Two factors that have driven the sectarian violence in Iraq have been the past, the brutal domination of the southern Shia and northern Kurds by the minority Sunni, and the future, oil wealth that appeared to be almost entirely within the Shia and Kurdish territories leaving the Sunni central area bereft of peteroleum wealth.
Already hostile to the Sunni, the Shiites and Kurds were less than enthusiastic about the idea of sharing what they've come to see as their oil resources with the gang who once oppressed them and, worse, had almost nothing to offer in return. In the north and the south, partition was definitely an option.
To the Sunnis, however, the idea of partition was a threat to cut them out of Iraq's oil wealth and leave this once dominant group with little to show but empty, barren desert.
Now there's hope that improves the prospects for achieving either a peaceful partition or a peaceful, united Iraq - Sunni oil. Foreign oil exploration companies, using previously unexamined or only partly-examined seismic data, have concluded that the Sunni region may actually have significant, untapped oil reserves.
Initial studies have already identified sites believed to hold 15-billion barrels of oil from one series of wells alone and three trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
At the moment there's little more than promising studies with actual production years away and then only after peace is restored, but the promise itself may bring political rewards in the near future as great as the financial rewards to be had down the road.
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