The growing influence of the Iranian regime ought to be a great cause of concern for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Following 911, Iran’s power in the Middle East has increased dramatically, as it now holds considerable sway in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, particularly given the American governments in action in the region. Prior to 911, hostile neighbours in the form of Saddam Hussain’s Iraq and the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan surrounded Iran. The US brought down the two regimes, eliminating the threat faced by Iran, paving the way for the mullahs theocracy to act on its foreign policy ambitions.
As of now, two of Saudi Arabia’s neighbouring countries – Iraq and Yemen – are under increasing Iranian regime’s influence. In Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State has given Iran a pretense to send Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Quds Force and prop up other Shia militias. Iran-backed militants are carrying out the murder of Sunni populace in certain provinces, implementing its sectarian agenda in the most brute manner. The capital Baghdad is functioning due to the protective ring formed around it by the Quds Force; something that is acknowledged by Iraqi politicians.
Saudi Arabia not only faces threat from the IS, but also from Iran’s newfound expansion in the country. In neighbouring Yemen, Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels have taken over the presidential palace. In Syria, the Iranian regime is providing Bashar Al-Assad financial, political and military support through Hizbollah fighters.
Indeed, the Iranian regime is actually responsible for fanning sectarianism in the Middle East, employing proxies in other countries to implement its foreign policy. Since Iran views Saudi Arabia as its main rival, the former’s growing influence can only mean trouble for the latter.
For now, Iran can stick to its modus operandi to upset Saudi Arabia if it so desires. Tehran is unhappy with Saudi Arabia’s refusal to cut down oil production; a measure that may have brought some relief to Iran’s economy, which is getting hit hard by sanctions. Mullahs in Iran, have been threatening Saudi Arabia for this and members of the regime have indicated that Iran may cause trouble in the Kingdom in response. For this, it will instigate the Shia minority in the east, creating a crisis within Saudi Arabia. Whether the Iranian regime is only threatening and posturing or it plans to act remains to be seen.