Saudi-Iran rivalry over Yemen deepens Mideast sectarianism

Yemen S I
April 2015MIDDLE EASTSaudi Arabia’s government insists it is not at war with Iran despite its three-week air campaign against Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, but the kingdom’s powerful clerics, and its regional rival’s theocratic government, are increasingly presenting the conflict as part of a region-wide battle for the soul of Islam. The toxic rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is playing out on the battlefields of Yemen and Syria, and in the dysfunctional politics of Iraq and Lebanon, with each side resorting to sectarian rhetoric. Iran and its allies refer to all of their opponents as terrorists and extremists, while Saudi Arabian clerics speak of a regional Persian menace. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not date back to Islam’s 7th century schism, but to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which toppled a U.S.-backed and Saudi-allied monarchy and recast alliances across the region. The standoff worsened after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled a Sunni-led dictatorship that had long been seen as a bulwark against Iran’s efforts to export its revolution.
But even if today’s power struggle has more to do with politics than religion, the unleashing of increasingly sectarian rhetoric on both sides has empowered extremists and made the region’s multiplying conflicts even more intractable. Saudi Arabia’s government insists it is not at war with Iran despite its three-week air campaign against Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, but the kingdom’s powerful clerics, and its regional rival’s theocratic government, are increasingly presenting the conflict as part of a region-wide battle for the soul of Islam. The toxic rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is playing out on the battlefields of Yemen and Syria, and in the dysfunctional politics of Iraq and Lebanon, with each side resorting to sectarian rhetoric. Iran and its allies refer to all of their opponents as terrorists and extremists, while Saudi Arabian clerics speak of a regional Persian menace. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not date back to Islam’s 7th century schism, but to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which toppled a U.S.-backed and Saudi-allied monarchy and recast alliances across the region. The standoff worsened after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled a Sunni-led dictatorship that had long been seen as a bulwark against Iran’s efforts to export its revolution.
But even if today’s power struggle has more to do with politics than religion, the unleashing of increasingly sectarian rhetoric on both sides has empowered extremists and made the region’s multiplying conflicts even more intractable. Sheikh Mohammed al-Arefe, a Saudi cleric with 12 million Twitter followers and rock star status among ultra-conservative Sunnis, says the Saudi-led coalition launching airstrikes in Yemen is at war with the enemies of Islam. In a sermon viewed nearly 94,000 times on YouTube, he refers to them as “Safawis,” a reference to a 16th century Persian dynasty that oversaw the expansion of Shiite Islam. “It is they, who until today, bow in prayer to shrines,” al-Arefe says, referring to the Shiite practice of praying at the tombs of religious figures. Saudi clerics who follow the country’s strict Wahhabi doctrine view such rituals as akin to polytheism and advocate the destruction of shrines. The Saudi government says its coalition of 10 Arab countries is bombing the Houthi rebels in Yemen to restore the country’s internationally recognized president, who was forced to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and the U.S. accuse Iran of arming the Houthis, but Tehran says it only provides aid and political support.
 The Houthis are Zaydis, a Shiite offshoot considered close to Sunni Islam, and Yemen’s conflict has less to do with sectarianism than with north-south tensions, political corruption and a flawed post-Arab Spring political transition. Hard-line Saudi clerics like al-Arefe say their problem is not with Zaydis, who make up about 30 percent of Yemen’s population, but with the Houthis, who have been “corrupted” by the ideology of “Safawis,” a clear reference to Iran. “Who are the ones killing us in Iraq today, except them? Who are the ones killing us in the Levant today, except them?” al-Arefe said in the same sermon. In Syria, Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of the mainly Sunni rebels, while Iran is a key ally of President Bashar Assad, who hails from the Alawite community, another Shiite offshoot. –ABC News
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This entry was posted in Acts of Agression, Arms Race, Civil Unrest, Conflict Among Nations, Economic Collapse, Escalating hostilities, Ethnic tensions, Flashpoint for war, Geopolitical Crisis, Hierarchal Control, Infrastructure collapse, Nuclear Proliferation, Preparation for War, Religious War, Rumors of War, Social Meltdown, Terrorism threat, The Pyramid Model, Vice in Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Saudi-Iran rivalry over Yemen deepens Mideast sectarianism

  1. Dennis E. says:

    I have read an article that suggests that the Saudi’s are about to be humbled to the point of possibility of losing territory to Iran. Same web site years ago claimed that Iraq would be divided into three parts.

  2. Joseph sonny Skies says:

    As sad as this post is I almost laughed when I read the part about the Saudis and THE U.S. accuse Iran of arming the Houthis,….what?!!! What has the U.S. been doing all throughout that part of the world for last 65 years as well as other parts of the planet? As I read the post I could not help but think of whether it might have been different now if USA was not killing off regimes and planting new ones. Though if not the U.S. doing it then someone else probably would have..[ sigh ]….

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