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. . . will grip the neck of Saudi politicians.”  Thus spake Ayatullah Khamenei , Supreme Leader of Shi’ite Iran, condemning the Sunni Saudis for executing a prominent Shi’ite cleric.  Beyond the question of capital punishment, which civilized countries no longer practise, beyond the question of the guilt or innocence of the beheaded cleric, there is here not only a frightening, primitive view of God as Divine Avenger, but a comfortable certitude about which side He is on.

It is hard to be optimistic about the possibility of reconciliation between Islam’s Sunni majority and the oil-rich Shi’ite minority.  How can we dare to take sides in this War of Religion ?  The cynics (the optimists ?) hope for “M A D” – “Mutual Assured Destruction”, which would mean the end of Islam.  It is not going to happen.  The best we can hope for is containment, politically if possible, militarily if necessary.

” ‘Vengeance is mine’, saith the Lord. ”  But His devout followers on both sides, disciples of the same Prophet, are willing to offer a helping hand to His.  For the foreseeable future, the whole world is in harm’s way, because Shi’ites say that Islam’s leader must be descended from Ali, the fourth Caliph, while Sunnis say he must be elected.  Ample justification for a World War in a Mad, Mad, Mad World.