Saudi Vs Iran

Published:  12:24 AM, 15 November 2017

Cold war heats up

Cold war heats up

Saudi Arabia and Iran have never been the best of friends, and a recent escalation in tensions means Saudi Arabia and Iran are unlikely to become allies anytime soon, reports A Yemeni missile attack, the resignation of Lebanon's prime minister and a crown prince moving to consolidate his power have all seen tensions flare up across the region once again.

While experts agree the risk of military conflict remains low, there is no doubt the "Cold War" between Middle East rivals has been heating up for months.

The recent flare-ups are just the start of a long list of incidents between the two powerhouses, whose longstanding rivalry predates the Iranian revolution of 1979. The tensions have been years in the making. Riyadh and Tehran broke off diplomatic relations in January 2016 after Iranians stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy and consulate in response to the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

That followed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, which Riyadh feared was a step towards ending Iran's international isolation. Rhetoric between the two powers grew increasingly belligerent, including over Saudi Arabia's Gulf neighbor Qatar.

Riyadh and several of its Sunni allies broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of support for extremism and links with Iran, claims that it denies.

This month, the animosity reached new heights. First, the Saudi-supported prime minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, in a broadcast from Riyadh announced his resignation, blaming Iran's "grip" on his country via Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Several hours later, Saudi Arabia said its air defenses near Riyadh intercepted and destroyed a missile fired from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Shiite rebels.

That set off a fierce war of words between Riyadh and Tehran, with Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman accusing  Iran of "direct military aggression".

Tehran denied any involvement in the missile attack, with President Hassan Rouhani warning that Iranian "might" fend off any challenge.

Pointing to wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Clement Therme, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told the AFP the main cause of the current tensions is related to the "proxy confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia".

Recent months have seen changes in these confrontations that appear to have brought the tensions to a head, he said. In Iraq and Syria, the increasingly successful campaign against the Islamic State group has changed the situation on the ground. Offensives in both countries have forced the jihadists from nearly all the territory they seized in mid-2014.

As Iraq looks to a post-IS era, Riyadh has been taking steps to build stronger ties with the country's Shiite-dominated government. A flurry of visits between the two countries this year saw talk of a warming of ties, including a trip by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Riyadh in late October.

In Syria, meanwhile, the Iran-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad has over the past year managed to reassert control over large parts of the country by defeating, among others, rebel groups backed by Riyadh.

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