. So relying on imported oil mainly from the Middle East.
Things are further complicated by the case of Muhammad Mosedeq, the Democratically elected Left leaning President of Iran who in 1953 was deposed in a coup that was organized and led by the American CIA. The reason for this is that Mosedeq duing his time in office, nationalized Irans oil producing capability that was formerly under the control of Anglo-American Oil Companies. The USA then installed the Shah who was himself overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Another cause for resentment is that the American CIA set up and trained SAVAK, the hated security apparatus of the Shah. Which is believed to have imprisoned, tortued and killed thousands of dissidents during the time of the Shah's rule.
But not only would this situation worry certain Western powers. For the story of Islam can also be seen as the story of a War between two rival sects i.e. the Shias and the Sunnis. All through history the Shiites have been the underdogs, oppressed, suppressed, suffering injustice and patiently waiting for their time. This is reflected in some of their central doctrines; they seem to possess a theology of the oppressed and unjustly treated. The creation of the Shiite Superstate would shift the balance of power in their favour, dramatically and potentially alter the course of History for Islam and perhaps even the World.
More background on the Shiites
The word Shiite actually means Partisan and is taken from a longer Arabic expression meaning the Party of Ali, who was the Fourth Caliph of Islam after Muhammad's death and second most revered figure after the great prophet himself. Shiites believe that it was Ali who was the rightful successor to Muhammad and consider the other Caliph's as corrupted.
In Shia Islam there is more of an emphasis on the Mystical, Prophetic and Messianic aspects of the religion, whereas Sunni Islam focuses more on the Legalistic, Political and Moral aspects. In the past they have been referred to as the 'Batini', which means esotericists. The Batin are the hidden meanings behind the Koran and the sayings of Muhammad. Some believe that Muhammad communicated to Ali the secret of the Batin and that this is one of the reaons why he was the legitimate heir. Interesting there is more of a tendency among the various Shiite sects to believe in Reincarnation than is the case with Sunni Islam. In the most common form of Shia Islam, the so called Twelvers, we find the notion of the Reincarnating Imam. Shia sects such as the Druze, Ismaili, Alawi and Alevi have reincarnation as the central doctrine concerning the after life. Due to this mystical leaning and belief in Reincarnation, Shia Islam can be said to have a lot in common with Sufism, another Esoteric strain of Islam that exists within Sunni communities around the World.
Historically Shia Islam was often adhered to by an elite rather than most common folk. Today's populous Shiite nation of Iran became converted in the 16th century from being originally a Sunni nation by a mystical Sufi order called the Safavids who came from Azerbyjan. They brought in Shiite scholars from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq to teach the Persians the creeds of this particular branch of Islam. So the connections between Iran and the Shiites in Lebanon and Syria go back a while. Israel recently fought a war in 2006, unsatisfactorily concluded, with Hezbollah a Shiite paramilitary group operating in Lebanon and under the influence of and supported by Iran.