Will 'Jasmine Revolutions' Give Iran More Say on Oil Prices?

Includes: DTO, OIL, OILC
by: Soner Kistak
For more than 1,300 years, Shiites, which represent just 10 to 15 percent of the world’s Muslims, have been politically insignificant. Except for Iran, they have been excluded from the ruling elite, and they have been governed by Sunni monarchs in the region.
For example, Ottomans have viewed the Shiites with suspicion, and they were concerned about their relationship with Iran, the historical sponsor of the Shiites.
This situation is still the reality in many different countries in the Middle East. Bahrain is governed by a Sunni monarchy with a majority Shiite population. Similarly, most of the eastern regions of Saudi Arabia have Shiite majorities, with tribal links with the Shiites of Bahrain. The eastern province of Saudi Arabia is home to most of the country’s oil wealth.
As one can imagine, Saudis are growing increasingly concerned about the rising power of Shia Iran and tend to view disturbances in Bahrain as part of an Iranian plot. In addition to these developments, the post-Saddam Iraq has also witnessed the increase of Shiites’ political power. The Iraqi Shiites constitute around 60% of the Iraqi population and have very strong links with Iranian clerics. With the popular protest movements, this could mean a higher and stronger representation of Shiites in different Middle Eastern countries.
If one looks at the percentage of proven oil reserves in countries with a strong Shiite presence, one can easily see that in the near future, Shiites, which have strong cultural ties with Iran, will have more political say over half of the world's proven oil reserves (see table).
Given the fragile balance between the West and Iran in the region, the results of the Jasmine revolutions could be one where the political and economic clout of the Iranians increase in the Middle East and on the future of oil, the world's most strategic commodity. This would certainly be an unexpected outcome of the Jasmine revolutions.

Oil Producing Countries with sizeable Shiite population
Proved Oil Reserves (% of World Reserves)
Saudi Arabia

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