Saudi-Iran Rift

There’s a lot that’s been written about the most recent iteration of the Saudi-Iran split, much of it analytical and useful, and some of it interesting to read. But what do you actually need to know about this split between two of the most powerful countries in the Middle East?

  1. How did this all start? Well, the two countries have long been competing for regional influence, but this particular episode was started by the execution of a Shia cleric by Saudi Arabia, sparking massive protests throughout Shia areas, particularly in Iran. In Tehran in fact, the Saudi embassy was assaulted, probably with some amount of tacit Iranian government approval.
  2. It’s mostly about political power, but also involves the split between the two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia. The difference between the two started out a long time ago, over differences in political succession, but has persisted to the present day. Although Saudi Arabia is primarily Sunni and Iran primarily Shia, the geography of the two sects are not nearly as clearcut as rhetoric tends to paint it.
  3. Why does this spat matter in regional and international relations? Well, for one, it will likely be incredibly detrimental to the Syrian peace talks…also it makes life very awkward for the US.

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