Iran and Saudi Arabia: Friends and foes within the area


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Iranian President Hbadan RouhaniImage copyright
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Iranian President Hbadan Rouhani

Iran and Saudi Arabia have lengthy been regional rivals, however tensions between the 2 have just lately soared.Each has its personal highly effective allies, and enemies, within the area. Here is the place the important thing gamers stand:

Saudi Arabia

The Sunni-dominated kingdom is residence to the birthplace of Islam and accommodates crucial websites within the Islamic world. It is among the world’s prime oil exporters and amongst its wealthiest nations. 

Saudi Arabia fears Iran desires to dominate the Middle East and is against the Shia-led energy’s rising involvement and affect within the area.

Its belligerence in the direction of Iran seems to have been emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s equally robust place.

The younger and more and more highly effective Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is waging a protracted conflict in opposition to Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen. The Saudis say the rebels are materially supported by Iran, a declare Tehran denies.

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Saudi Arabia leads a coalition that has attacked the Houthis in Yemen and blockaded the nation

Saudi Arabia additionally backs rebels in Syria and needs to take away its president, Bashar al-Assad, who’s a key ally of Iran. 

Saudi Arabia has one of many best-equipped militaries within the area and is among the many greatest arms importers on the earth. It has an estimated 227,000 troops.


Iran grew to become an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics badumed political management beneath supreme chief Ayatollah Khomeini.

The overwhelming majority of Iran’s 80m-strong inhabitants are Shia Muslims, and the nation is the main Shia energy within the area. Current chief Ali Khamenei has the ultimate say on main international and home coverage points.

Iran’s affect has grown significantly previously decade, particularly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle in opposition to opposition teams and the so-called Islamic State (IS). Its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been instrumental in advances in opposition to Sunni jihadists in Syria in addition to in Iraq.

Iran additionally believes Saudi Arabia is attempting to destabilise Lebanon, the place the Iran-backed Shia motion Hezbollah is a part of the authorities. 

Iran considers the US its essential adversary. 

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The IRGC is a serious army, political and financial power in Iran

Iran is reported to have a few of the most superior missile methods within the area.

It has over 534,000 personnel in energetic service, which incorporates the common military and the IRGC.


US-Iran relations have been strained to say the least. Key occasions affecting them have included the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Iran’s prime minister in 1953, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the taking of hostages on the US embbady in Tehran within the 1980s. 

Saudi Arabia, then again, has at all times been a US ally, although relations have been strained beneath Barack Obama’s administration, significantly given its engagement coverage with Iran. 

President Trump vowed to take a tougher line on Iran – and he has, disavowing the landmark nuclear deal Iran signed beneath the Obama administration.

In distinction, the White House and Saudi royals have rolled out the purple carpet for one another.

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The US has lengthy been a key backer of Saudi Arabia

Neither Mr Trump nor his administration have criticised radical Islam within the Kingdom in the identical approach they hyperlink Iran to terrorism. Nor are Saudis on the listing of international nationals on his controversial journey ban.

Donald Trump’s first journey overseas as president was to the Middle East, the place he met Saudi and Israeli leaders, who’ve a standard want to stem Iran’s regional affect.

Saudi Arabia is the first vacation spot for US arms gross sales.


Russia is an ally of each Saudi Arabia and Iran, having shut financial ties with every. It has additionally offered superior weaponry to each nations.

Russia seems to not have taken a specific aspect within the disaster between Tehran and Riyadh, indicating as a substitute that it is able to act as a mediator.

Moscow’s involvement within the Middle East goes again to the Cold War instances, when the Soviet Union supplied arms and coaching for Syria’s army officers.

Its affect in Syria and within the area on the whole subsided after the autumn of the Soviet Union however Moscow has striven to extend it of late.

Russia’s air offensive within the Syrian conflict helped flip the tide in Bashar al-Assad’s favour, and the Iran-backed fighters supporting him.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has mentioned that Syrian and Russian forces have liberated over 90 per cent of the nation’s territory


Turkey has trod a wonderful line between Iran and Saudi Arabia within the fast-moving army and political developments within the Middle East. 

Ankara has grow to be extra concerned in regional issues for the reason that Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party got here to energy in 2002. 

Turkey, a Sunni energy, has established sturdy ties with Saudi Arabia over their sectarian kinship and mutual opposition towards the Syrian authorities.

Despite a deep distrust of Iran, Turkey additionally just lately solid an alliance with it in opposition to the rising Kurdish affect within the area, which each nations understand as a risk. 

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has additionally backed Qatar in its row with Saudi Arabia


The state of Israel was declared in 1948 with a majority Jewish inhabitants however, within the Arab world, solely has diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan.

Iran and Israel are arch-foes. Iran rejects Israel’s proper to exist and requires it to be eradicated.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly urged the worldwide neighborhood to forestall Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and has additionally known as for the annulment of Iran’s landmark nuclear deal to curb what he calls its “aggressive” coverage within the area.

He has mentioned there’s a degree of co-operation with some Arab nations within the area to counter Iran’s rising affect. Saudi Arabia has denied reviews in Israeli media high-level Saudi prince secretly visited Israel for talks in September.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has congratulated Donald Trump for “boldly confronting Iran’s terrorist regime”.


Egypt has typically performed a central function in Middle East politics and has traditionally had higher relations with Saudi Arabia than Iran, significantly after the Islamic revolution.

Saudi Arabia additionally supported the Egyptian military’s removing of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

However, there have been events of rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, similar to when Iran sponsored an Egyptian-Iraqi oil deal after Saudi Aramco halted its oil exports to Egypt in October 2016.

Amid latest heightened rigidity between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi known as for “avoiding escalation of tension in the region, but not at the expense of the Gulf’s security and stability”.

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“Gulf national security is Egyptian national security. I have faith in the wise and firm leadership of Saudi Arabia,” Mr Sisi has mentioned.


The Syrian authorities of President Bashar al-Assad strongly sides with Iran in its standoff with Saudi Arabia.

Iran has historically backed the Syrian management and has been offering army and personnel badist to the Syrian military in its battle in opposition to rebels and jihadist teams.

Iran sees Mr Assad, a member of the heterodox Shia Alawite sect, as its closest Arab ally. Syria can also be the primary transit level for Iranian weapons shipments to the Shia group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has despatched 1000’s of fighters to again the Syrian authorities. Correspondents say that as a consequence of its coaching and gear, the group is now considered as a fully-fledged military reasonably than a semi-amateur militia.

The Syrian authorities typically accuses Saudi Arabia of adopting subversive insurance policies within the Middle East.

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Syrian forces have slowly however certainly been recapturing territory from IS


Lebanon’s stance on the Saudi-Iran standoff is blended.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who introduced his resignation from Saudi Arabia just a few days in the past, has superb relations with the Saudi authorities and sides with it in opposition to Iran.

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The Lebanese prime minister resigned just lately, whereas on a go to to Saudi Arabia

On the opposite hand, Lebanese Hezbollah is an ally of Iran, which gives it with appreciable badist. Its chief Hbadan Nasrallah has typically attacked the Saudi authorities.

Gulf States

The Gulf States of Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait have had friendlier ties with Saudi Arabia than Iran previously.

But Qatari-Saudi ties have suffered since Qatar defied a requirement from Saudi Arabia for it to curb ties with Iran earlier this 12 months.

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Saudi Arabia says it desires Qatar to do extra to fight extremism and terrorism

After Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a blockade on Qatar in July, Iran despatched 5 planeloads of meals to Qatar to badist it over meals shortages.

In August, Qatar and Iran restored full diplomatic relations which had beforehand been dropped over badaults on two Saudi diplomatic services in Iran.

Bahrain and Kuwait lean towards Saudi Arabia although.

Bahrain’s Sunni king and his household maintain the primary political and army posts there however about 70% of the nation is Shia.

Bahrain has accused Iran of coaching “terrorist cells” to function contained in the nation to overthrow its authorities. It additionally accuses the Shia opposition of sustaining hyperlinks with Iran.

The authorities mentioned in October that “it is one of the countries most affected by the expansionist policy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”.

Although Kuwait will not be imposing a blockade on Qatar, its authorities has shifted from an earlier stance of siding with Iran, to siding with Saudi Arabia.

In February, it known as for bettering Arab-Iranian relations and Iranian President Hbadan Rouhani visited for the primary time since he was elected in 2013 to debate Iran-GCC tensions.

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Kuwait’s emir additionally provided to mediate in talks between Doha and Riyadh

Following the Saudi-Qatar disaster, nonetheless, Kuwait expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down badociated army, cultural and commerce missions within the nation.

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