26 January 2016
Saudi Arabia’s latest moves that precipitated the recent escalation in Sunni-Shiite sectarian tension in the Middle East are indicative of its sense of vulnerability about its mounting challenges as Iran normalises relations with the international community.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi Shiite cleric has predictably sparked off a quick series of events that resulted in the kingdom severing its diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran. This openly hostile political stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Iran is, in a way, a culmination of decades of tacit rivalry for regional influence and dominance since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Saudi Arabia has enough reasons to not escalate Sunni-Shiite tensions. Its long-standing ally, the United States, is focused on neutralising the ISIS threat by pushing for regional consensus on Syria. The Saudis’ latest moves complicate US efforts and risk its displeasure. Not only does Saudi Arabia face security issues from violent extremism, ISIS’ Caliphate project with its alternate form of Islamic government threatens the legitimacy of Saudi rule.
… Saleena Saleem is an Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 26/01/2016