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The Sunni and Shi’ite at the Hajj

Saudi Arabia Cautiously Navigating Conflict with Iran amid Arab Spring Storm

MEMRI: In light of the popular uprisings in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf, the past year has seen a considerable escalation of the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have been in conflict for many years. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are following with concern the political changes taking place in the various Arab countries, and the impact these changes could have on the balance of power between the Iran-led and Saudi-led camps in the Middle East.

Both countries have lost key allies as a result of the Arab Spring: Saudi Arabia has lost Egypt, its main ally in its leadership of the anti-Iran camp, due to that country’s preoccupation with domestic affairs. Iran has likewise lost its main ally, the Syrian regime, which is currently fighting for its survival amid the wave of protests sweeping the country; if the Syrian regime falls, Iran will be severely impacted, as will be the power-balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The difference between the Iranian and the Saudi approaches to the events in Syria is exacerbating the tension between them.

In addition, Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned about Iran’s growing infiltration of Iraq, especially following the withdrawal of the American troops from that country. Until now, the American presence to some extent neutralized the Iranian involvement in Iraq. But now that the Americans have withdrawn, Iraq, with its Shi’ite government, is becoming a major theatre of conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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