Terry Jeffrey

Shortly before Iraq finally formed its coalition government this spring, one of that nation's leading Shiite Ayatollahs, Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, gave a televised sermon explaining his views on jihad.

"If the objective and subjective circumstances materialize, and there are soldiers, weapons and money -- even if this means using biological, chemical and bacterial weapons -- we will conquer the world, so that 'There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah' will be triumphant over the domes of Moscow, Washington and Paris," the Ayatollah said in a sermon recorded by The Middle East Media Research Institute.

"This Arab Islamic nation must obtain a nuclear bomb," the Ayatollah said in a subsequent TV interview.

Now, it is an ironic fact that among those who ought to be praying most fervently for the success of the teetering U.S. experiment in democracy in Iraq are the non-democratic leaders of nearby Sunni Arab regimes.

Last week in Cairo, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conferred with a group of such leaders from Egypt, Jordan and the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Her agenda included the efforts to restore stability in Iraq and to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Sunni Arab leaders now see these causes as intimately linked -- because they see themselves sinking into a Cold War, or worse, with a Shiite Iran that is exploiting the unrest in Shiite-majority Iraq.

Events this summer intensified longstanding Sunni Arab anxiety about Iran's intentions. In Iraq, even after the formation of the coalition government, the level of sectarian violence exploded -- driven in large part by Iranian-backed Shiite militias. In Lebanon, Iranian-backed Hezbollah launched an unprovoked war against Israel and plunged that nation into chaos.

An unbridled sectarian civil war in Iraq, Sunni Arab leaders fear, could gallop across their borders, with Iran arming local Shiite militants just as it has in Lebanon and Iraq.

Were Iran to secure nuclear weapons, it could sow Shiite revolution with impunity.

The Sunni Arab anxiety about Iraq and Iran is rooted in demographics. Every GCC state is a Sunni monarchy or emirate that governs at least some Shiites. Bahrain, according to the State Department report on religious freedom, has a Shiite majority that has "often resented minority Sunni Muslim rule." Kuwait's Shiite minority is 30 percent; the United Arab Emirates', 15 percent; and Qatar's, 10 percent. Oman, said State, has "a small but significant population of Shiite Muslims concentrated in the capital area and along the country's Batinah coast."

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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