The Great Saudi-Iranian Proxy Game

„Iran and Saudi Arabia have their fingerprints on every battleground in the Middle East.[1] Both countries support proxy militias that align with their own politics, and both interfere in their neighbors‘ affairs to advance their own interests. These external interventions bolster foreign clients who, in turn, support the patron regime back home, further legitimizing Tehran and Riyadh’s roles as regional hegemons.

The purist version of Shiite Islam propagated by Iran and the Saudi-Sunni Wahhabi version are mirror images of each other. They are natural enemies that justify themselves by labeling each other apostates. The ritualistic chant of „Death to America“ at Iranian state-sponsored events is merely part of the script. Exporting the conservative Saudi form of Islam validates royal rule in a similar way.

Peace in the region will remain elusive as long as Tehran and Riyadh remain on a collision course. The ideal solution would be for both states to transform into democracies that no longer see each other as adversaries. In the meantime, Washington must do what it can to manage, rather than resolve, the conflict and shape the regional context in its favor.“ (…)