Because access to oil and natural gas is a major driving factor for foreign policy, it is necessary to look strategically at groups controlling the future of supplies. Understanding the changing power balance between Sunnis and Shiites, or Shias, in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula region also offers insights into the growing unrest there over democratic rights. The religious schism between Shiites and Sunnis that emerged in the 7th century, now mixed with oil, gas, political power and military muscle, has acquired a new volatility that goes ignored at international peril.Policymakers, the public and scholars recognize that Sunnis make up the majority of Muslims and that Shiites form a small minority. According to a Pew Research Center study in 2009, ???Of the total Muslim population, 10???13 percent are Shia Muslims and 87???90 percent are Sunni Muslims.???However, global generalization fails to focus on demographic distributions in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Nor does it take into account the geopolitical impact of Muslim sectarianism and the strategic implications of the Sunni-Shiite divide for access to natural resources from that energy rich region. As Saudi Arabia and its Sunni partners draw increasingly upon crude oil and natural gas resources to meet the demands of an energy-hungry world, Iran and its nearby Shiite partners hold on to similar resources not by choice but through sanctions and strife. So, in the long run, nations in the region with predominantly Shiite populations could determine who receives much-needed resources.When official demographic distributions, from CIA World Factbook July 2012 estimates, for the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula are examined, it becomes evident Sunnis comprise 36 percent of the overall population whereas Shiites make up 60 percent. Other Muslim groups, Bahais, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Hindus constitute the remaining 4 percentBahraini and Kuwaiti monarchies vest power in Sunni populations
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