December 22, The Iran Project – The relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has reached a certain level in recent months and can be compared with the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, but the main problem in this upward and downside situation is what will happen in the future.
From Cooperation to Confrontation
Iran and Saudi Arabia have not just become acquainted with each other. In the 20th century, both countries have witnessed the emergence of totalitarian kings which were totally supported by world powers and since that time, the religious rivalries have been emerging between Shia in Iran and Sunni in Saudi Arabia.
During the US-backed Pahlavi dynasty, Iran’s military was more powerful than Saudi Arabia, and Iran was deemed as the gendarme of the sensitive area of the Persian Gulf.
After the triumphs of Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran became a religious rival for Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the official policy of confronting Israel also Saudi Arabia was abandoned by the Arabs as a supporter of Palestine.
Other issues also fanned the flames of concerns in Saudi Arabia to the extent that Saudi government expressed distress over the emergence of revolution in Saudi Arabia and then the repression of Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) prayers happened.
Iran boycotted the Hajj for three years between 1988 and 1990 after clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police in 1987 left around 400 people dead.
Although Iran and Saudi Arabia re-established their relationship after the bloody Hajj year of 1987, these relations did not go away like before, and over time the tensions was skyrocketed despite the desire of both sides and eventually the 2015 Mina tragedy during the Hajj rituals fueled tensions between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia severed its diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016, following demonstrations in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Angry protesters set the diplomatic missions ablaze for the execution of top Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.
Tehran, Riyadh Rivalry over Regional Influence
The sphere of authority of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East has seriously intertwined in many arenas in a way that the cooperation between the two countries is not possible. On the other hand, due to the presence of a large number of Sunnis in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has long been promoting ideology of Wahhabism to control Iran’s authority in its sphere of influence.
Iran has also expanded its sphere of influence by supporting Shia and Sunni anti-arrogance movements.
Who Supplies Europe’s Energy?
Iran and Saudi Arabia, both, enjoy rich oil and gas resources and also are competing for supplying Europe energy.
In the meantime, the mediation role of big American companies in the energy deal for Europe and other countries cannot be ignored.
Saudi Arabia had always being in fidelity with US companies for oil extraction and sales, and the companies also shown that they consider no limits to protect their economic interests. In the other hand Saudi Arabia is a key energy, economic, and security partner to the US.
Riyadh’s Failure in the Region
In Syria, Saudi Arabia has made great efforts to defeat Syrian Prescient Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Because Riyadh thinks that fall of Assad would undermine Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Israel would become source of power in the region. And that situation would pave the way for transferring of energy to Europe via Syria without Iran’s meddling.
To accept Iran-Iraq cordial relations and empowerment of Shia was too hard for Saudi Arabia. As a result, Riyadh is keeping no stone unturned to create obstacles for Iraq and separate this Arab country from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Alternatively Afghanistan was another scene for Saudi Arabia to curb Iran by supporting Taliban and Al Qaeda in the desert.
Saudi Arabia even did not tolerate the proximity of rhetoric between Iran and Yemen’s, and is imposing an all-out attack along with economic blockade against that Arab country.
Saudi Arabia perceives the Houthis as an Iranian proxy. Domestically, the Houthis are unlikely to be able to govern the country and deal with its multiple insurgencies alone. Yemen will also require the financial backing of its much wealthier neighbors, above all Saudi Arabia, to prevent its economic collapse.
Due to the complex structure of the region in many disputed areas between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has not achieved its desired results. Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabia’s failure in mass media was more higher than Saudi Arabia’s real failures, and the Saudi crown prince does not tolerate such humiliation.
Military confrontation, yes or no?
The possibility of a military confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is better understood by comparing the current situation of this Arab state with the situation in Iraq before the attack on Iran. Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein turned the country into a stockpile of weapons, even after the end of the war with Iran, he invaded Kuwait.
Thanks to Saudi Arabia’s all-out support by US and other European countries, Riyadh enjoys various military systems.
Hence, it is unlikely that Mohamed bin Salman in the shadow of such weaponries dares to attacks Iran.
Besides, some experts believe that if Saudi King enters into a military confrontation with Iran, the war may pave the way for the Arab monarch collapse.
Due to Saudi Arabia’s engagement in Yemen war, Riyadh is too weak to enter into another military confrontation with a powerful country like Iran and attacking Iran now seems to be larger than Saudi Arabia’s size.
The military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has already happened in animations made by both sides. In a short animation, Iran has shown its military superiority to Saudi Arabia, and the Arab country has recently launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran in another animation.
In their fiction short story, Saudis enter the capital Tehran with victory and among the popular enthusiasm. These animated clashes are more a reminder of the US-Soviet cinematic rivalries during the Cold War, which were inspired by the Star Wars series and some other famous works and numerous non-famous works.
Efforts for Mediation
Mediatory efforts are being made by Oman, Russia and some other countries to reduce the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The United States is not also reluctant to reduce the tension and the possibility of a military conflict between the two sides.
But there is one country that is very happy over escalation of tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia which is not too hard to guess its name.