Fellow, Middle East Program, Stimson Center
Middle East Correspondent, National Public Radio
Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
F. Gregory Gause III
Senior Fellow, Brookings Doha Center
Director, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University
Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, CFR
Vali R. Nasr
Dean, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
The Roots and Future of Sectarianism in the Gulf (March 2014)
Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment explains the limits of analyzing conflicts solely through the Sunni-Shia prism, with a focus on sectarianism in the Gulf.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Snubs a Saudi Invite (June 2014)
Brookings senior fellow Suzanne Maloney explores Iran-Saudi relations.
Saudi Arabia’s Hidden Uprising (May 2014)
Saudi Arabia has largely suppressed a Shia uprising in the kingdom, according to this BBC report.
Syria’s Uprising Within an Uprising (January 2014)
Sunni rebels in Syria are fighting against their coreligionists from ISIS, complicating the sectarian fault lines of Syria’s civil war, explains Rania Abouzeid of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Rise of Sunni Foreign Fighters in Syria (December 2013)
Foreign fighters in Syria, especially Sunnis with Western passports, are a looming risk for many countries. Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy tracks the rise of foreign Sunni fighters.
Iran-backed Shia Militias Flock to Syria (March 2014)
The Guardian reports on the involvement of Iraqi Shia militias in Syria’s war.
Bahrain’s Fake Sectarian War (June 2013)
Reza Aslan explains in this 2013 Foreign Affairs essay how Bahrain exploited the kingdom’s sectarian divide to discredit a nonsectarian uprising for greater political freedom.
The New Sectarianism (April 2013)
Geneive Abdo of the Brookings Institution uses Lebanon and Bahrain as case studies to explore heightened Sunni-Shia tensions following the “Arab Awakening” protests of 2011.
Iraq’s Sunnis and the State (August 2013)
Iraq’s Sunnis have grown frustrated with the political process, and the Shia government’s crackdown on peaceful protests have rekindled a Sunni insurgency, the International Crisis Group explains in this 2013 report.
Islam: Sunni and Shiites (January 2009)
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reviews the basics of the Sunni-Shia divide.
When the Shiites Rise (July 2006)
Vali Nasr explains how the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq helped launch a Shia revival in the country and the Middle East in this Foreign Affairs article. Nasr expands on the roots of the Sunni-Shia divide in his 2007 book "The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future."
Across the Arab World, a Widening Rift (February 2007)
Evidence of simmering sectarian tensions is examined in this sweeping report on the region by the late Middle East correspondent Anthony Shadid.
The Partisans of Ali (February 2007)
This five-part NPR series explores the Sunni-Shia divide.
Mapping the Global Muslim Population (October 2009)
This demographic study by Pew Research maps the global Muslim population. Pew also studies Sunni and Shia attitudes, and its 2012 poll shows that many Muslims worry about religious conflict.
Can You Tell a Sunni from a Shiite? (October 2006)
Many U.S. counterterrorism officials struggle to explain the differences between Sunnis and Shias in this New York Times article.
Apocalyptic Prophecies Motivate Shia and Sunni Fighters (April 2014)
Shia and Sunni fighters around the world use end-times prophecies to justify their involvement in the wars in Iraq and Syria, Mariam Karouny of Reuters reports.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah Turns Toward Syria (May 2014)
The International Crisis Group examines Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shia Militias (August 2013)
This CTC Sentinel article explores the regional expansion of Iraqi Shia militias into Syria.
Iran’s Shadow Commander (September 2013)
The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins profiles Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian commander in charge of his country’s proxy war efforts in Iraq and Syria.
Al-Qaeda: A Persistent Threat (2014)
The RAND Corporation tracks the evolution of al-Qaeda and other Salafi groups and assesses the threats posed by various affiliates.
The ISIS Battle Plan (June 2014)
The Institute for the Study of War examines ISIS battle plans in Iraq. The Washington-based think tank has published many reports on ISIS and monitors the group's evolution in Iraq and Syria.
These discussion questions, essay questions, activities and assignments, and supplementary resources are designed to help educators use “The Sunni-Shia Divide” InfoGuide in the classroom through an active, learner-centered approach.
Ideas for questions to use in facilitating full-class discussions, assigning small group discussion topics, or posting on a class discussion board. Questions allow students to critically reflect on the material provided in the InfoGuide and hone their communication skills.
Suggestions for essay topics that enable students to dive deeper into the material found in the InfoGuide and conduct their own research and analysis.
Activities and Assignments
In-class activity ideas and homework assignments based on “The Sunni-Shia Divide” that promote participatory learning and critical thinking. These can be adapted based on students’ levels and classroom needs. For high school teachers, these activities are accompanied by a list and description of the Common Core State Standards they meet.