FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saudi-Iran Sectarian Conflict Escalates

by

Contrary to popular opinion, the current spat between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not necessarily a continuation or resurgence of a 1400 year old conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. It is true that through various proxies Saudi Arabia and Iran have been embroiled in a struggle for regional supremacy for many years. Nevertheless, their conflict has its origins in a more modern and prosaic set of circumstances.

Stability in the region has been severely tested ever since the United States occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and so both countries have sought to cement their positions within a volatile environment. The Syrian Civil war carries on unabated despite attempts to install a functioning peace process. More and more weapons pour into the country from all sides and the bloodletting continues. In Yemen too the war seems likely to continue on the same destructive course as before.

As a result, Saudi Arabia has begun to feel vulnerable. Its attempts to have Salafist radical forces remove the Assad regime in Syria have failed. Even worse, opposition forces have splintered and become increasingly radicalized, culminating in the setting up of the Islamic State, which is now a serious threat to Saudi stability. Moreover, the human suffering has been horrendous. Further, Saudi intervention in Yemen has been a strategic failure. The Saudis have accomplished precisely nothing but at a huge financial and human cost.

There seems little question that the execution of Nimr is a response to these regional events plus Iran’s reintegration into the international community in the wake of the US deal with it over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Saudi Arabia views the agreement between Washington and Tehran as a profound threat to its own regional position. Since mobilizing anti-Shiite sectarianism is a familiar move in its efforts to sustain its own position while containing Iranian influence, there seems little doubt that the execution was a deliberate act of escalation.

Saudi Arabia had tried to block the deal and is dealing with the rejection of its widely aired public opposition.

Nevertheless, that Saudi Arabia was willing to abandon its long term policy of carefully managing Shiite dissent, and carry out such a provocative act that would clearly result in a huge Shiite protest, is somewhat surprising.

It can perhaps best be understood not solely as an escalation of its rivalry with Iran, but rather as an attempt to consolidate its leadership of a revamped Sunni regional order. The recently announced Islamic coalition against terrorism and Saudi efforts to have the Yemen war seen as an example of Arab collective action are further examples of this kind of Saudi diplomacy.

The unity displayed during the Riyadh conference for Syrian opposition groups and the joint support for those rebel groups is, however, largely superficial since Qatar and Turkey continue to rival Saudi Arabia in the region.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia must continue to contend with growing Iranian geopolitical influence within the Middle East and will most certainly continue to use proxy war as a key instrument against Iran.

Dr. Fariborz Saremi is an Iranian strategic analyst based in Hamburg/Germany.Dr.Saremi is a regular contributor for World Tribun.com,Freepressers.com and Defense & Foreign Affairs. At times he has been a commentator for the German TV, ARD/NDR.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail