The tug-of-war for regional dominance: Why do Iran and Saudi Arabia hate each other?
Both countries have been engaged in a fierce tug-of-war for regional dominance since ages.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are known for their fierce rivalry because of their constant fight for dominance in the region. However, the recently escalating tensions have brought their rivalry into the limelight once again.
Why do Iran and Saudi Arabia hate each other? What makes them the most bitter arch-rivals? And how does it affect political dynamics in the region overall?
Well, here’s how.
The feud between the two extremely influential neighbors is largely fuelled by two factors:
- their desperation for regional dominance.
- the religious differences.
The rivalry between both Muslim countries is primarily aggravated by religious differences, as each follows one of the two main branches of Islam. While Iran is dominated by Shia Muslims, Saudi Arabia recognizes itself as the hegemon of Sunni Islam.
Since both of the countries see themselves as an authority for followers of two distant branches of Islam, their rivalry influences the followers of Sunnism and Shiaism across the middle-east as well as other parts of the world as well.
Bitter after the 1979 revolution:
The history of Islam has the strongest link with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Being the birth-place of the religion, the monarchy enjoyed the security of being the sole, unchallenged leader of the global Muslim community. However, after 1979, the scenario changed.
Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution gave birth to a revolutionary theocracy, a new type of state in the region. The ideology and the use of political Islam were capable of creating an influence across the borders as well – which directly challenged the control Saudi Arabia had previously enjoyed.
The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq:
Iran’s critics say it is intent on establishing itself or its proxies across the region, and achieving control of a land corridor stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean.
During the last two decades, Saudi-Iran relations have kept deteriorating. The friction has increased because of the political events in the region. The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq overthrew Saddam Hussein. Saddam, a Sunni Arab, was a major opponent to Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.
His dismissal led to the formation of a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. Ever since then, Iraq has been a major stage for Iran-Saudi conflict, where Iranian influence has been growing.
The 2011 uprisings across the Arab world which led to political instability in the region, further provided both countries with a golden opportunity to amplify their influence in the region, particularly in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.
Who are their allies?
Who has the upper hand?
”The strategic rivalry is heating up because Iran is in many ways winning the regional struggle”,
President Bashar al-Assad, having support from Iran and Russia, has managed to oust rebel group groups backed by Saudi Arabia. Marcus further writes that Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s ‘militaristic adventurism’ to curb Iranian influence is the cause of rising tensions.
”He is waging a war against the rebel Houthi movement in neighboring Yemen, in part to stem perceived Iranian influence there, but after four years this is proving a costly gamble.”
Lebanon, who is Iran’s strongest ally, has been a stage for the Saudi-Iran rivalry as well. It is believed that Saudis forced Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whom they backed, to resign because of Hezbollah’s involvement in regional conflicts. Hezbollah is a politically powerful bloc and controls a huge, heavily armed fighting force.
Iran VS Saudi Arabia | Military Might:
It is highly unlikely that both countries will ever engage in a full-fledged direct war. The US, Saudi Arabia and its allies see Iran as a ‘destabilizing force’ in the Middle-east, which is why they deem it necessary to confront Tehran’s rising influence, by whatever means, wherever necessary.
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