Cold War in the Islamic World
Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy
The foundational schism between Sunni Arabia and Shia Persia manifests itself in geopolitics, as Kingdom and Islamic Republic compete.
For four decades Saudi Arabia and Iran have vied for influence in the Muslim world. At the heart of this ongoing Cold War between Riyadh and Tehran lie the Sunni–Shia divide, and the two countries’ intertwined histories. Saudis see this as a conflict between Sunni and Shia; Iran’s ruling clerics view it as one between their own Islamic Republic and an illegitimate monarchy.
This foundational schism has played out in a geopolitical competition for dominance in the region: Iran has expanded its influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia’s hyperactive crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has intervened in Yemen, isolated Qatar and destabilised Lebanon.
Dilip Hiro examines the toxic rivalry between the two countries, tracing its roots and asking whether this Islamic Cold War is likely to end any time soon.
Dilip Hiro is the author of more than thirty books, including After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World; Inside Central Asia; and Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia.