EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran is now openly threatening to dismember Saudi Arabia for its support for Kurdish independence and secession from Iraq. This ratcheting up of tensions has implications not only for those two countries but for the region and the world at large. Israel would do well to remember that the Middle East is growing ever more volatile, and the US should sharpen its resolve to contain Iran.
The Iranian-Saudi struggle over primacy in the Middle East is hardly new. As early as the 1980s, in Tripoli, Lebanon, the Saudis supported Sunni militia forces in their struggle with the Alawites for control of Lebanon’s most important city in the north. Even then, the newly created Hezbollah, Iran’s first and most important proxy militia in the Arab-speaking world, sent fighters to the city to support the minority Alawites together with agents of the Assad regime in Syria that by then had allied itself with Iran. This was to become the longest, most durable, and most resilient strategic relationship between any two states in the Middle East.
From that time on, the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has expanded, sometimes in fits and starts, at other times in an almost linear fashion, as new battlefields between the proxies of both states have emerged. By far the most important were the battlefields of Syria and Yemen, the indirect consequences of the so-called Arab Spring. Instead of yielding democracy, the uprisings descended into deadly civil war in which the proxies of both states battled it out.
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