Lost in Iranoia: Saudi Arabia’s struggle for regional hegemony in times of crisis

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This article is featured in the ORIENT IV 2016

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been seeking regional supremacy due to political and ideological reasons since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Since 2011, these bilateral tensions have intensified with destabilising effects in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy is influenced by ‘Iranoia’, which aims to counter the Iranian influence within the Arab region and to preserve the Saudi standing as a political and economic regional power as well as a religious role model. However, since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), Saudi Arabia has felt further betrayed by traditional allies such as the United States. The new Saudi leadership is concerned about the re-integration of Iran into the international community and thus has intensified its anti-Iran and anti-Shiite propaganda and policy in recent years. The article analyses the main foreign policy interests of Saudi Arabia, the anti-Iran strategy of the new leadership under King Salman, and the negative outcomes of this policy, such as sectarian divide and the detrimental consequences for regional stability.

Sebastian Sons is a Ph.D. candidate at the Humboldt University of Berlin and an Associate Fellow at the Near east and North Africa Research Program of the German Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin. Previously, he worked as Head of Research Unit at the German Orient-Institute. His fields of interests are Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, societal change and economic developments.

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