Domestic Issues Fuel Saudi-Iranian Spat

(Wall Street Journal) Yaroslav Trofimov - Saudi Arabia's escalating crisis with Iran, sparked by the execution of a leading Shiite Saudi cleric, is as much about domestic politics in both nations as it is about their regional tussle for domination of the Middle East. The most dangerous potential challenge to the Saudi regime has always come from conservative elements of its Sunni majority - the same people who are most hostile to Shiite Iran. "Many Saudis have perceived the Saudi stance until recently as too timid. The perception by many is that Iran is a bully, and that only a firm response can get it to back off," said Prince Faisal bin Farhan, a Saudi analyst. "The domestic dimension of this crisis is underappreciated: The execution of Nemer al-Nemer was in a large part meant to legitimize the Saudi government's crackdown on Sunni extremists," said Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain. Most of the 47 men put to death by Saudi Arabia on Saturday were Sunni militants affiliated with al-Qaeda.

2016-01-05 00:00:00

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