August 17, 2018
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Raging fire
Impact of Saudi-Iran rivalry in MENA region Diplomats and officials of Saudi Arabia are privately revealing that if the present Gulf crisis persists it may lead to a round of war where Iran may take side to spread its influence. In recent years, the foreign policies of the Gulf Arab states, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, have become increasingly bellicose and more openly sectarian towards Iran. Important drivers of this trend have been the rise to power of Islamist regimes in a number of Arab countries, the spread of terrorist groups, notably the Islamic State, as well as the changing geopolitical landscape of the region following the nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015. In particular, Iran’s return to the international fold is viewed in Riyadh and other regional capitals as a significant threat that alters the status quo. Since the wave of social and political unrest that swept the Arab world in 2011, Gulf Arab states have sought to safeguard their regimes from the dangers of popular revolt. But while the Gulf Arab states have endeavored to maintain the status quo in the region, Iran has instead attempted to exploit internal divisions within countries in order to strengthen the hand of pro-Shiite forces. In early February 2011, the Shia uprising in Bahrain (where Shiites constitute 80 percent of the population) was a wake-up call to the Gulf Arab regimes. Rightly or wrongly perceiving the hand of Iran in instigat
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