nucklehead Posted January 10, 2016 Share Posted January 10, 2016 Quote When Saudi Arabia unexpectedly executed the prominent political dissident and Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr a week ago, the Sunni Kingdom may not have known how Iran's Shia-dominated government would respond — but it certainly knew that Iran would. The subsequent storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Saudis' severing of diplomatic relations with Iran may appear to have their roots in religion, but the reasons why the Saudis chose to escalate tensions via the execution in the first place actually have little to do with a Sunni/Shia divide. Instead, regional and domestic politics are the driving force behind this dangerous fight. Riyadh sees the US nuclear deal with Iran — and more specifically, Tehran's reintegration into global political and economic structures — as a threat to its own regional power. Iran's economy is set to improve in a post-sanctions environment, and Tehran's relations with Washington have gradually thawed. Saudi Arabia fears this rebalancing because it can no longer count on and benefit from American efforts to contain Iran politically, economically, and militarily. Riyadh is not being abandoned in favor of Tehran, but it will have to take a more active role in any effort to counter Iranian power. Iran's slow but steady regional rise is also coming at a time when Saudi power is on the decline, as evidenced by its military failures in Yemen. In November, Washington approved a $1.29 billion arms deal with Riyadh — adding to the tens of billions of dollars that Saudi Arabia has spent on American arms in recent years — and the Saudis instituted a $5.3 billion increase in military spending earmarked for its war in Yemen this past year. Nevertheless, they have been unable to defeat forces who possess much less money and far fewer weapons. Saudi government revenue has dropped amid the plunge in oil prices, and the country's economy is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues. This year, an approximately $100 billion budget deficit has forced Riyadh to adopt austerity measures that include price increases on gas, electricity, water, and industrial energy; the introduction of a sales tax; and delayed government payments. Over time, such changes could strain the social contract between Saudi citizens and the ruling al-Saud family...The ramifications of a continuing deterioration of Iran-Saudi relations cannot be overstated. Neither one can impose their will upon the other, so they face the same dilemma: If they don't accept each other's power, they cannot guarantee their own security. Unless some degree of dialogue and accommodation is reached, regional insecurity will continue to be a pox on both houses. And until cooler heads prevail in Riyadh and Tehran, conflict in the broader Middle East will likely get worse before it gets better. More Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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