By Hassan Ahmadian, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
When two rivals constantly make contradictory strategic decisions, they are bound to eventually end up in a direct confrontation. Iran and Saudi Arabia are no exception. Since 2005, both countries have made conflicting strategic decisions. For a long time, the fluidity and magnitude of the conflicts in the Middle East delayed the emergence of any direct Iranian-Saudi confrontation.
However, with the emergence of the Arab Spring, the geopolitical atmosphere of the Middle East changed and the strategic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia became deeper and more intense. While new fields of conflict emerged, the strategic conflict between Tehran and Riyadh took on obvious ideological dimensions. The two countries have gradually become two opposite poles in a spectrum of conflicts.
Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia has had to deal with an increasing number of strategic challenges. It has lost some of its allies, and it has proven incapable of managing bottom-up changes that have been taking place. Therefore, it launched a counter-revolution to contain the Arab Spring, while at the same time it pursued a policy of change when it came to its rivals.
Syria has been the centerpiece of this approach, with the aim of weakening the Islamic Republic’s regional role. In competition with Riyadh, Tehran has meanwhile been supporting bottom-up change in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen with the objective of undermining the regional forces opposed to the axis between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.