Saudi-Iran: Diplomatic Strains Grow

As diplomatic relations begin to drift apart, tension escalates between Saudi Arabia and Iran in light of the recent embassy bombing in Yemen. On January 7th, Saudi Arabia allegedly bombed the Iranian embassy located in the capital of Sana’a. However, as an Associated Press reporter has stated, there are no visible signs of damage to the building. Saudi Arabia is pressing for an investigation, but Iran is refusing.

It’s fair to say the nations are in dire straits, significantly due to the religious and class tensions between the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, and Shi’a Iran. Following the execution of Shi’a leader Nimr al-Nimr, who was convicted of terrorist charges along with 46 other individuals, Iran called off Saudi trade, and has banned pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, severed ties earlier with Iran when its embassy in Tehran was set on fire amidst protests against the terrorist executions.

This severance of diplomatic ties has caused heat to arise in terms of peace negotiations between Syria and Yemen, as both states are in opposition but side with Iran and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Syria and Yemen have become playgrounds for proxy wars between the head states. These proxies contain sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are merely the puppeteers.

With regional conflict comes a worldwide drought of sorts, namely oil in this context. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the petrol powerhouses of the Middle East. As evident as it has been over the years, conflict in this region affects the oil prices in the west. Currently, the price of oil has been dropping a few cents on a weekly basis, showing no signs of petroleum strains in the Middle East. It’s unlikely for this cold war to have a dramatic effect on the price, but it’s fair to say if the west does not act in a timely manner to contain and resolve the conflict, there will be an outpour of economic crises across the international scope.

For the west to get involved would be a step further. The USA has been in tension with Iran regarding nuclear programs since 1979, as the uranium enrichment program in Iran is assumed to be big enough to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In order to limit the nuclear power, America has pressed economic sanctions against Iran as an attempt to influence their policies. The USA, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany, known as the Five Powers + One (P5+1) have been working together since 2006 to strengthen their diplomatic ties with Iran in regards to the nuclear program. In April 2015, both parties agreed that international sanctions would be lifted for ten years if Iran promises to abide by its limits.

As both the war with Saudi Arabia and the nuclear talks are occurring simultaneously, there is a shared expression of fear amongst P5+1 in terms of the production of WMDs. If Iran fails to abide by the program limits, the sanctions will be pressed again. Not to mention that prices of oil could dramatically increase, ultimately affecting the global market. For the Middle Eastern states to adopt neoliberalism and act as a threat to their global customers can, and will, spark tensions and possibly a western intervention.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia openly stated in the media he does not foresee a physical war springing about between the two states, in acknowledgement of the Syria peace talks.

Saudi Arabia has gained mass support by local states. Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, and the UAE have placed a hiatus on their diplomatic relations with Iran. Turkey and Sudan have also expressed sentiments of support.

Neelam Champaneri