GS Mains Model Question & Answer: Discuss tension in between Saudi Arabia and Iran recent times and analyse its impact

GS Mains Model Question & Answer: Discuss tension in between Saudi Arabia and Iran recent times and analyse its impact

Q. Discuss tension in between Saudi Arabia and Iran recent times and analyse its impact. (12.5 Marks)

(General Studies Mains Paper II – International Relations : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests)

Model Answer :

Historically, Iran–Saudi relationships have always been uncertain, something attributed to the different sects that the majority populations in both the countries follow. Saudi Arabia which is a predominantly Sunni society has always been skeptical of Shi'ite Iran's activities in the Persian Gulf region, thus labeling Iranian ambitions to dominate the Muslim world as a form of Safawid/Safavid rule.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been tense ever since the establishment of the Islamic Republic back in 1979. Initially, Iran’s doctrine of exporting its revolution and its leaders’ negative view of countries such as Saudi Arabia, together with Riyadh’s creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council and support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime during its 1980-1988 war with Iran, led to mutual political pessimism.

Ties were further strained in 1987 after the massacre of over 400 Iranian pilgrims by Saudi security forces in the holy city of Mecca. With the passing of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, in 1989, followed by the pragmatic presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, tensions began to ease — but were never fully eliminated.

In 2011, as the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, the wall of mistrust between Tehran and Riyadh grew thicker. The civil wars in Syria and Yemen pushed the two sides into indirect military confrontations. Riyadh’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, amid Tehran’s protestations, brought the worsening tension to a head.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut ties with Iran after its diplomatic facilities were stormed by Iranian protesters, with countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Bahrain and Djibouti soon following suit, brought about a novel state in the Iranian-Saudi relationship. In this atmosphere, media pundits are asking whether it is possible that Tehran and Riyadh may enter direct military confrontation.

Iran embassy bombing in Yemen (2016)

Iran's foreign ministry made the claim that Saudi warplanes had "deliberately" targeted its embassy to Yemen in the city of Sanaa. Iran's report included claims that,"a number of the building's guards" had been injured as a result of the bombing.

Despite this assertion Sanaa residents and the Associated Press have reported that the embassy suffered no visible damage. Currently General Ahmad Asseri from the Saudi-led coalition is investigating Iran's allegations. Later on, Asseri announced no evidence was found for the accusation neither by the Arab Coalition Military nor by the legitimate Yemeni government.

Iranian ban on the hajj (2016)

Following disputes, the Iranian government barred its citizens from making the hajj. Iran claimed that the stampede the year prior was the result of Saudi "incompetence." The Saudi government suggested that the move was politically motivated as a means to put pressure on the kingdom.


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