To make matters worse, the struggle for authority between Iran's President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei has ended badly, for the Ayatollah's party now controls enough seats to eliminate the office of the president entirely and enable the Ayatollah to rule the nation by fiat. As bad as the western media made Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad look, he was actually the more moderate of the two. But now there is no one left to act as a moderating influence on the Ayatollah, and if his inflammatory remarks are any indication, it does not bode well for maintaining peace in the region.
The final piece of this particular conundrum is Iran's nuclear power program, of which the previous reference shows Ayatollah Khamenei to be an ardent supporter. As I have stated on Blogcritics for years, despite any claim otherwise, Iran is striving as hard as they can to develop a nuclear weapon; not to defend against America or Israel (for we are the excuses, not the reason), but to counterbalance the nukes possessed by Sunni Pakistan.
We've all watched this death spiral before, in the Cold War. But cooler heads prevailed and the human race survived, perhaps because the cooler heads understood that the very survival of the human race depended on maintaining the peace. Such is not the case with the Sunni and the Shi'a. Not only do they have no such fear that the whole world would pay the ultimate price for their folly, but both sects are absolutely sure that God will bring them victory.
We can only hope that here, too, cooler heads will prevail. Otherwise, the only safe place in the Middle East will be Mecca, for neither side would dare to destroy their holy city. If worse comes to worst, I would expect that the Sunnis would prevail, for not only do the Sunnis comprise the significant majority of the population and wealth of the world's Islamic nations, but the West, and particularly America, may well be drawn in on Saudi Arabia's side; too much of our economic national interest is tied up therein.
If this conflict does come to pass, however, one can only hope that the world (including America's religious right) takes it as a hard-learned lesson of the wisdom of the separation of Church and State.