06/16/2014 08:31 EDT | Updated 08/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Islam's Sectarian War May Determine Your Gas Prices

Gas prices are displayed at a Mobil gas station in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Gasoline prices are climbing as rising economic growth boosts oil prices and temporary refinery outages crimp gasoline supplies on the East and West Coasts. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Gas prices are displayed at a Mobil gas station in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Gasoline prices are climbing as rising economic growth boosts oil prices and temporary refinery outages crimp gasoline supplies on the East and West Coasts. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

What you pay at the gas pump may soon be determined by a centuries old Shia religious convention: Taqleed (the obligation to follow dictates).

As the Sunni Jihadists continue their march on to Baghdad, thousands of Shiite volunteers in Iraq have responded to a call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Shia Islam's most revered scholar whose followers (muqaladeen) number in millions. These Shia volunteers may end up being the last line of defence against Al-Qaeda that now threatens Iraq's stability and global oil supplies.

The West's misadventures in Syria, sponsored by special interests, have created a monster too big to contain. In their haste to counter Syria's authoritarian regime, the U.S. and others aided and abetted the Al-Qaeda affiliated militants who received hundreds of millions in aid and weapons from charities and rogue state agents in Saudi Arabia and other affluent Arab countries. The Saudis have never hid their hatred of Shiites and have bankrolled Saddam Hussein's war against Iran. The Saudis are doing the same in Syria, and until recently, were joined by the Western states.

The Saudi and western-backed Jihadists don't recognize British drawn political boundaries. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is waging wars in Syria and Iraq. Already two major Sunni majority towns in Iraq, Mosul and Takreet, have fallen to the Jihadists. This even alarmed President Obama whose administration, until recently, were backing the Jihadists against the Syrian government. "I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria," President Obama responded earlier this week.

The prospect of Iraq falling back into the hands of Saddam loyalists, who now have shared interests with the Jihadists, does not bode well for Iraq's Shia majority or the Western world. Shiites in Iraq have suffered tremendously under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Husain who murdered Shiite leaders and their families to ensure they posed no threat to his autocratic rule. After the first Gulf War, the US signalled Iraqi Shiites to rebel against the Saddam regime. They complied, but paid a heavy price for their folly of acting on American persuasion. The US refused to support Shiites in their subsequent struggle, which Saddam crushed with utmost brutality.

The Jihadists are advancing to Baghdad through Sunni majority towns who would rather prefer the extremist Jihadists in control than a democratically elected Shiite government. Their choices are influenced by the world's longest lasting conflict between Shiites and Sunnis that erupted at the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. The Umayyads, who were in majority, wanted to wrestle control back from the Hashemites, the tribe of Islam's founding Prophet. Only fifty years later (680 CE), an Umayyad Caliph, Yazeed, killed Prophet's grandson Hussain and his family at the banks of Euphrates in Karbala. Thirteen centuries later, and after millions of deaths, Shiites and Sunnis are still fighting over who should have succeeded the Prophet.

This brings us back to the gas pumps in Canada. Iraq is the second largest oil producer in the OPEC group. An armed conflict in Iraq raises the prospects of disruption to global oil supplies. Oil prices hit a three-month high on the news of sectarian warfare in Iraq. This could have far-reaching consequences than the Shiites and Sunnis fighting over inheritance.



The US invasion of Iraq under false pretences (remember no weapons of mass destruction were ever found because they did not exist in the first place) put an end to the brutal Saddam regime. As a result, half a million Iraqis lost their lives. Iraq descended into a civil war that has pushed the minority Sunnis into the folds of Al-Qaeda inspired militants. The US has spent billions on the Iraq war that saw five thousand US soldiers killed. Thousands more from allied countries also perished in Iraq. Experts put the true cost of war at three trillion dollars.

After such massive sacrifices, more so by the Iraqis than others, Iraq continues to be in a state of chaos. While the international news media left Iraq along with the US forces, Iraq has remained newsworthy. Every week militants killed hundreds in bomb blasts. The violent death toll in 2013 alone was 8,800. Most killed are Shiites who are being targeted by those loyal to Saddam Hussain and Jihadists. They are ready to advance to Baghdad and beyond. An 83-year old Shia cleric though stands in their way.

Taqleed requires Shiite Muslims to follow a Marjeh, a grand Ayatollah, in all matters that require an interpretation of religious beliefs. Grand Ayatollah Sistani, an Iranian living in Iraq, has ordered all able-bodied Shiites to take up arms against the Jihadists. Thousands have responded to his call. Millions more from Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Syria will follow, if needed.

While this call will likely quash the Jihadist uprising, it could reignite Islam's sectarian war that may pitch Sunni (Wahabi) Saudis (world's second largest proven oil reserves) against the Shiite Iran (world's third largest proven oil reserves). You can then kiss your SUVs goodbye as the oil prices will go through the roof.

The Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shiite, is far from perfect. It has failed to create a shared sense of nationalism in Iraq that unites the Shiites and Sunnis in peaceful co-existence. However, Prime Minister Maliki remains the world's best hope against the Jihadists who, if left unchecked, would continue to wage wars against Shiites and the West.


Syria War in June