1. Saudi Arabia-Iran Relations

  • GS Paper – 2,3 Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests.

Why is it in the news?

  • 81 individuals, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, were executed in a mass execution in Saudi Arabia recently for acts connected to terrorism and other death offences, according to reports. As a result, the Iranian administration has decided to halt all negotiations with the nation.
  • Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been difficult for a very long time.
  • As UN (United Nations)-led attempts to resolve a conflict in Yemen come to a halt, regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia, which broke diplomatic ties in 2016, have agreed to have direct talks in Iraq in 2021, which will be hosted by the country. In Iraq, they have had four rounds of negotiations.

What is the historical context of the Saudi Arabia-Iran conflict?

1. Theological Factionalism:

  • Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have deteriorated in part as a result of long-standing religious disputes that date back hundreds of years. They are all adherents of one of the two major schools of Islam.
  • Iran is primarily a Shia Muslim country, whereas Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the main Sunni Muslim nation.

2. Head of the Islamic World:

  • Historically, Saudi Arabia, which is a monarchy and the home of the Islamic faith’s origins, saw itself as the leader of the Muslim community.
  • As a result of the Islamic revolution in Iran, a new sort of state in the area – a kind of revolutionary theocracy – was established with the stated purpose of spreading this model beyond the limits of Iran’s own country.

3. Cold War in the Middle East:

  • Saudi Arabia and Iran, two major rivals, are embroiled in a violent contest for regional domination.

Rising uprisings across the Arab world (after the Arab Spring of 2011) have resulted in political instability across the region..

  • Iran and Saudi Arabia took advantage of the upheavals to increase their influence, particularly in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, further raising tensions between the two countries.
  • Furthermore, outsider powers such as the United States and Israel have a significant role in worsening the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Proxy Wars:

  • Although Iran and Saudi Arabia are not directly engaged in combat, they are both involved in a number of proxy wars (conflicts in which they assist opposing factions and militias) around the Middle East.
  • For instance, the Houthi rebels in Yemen are one such example. These organisations have the potential to develop stronger capabilities, which might lead to increased instability in the region. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of providing support to the Saudis.

2016 Flashpoint: Following Saudi Arabia’s death of Shiite Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a large number of Iranian demonstrators assaulted Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Is it possible that normalisation of relations will have an impact on the situation?

  • A positive influence on the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict may result from the warming of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This might have an impact on the way in which Israel and the Palestinian issue are dealt with.

Stabilization of the Oil Market:

  • Given the significance of the oil market to both Iran and Saudi Arabia’s economy, both countries have a vested interest in maintaining steady oil prices.
  • As a result of normalisation of ties, oil income for all producing nations would be more stable, and economic planners in both Saudi Arabia and Iran would have more predictability.

The Best Way Forward

The role of India: India has always maintained positive diplomatic relations with both nations. It is possible that the stabilisation of ties between the two nations may have a mixed influence on India’s economy.

  • Higher oil prices will have a negative impact on the balance of trade in India, on the other hand.
  • On the plus side, it may make it easier to attract investors and complete connection projects throughout the area.
  • In order to leave a lasting impression on the world, Iran must officially endorse a cease-fire in Yemen as part of its international diplomatic efforts.

Easing of US Sanctions: If ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia are to improve, it is critical that the United States clarify its sanctions against Iran.


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