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Turmoil has seized much of the Muslim world.Conflicts like these reflect a number of factors, the most prominent of which are the conflicts between Islam's two sects, Sunni and Shiite, and between fundamentalists and reformists.Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite regime enjoys the support of Shiite powers, especially Iran, whose regional influence depends on a Shiite regime remaining in power. And that is precisely why Sunni powers – most prominently Saudi Arabia – are committed to toppling that regime.Today, most of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunnis.Iran, with 83 million, is the world's largest Shiite-majority country, followed by Pakistan with 30 million and India with 25 million. The "Shiite crescent" – including Iran and its immediate neighbors Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey – accounts for 70 percent of the sect's total population.Though Islam arrived in Iran by way of conquest in 637-651, the country did not officially adopt Shiism until later, with Shah Ismail I of the Safavid dynasty undertaking in 1501 the forcible conversion of the country's Sunni population.
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