Issue Brief on “Tensions in Iran-Saudi Relations and Future Prospects”


As entities with sound state structure and strong governments, both Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) hold a significant place in the turbulent region of Middle East. The strain between their relations is neither recent nor unprecedented. However, their conflict is often shrouded in a mist of religious ideologies and sectarianism. But it is a rift much deeper than that. Earlier this year, a famous Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was executed by the Saudi government along with 47 others on claims of terrorism. This triggered outrage in Iran and the over-all Shia community around the world. The Saudi Embassy in Iran was stormed by angry protestors and thus tensions escalated between the two countries which resulted in straining the relations between these two states. The Hajj stampede of 2015 was yet another bump in the road.

 Flaring statements were delivered, unfortunately by people that hold responsible ranks and offices. But diplomatic stand-offs between Iran and KSA are an oft-repeated phenomenon.  Their relationship is generally described in terms of theological differences.  In order to understand their conflict objectively, it is imperative to explore its strategic and political connotations.

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