Mounting Saudi-Iran Tensions Expanding ‘Anti-Iran’ Campaign Overseas?


Saudi Arabia’s ‘anti-Iran’ campaign has made its way overseas, and it is gathering supporters in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

This campaign’s main motive is to counter the Sunni and Shi’a rivalry, with Saudi Arabia being predominantly Sunni and Iran the latter. This conflict, paired with Iran’s relief of nuclear sanctions pressed against them by the international community, is giving Saudi Arabia a run for its money. The sectarian Cold War has also compelled a response from the international community, with many political figures expressing that the ‘old international order is dead.’

According to Reuters,

“the Sunni power has used Muslim networks to push states into cutting off contacts with Iran, including by creating an Islamic coalition against terrorism without inviting Tehran to join.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has even asserted that it is Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism that is causing other nations to break relations. Iran has stated it does not sponsor terrorism, however they are in support of the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. As well, Iran continues to attack Saudi diplomatic missions in its state, which has led Riyadh to “cut off military aid to the Beirut government after it failed to condemn [the] attacks…”

This is, more or less, a strategy on behalf of Saudi Arabia to hinder Iran’s rise in the global economy. Iran had sanctions pressed against them by members of the Security Council because of their large nuclear inventory, at least, they did until earlier this year when many of the sanctions were dropped. Iran entered a nuclear deal with America, and Saudi Arabia views this as a threat because Iran, which once had a crippling economy, is now supported by a world superpower. Saudi Arabia does not want Iran pushing its economic interests overseas. So, as Iran is going west, Saudi Arabia is keeping its focus on the region.

With the United States now saying Western banks can resume legitimate business with Tehran, the Saudis believe their main Western ally is gradually disengaging from the region. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman believes no one has stepped up to suppress Iran’s growing power. Thus, Saudi Arabia, along with its new international supporters, is attempting to limit the power Iran has over the petroleum cartels in both a regional and international landscape through he Islamic coalition. However, it is not limited to oil, and the intention is also to diminish Iran’s alleged position in global terrorist networks. But it has been stated that,

“The alliance also aims to counter comment in some Western media that while Iran and its Shi’ite allies are fighting Islamic State, Sunni Saudi Arabia supports jihadist militancy on some levels.”

Some African nations, which have cut diplomatic ties with Iran in light of this event are Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and Zambia. Iran is pushing soft power amongst Africa too, by investing money in local industries and spreading Shi’a Islam across the nations. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has invested millions but is not influencing sectarian tensions in Africa like Iran has. Many northern Islamic nations have already cut ties following the storming of the Riyadh embassy in Tehran, which was a response to the execution of a Shi’ite cleric by Saudi Arabia in January.

Neelam Champaneri