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:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail