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The Sectarian Divide in Iran–Saudi Relations

Part of the Contemporary Gulf Studies book series (CGS)


President Hassan Rouhani came to office with the promise of bringing Iran out of the cold, to normalise Iran’s external relations. This agenda was primarily focused on US–Iran relations and hinged on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But there was also a regional angle to the agenda: presenting Iran as a responsible and reliable power that works for regional stability. The notion of regional stability has been a constant theme in Iran’s foreign policy proclamations. Yet Iran’s relations with Saudi Arabia suffered a diplomatic breakdown under Rouhani’s watch. The war in Syria, and Yemen, and security concerns in Bahrain have pitched Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other. The breakdown in relations has led observers to describe the relationship as a new Cold War, with connotations of an ideological divide. Tehran and Riyadh have contributed to that impression by sponsoring sectarian players and depicting the other as a corruptor of Islam. This chapter will examine this relationship in light of the religious/ideological divide. To what extent is President Rouhani a prisoner of Iran’s Shi’a identity?


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Correspondence to Shahram Akbarzadeh .

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Akbarzadeh, S. (2020). The Sectarian Divide in Iran–Saudi Relations. In: Zaccara, L. (eds) Foreign Policy of Iran under President Hassan Rouhani's First Term (2013–2017). Contemporary Gulf Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

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