The world has been witnessing the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia from years now. This struggle continuously changes its reason, like sometimes it is claimed that it is due to religion divided in to Sunni-Shi’i sectarian conflicts and sometimes it seems that power is the culprit of such a relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia
Iran and Saudi Arabia are believed to be in a state of cold war. They are two biggest powers within the Middle East and their deteriorating relationship is leaving a negative impact on not only Middle East but the whole world. The struggle between them started in 1979, when Saudi Arabia was threatened by the dominance of Iran and to keep Iran away from dominance Saudi Arabia supported Iraq during the Iran- Iraq war. A brief timeline of the struggle is given below:
1980-1988 Saudi Arabia supported Iraq in Iran-Iraq war.
1988-1990 Ira boycotts Hajj in response to Saudi Arabia’s restriction on Iranian pilgrims.
1991-2013 Both the countries tried to improve their relationship.
2011- Two Iranians charged by U.S. with attempting murder of Saudi Ambassador, Saudi Arabia accuses Iran for protests in Bahrain.
2014- Saudi Arabian authorities issue a death sentence for Nimr al Nimr, a Shiite cleric involved in the 2011 protests.
Islamic religion has been divided by people with a common argument between Sunnis and Shias. Saudi Arabia and Iran are two powerful countries who have taken each of that division and are facing each other as rivals. Even though both sectarians share common beliefs but after the death of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) were split in these two sectarians each claiming the other one wrong. All around the world Sunnis and Shias are witnessed to be in front of each other, letting one another down. By some people, the rivalry of Saudi Arabia and Iran is a result of Sunni-Shia rivalry. It is important not to overstate the division. Sunnis and Shia share fundamental beliefs, and have co-existed for centuries – the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is better understood in terms of a power struggle in the Middle East and beyond.
Power and dominance struggle
If the struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia is seem in respect to power and dominance, then the rivalry between them makes more sense. Two major powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, one region which is Middle East and the last nail on coffin is the opposite religious sectarians; all these factors make them nothing more but each other’s rivals.
Speaking about recent events, the Iranian nuclear deal has threatened Saudi Arabia that it may soon lose its power and dominance in Gulf. Whenever, such events take place the struggling relationship between both the countries becomes worse which also suggests that deep inside they are fighting over dominance and do not want the other party to gain the same position. Both the countries have been taking steps that also suggest that they are fighting for power. One such example is their relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan is a country where there are both Sunnis and Shias and with comments or taking sides of any one of Saudi Arabia or Iran can also create intercountry rivalry in Pakistan.
Just like Saudi Arabia has joined with nine other countries in the region and has made them against Iran, it has also been trying to force Pakistan to pick a side. Pakistan has good relationships with both Saudi Arabia and Iran so Pakistan just backs off and does not pick sides. If the broader picture of these events is seen, Saudi Arabia is gathering countries with it to gain more power and to make Iran alone and powerless. If it was just about different religious point of views, then Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have gone that far.
A major dilemma of their power struggle is Syrian war. In fact, Iran and Saudi Arabia and just like two boxers who are fighting for the title but the only difference is that instead of enjoying the match, the audience like Syria are suffering. Iran and Saudi Arabia, as usual have picket opposite sides of Syrian civil war which is resulting in more deaths and casualties. It seems like Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting each other by using Syria as a tool, whoever wins gets the dominance over the region.
Both the countries have several conflicts like Syria-Yemen, Sunni-Shias, power gaining, nuclear policies etc. But the main point of consideration is that their major conflict is power dominance. All the other conflicts are mere exaggeration and tools to release their frustration for each other. Saudi Arabia and Iran are upgrading their hostilities from rivalry to arch-nemesis status, driven by conflicting agendas, competition for leadership and dominance, and religious and ethnic differences. On a conclusive note, the rivalry of both the countries is in fact traditional competition for regional dominance.
- Poole, Thom. 2016. Iran and Saudi Arabia’s great rivalry explained. January 4. Accessed March 27, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/nws/world-middle-east-35221569.
- SALEEM, HYDER. 2016. A Power Struggle Between Iran And Saudi Arabia Is The Main Cause Of War In Syria. November 17. Accessed March 27, 2017. https://www.parhlo.com/a-power-struggle-between-iran-and-saudi-arabia-is-the-main-cause-of-war-in-syria/.
- 2016. Timeline of Iran-Saudi Relations. January 6. Accessed March 26, 2017. http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2016/jan/06/timeline-iran-saudi-relations
- 2016. What’s the beef? A brief history of Saudi-Iran relations. January 4. Accessed March 27, 2017. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2016/1/4/whats-the-beef-a-brief-history-of-saudi-iran-relations.