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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail