Saudi Arabia and Iran Face off in a New Cold War

Aidan Araoz, Reporter

The phrase “Cold War” makes you think of the period following the conclusion of World War II. During this time there were two main powers in the world, The Soviet Union and The United States. Both superpowers constantly engaged in proxy wars and aggressive diplomatic action to gain an upper hand. This Cold War caused many regions of the world to become torn with war. Now in modern times, there is another cold war occurring. This current Cold War is now wreaking havoc in one of the most volatile places on earth, the Middle East.

This Cold War of our time is between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran is an Islamic republic just directly across the Arabian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. There are many reasons why these two superpowers of the Middle East are at odds, but the most prominent two are religion and allegiance.

The rift lies in the sect of Islam that the inhabitants of each country follows. Saudi Arabia is mostly Sunni (around 90 percent), while Iran is mostly Shiite (about 90 to 95 percent). The difference between these two sects is which caliph, head religious leader, they choose to follow. Their methods to which they choose a caliph are very different, and this leads to major disagreements.

Aside from the religion, allegiance to the West is another subject where the two nations disagree. Following World War II, the shah, leader of Iran, was a puppet to the United States Government. He was put in place to help the US extract the oil of the country. Unfortunately these friendly relations were trashed when there was an uprising in the country which put in place an Islamic regime. With the regime, anti-west sentiment was brought with it to Iran. Saudi Arabia had a similar experience to Iran, the United States government also interfered in their state affairs to get the oil they wanted. The difference is that the relations Saudi Arabia had with the west never fell apart. To this day Saudi Arabia and the US are great allies and trade partners, much to the dismay of Iran.

This Cold War may soon greatly escalate because of a proxy war. A proxy war is when a war is instigated by a major power but the major power itself does not become directly involved. While neither Saudi Arabia or Iran has yet to instigate a war, they each support opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War. Iran and Russia support the government that was already in place before the war, The Syrian Arab Republic. Saudi Arabia and the US support the rebelling force, the Free Syrian Army.

While both powers are indirectly involved in that civil war, they were not the instigators. Although with the Yemeni Civil War, Saudi Arabia was the primary instigator. The Saudis backed a rebel force in efforts to overthrow the reigning Houthis. With this, the Iranians backed the Houthis and thus began the Yemeni Civil War on March 21, 2015. This proxy war is ever growing, currently with a death toll of approximately 9,000 to 13,500 deaths. Unfortunately, this number is ever growing with no end in sight. Except it does not have to be this way.

Organizations such as NATO or the United Nations need to intervene between the Saudis and Iranians and bring an end to their Cold War before they cause any more wars and many more deaths. The previous American-Soviet Cold War left the world a hostile and divided place. International law makers need to remember that world, and prevent our world from becoming that way once again.