By: Sami Ahmed
Tension between the Saudi Arabia and Iran has grown significantly for the past year due to the question of control over the government of Yemen. The crisis in Yemen is a perfect definition of a proxy war, a war waged by smaller opposing sides but backed by larger nations wanting to get ‘in the war’ without directly fighting in it. While the radical Shiite Houthi rebels and their Iranian allies want control on one side, radical Sunni organizations and their Saudi allies want control on the other.
Though they share a hatred for each other; they are both very religious countries that have religious laws in place. Though they are both Islamic countries, they’re different in their beliefs. While Iran is a majority Shiite country, Saudi Arabia is a majority Sunni. The division between Shiite and Sunni has gone back centuries ago. Shiites believed that the prophet Muhammad’s son in law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, was his first successor. Sunni’s disagreed, saying that Prophet Muhammad’s successor was his father in law, Abu Bakr. This feud has led to centuries of distrust and hate between the two sects.
The feud between the two major Middle Eastern countries is due to also political reasons as well. Iran wants to support the Houthi movement in Yemen who want to take the country from the Saudi allied Sunni majority government. Seeing this threat in a country that directly borders much of Saudi Arabia’s southern frontier, the Saudis are participating in an air campaign of bombing Houthi strong points, deploying troops into the country, and supporting groups (some of which are linked to Al Qaeda) opposed to the Houthis.
It makes sense from a strategic standpoint why the Iranians and Saudis are focusing material into the country. If Yemen were to fall into Iranian hands and war were to break out with Saudi Arabia, Iran could use Yemen as a staging ground for an invasion of the country. The Saudis know this and want to use Yemen as a ‘satellite’ country so if war were to come, fighting would focus away from the home country. In recent news, Saudi Arabia’s execution of top Shiite clerics have greatly angered the minority Shia Muslims in the country. In the future, Iran could use this to their advantage by inciting rebellion in the Sunni majority country.
“The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia represents a conflict that has been going on for centuries. The great divide between Sunni and Shiite, with Saudi Arabia and Iran representing them respectively. Looking at Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite clerics and the leader of Iran calling for “divine wrath” on Saudi Arabia shows that the conflict is not going to die down soon.” Said junior Nick Orlando, who has been up to date with world events.
There have also been rumors that Saudi Arabia has been investing in nuclear weapons from Pakistan. From what is known, nukes from Pakistan have less range than the newest nuclear ballistic missiles of China, Russia, and the US but can easily target any place located in Iran. News like this can certainly make hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran heighten, causing Iran to invest more into nuclear weaponry and can bring fatal consequences to the region in the future if tensions do not die down. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has quoted of this allegation and has assured the world that the “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the region, rejects the acquisition of nuclear weapons by anyone, especially nuclear weapons in the Middle East region. We hope that such weapons will be banned or eliminated from the region by every country in the region.”