Thirty two men, mostly Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority were arrested in 2013 and tried in Riyadh in February 2016 for spying on behalf of Iran.
By early December, the court sentenced 15 men to death, 15 others received prison terms of six months to 25 years, and two were acquitted. Two were foreigners; one Iranian received a prison term and one Afghan was acquitted. [Read NYT here]
There were war of words as a result of the death incidents in Mina involving Iranians in during the Haj season of 2015. Each calling the other kafir.
By January, Saudi broke off diplomatic relation with Iran on January 4th following the ramshaking of their diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad by protestors. This year Iran stopped sending pilgrims for Haj.
Bilal Y Saab wrote in Newsweek on October 18th [read here] predicting an Iran-Saudi conflict as inevitable. Averting war is a priority for the next US President.
Both countries have been embarking in proxy conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, as well as Central Asia and Pakistan.
NY Times dated November 19 [read here] quoted F. Gregory Gause III, an international relations scholar at Texas A & M University saying proxy conflict killed 5 million in Central Africa but in the Middle East, it just started.
According to Robert Swift in The Media Line [read here], Iran looks dominant in the proxy war. There are suggestions for US to lean over to Iran [read here].
The Saudi have been wanting for a US presence in the region and acknowledged its leadership over the smaller Arab countries. While, Iran is not comfortable with their continued presence.
The direction of US policy on the Iran-Saudi conflict is uncertain and will await Trump to resume office on January 20th.
Trump's statement during campaign have caused concern in Iran. Relationship between US and Saudi are cooler and have been based more on common interest than common values. [Read Fair Observor newsletter here]
The common view is the hostilities between the two countries is rooted in the differences between the sunni and syiah.
There are views that felt it started with the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Iran accused Saudi as representing US interest rather than Islam. While Saudi were concerned with Iran exporting its syiah ideology beyond the Persian Gulf [read Wikipedia here].
However, Ibrahim Fraihat of Foreign Affairs [read here] viewed the Arab Spring of 2011 that changed the power structure of the Middle East. Both countries were asserting their dominance in the region.
In his article dated May 30th, Ibrahim wrote:
Beyond avoiding war, Saudi Arabia and Iran have every reason to try to get along. Indeed, their futures are inextricably linked. They are the two strongest powers within the Muslim world, and both have a hand in shaping the trajectory of the Middle East.With Russia making their presence in Syria, it is to the American interest that war do not break out between the two. But can it be averted?
Neither can succeed unilaterally—they both need one another to accomplish their goals, whether they like it or not. This is due to the high level of interdependence between the two neighbors, especially in the areas of the security of the Gulf and the economic interdependence in the region.
Both countries do say that they want to avoid conflict with one another and that they prefer to have good, neighborly relations. In January, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, Muhammad bin Salman, said that anyone pushing for war between Iran and Saudi Arabia “is not in their right mind. Because a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region…. For sure we will not allow any such thing.”
Speaking about Iranian–Saudi relations in February, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, advocated for changing “our paradigm” and assured his Saudi “brothers” that Iran is “prepared to work with Saudi Arabia.”
The following month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “If Iran changes its way and its policies, nothing would prevent turning a page and building the best relationship based on good neighborliness, with no meddling in the affairs of others.”
With both countries harboring deep mistrust of the other, direct dialogue is necessary to provide opportunities for the parties to better understand each other and begin to reduce their mutual suspicions. To be sure, that is easier said than done.
For 207, lets wish the catastrophe could be averted and both countries could sit with each other over a negotiating table even if they have to yell, scream and call each other kafir.