In This Review

Reaching for Power: The Shi'a in the Modern Arab World
Reaching for Power: The Shi'a in the Modern Arab World
By Yitzhak Nakash
Princeton University, 2006, 248 pp

In two Arab countries, Iraq and Bahrain, Shiites constitute a clear majority, with over 60 percent of the population. They are the largest religious group in Lebanon (34 percent) and a minority of perhaps 8 percent in Saudi Arabia, concentrated in the oil-producing Eastern Province. All of these Shiite communities are near to Iran, the largest Shiite state, and all have a recent history of being denied a proportionate share of power and of struggling against such discrimination. All have recently made progress, thanks to a dramatic turnaround in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall, significant changes in Lebanese power balances in the past decade or so, sputtering improvement in Bahrain, and the uncertain beginnings of change in Saudi Arabia. This is the story that Nakash skillfully relates on a country-by-country basis. Can the power for which the Shiites are reaching be achieved without creating new destabilizing imbalances? Nakash describes fairly sanguine prospects, while concluding that the most critical case at the moment is Iraq.