Domestic and Regional Implications of Escalated Saudi-Iran Conflict

(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University) Joshua Teitelbaum - By executing prominent Shiite leader Nimr al-Nimr, the Saudi King and his son the Deputy Crown Prince sent a strong signal to Iran, to the kingdom's beleaguered Shiite minority, and to the world. Saudi Arabia is still at its core a Wahhabi state, and traditionally Wahhabism abhors Shi'ism as a perversion of the true Islamic creed. Nimr called openly for God to take the lives of the Saudi dynasty. For the Saudis he was a leader who had to be stopped. To its Iranian Shiite rival, Sunni Riyadh was saying that it would absolutely not tolerate intervention in its internal affairs. It was telling its own Shiites that it would not allow "Arab Spring"-like dissent. And to the world, Salman and Muhammad were signaling that the Saudis were growing into their new role as a defender and leader of the Sunni Muslim countries. In the background is the perception in the kingdom, not unfounded, that the Obama administration is abandoning its traditional allies. Washington's acquiescence to the Iran deal left Iran a nuclear threshold state, unfettered to continue its military ballistic missile program and advance a hostile regional agenda. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is heading the Saudi diplomatic effort against Iran. Jubeir, Riyadh's former ambassador to Washington, remembers that in 2011 the Iranians tried to have him assassinated. The writer is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

2016-01-11 00:00:00

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