Playing with Fire: Trump, the Saudi- Iranian Rivalry, and the Geopolitics of Sectarianization in the Middle East

Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi.

Sectarian conflict has been on the rise in the Middle East in recent years. From the catastrophic wars in Syria and Yemen to the volatile assemblages of Iraq and Lebanon, Sunni-Shiite relations are at a breaking point. The Saudi-Iranian regional
rivalry is a key driver of this poisonous process. At the beginning of every year the International Crisis Group (ICG) issues a list of “10 Conflicts to Watch” around the globe. Second on its list for 2018, behind only the standoff with North Korea,
was what it calls the “US-Saudi-Iran rivalry,” underscoring the central role Washington plays in this dangerous game.
The rivalry, according to the ICG, is “enabled and exacerbated by three parallel developments: the consolidation of the authority of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince; the Trump Administration’s more aggressive strategy toward Iran; and the end of the Islamic State’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria,which allows Washington and Riyadh to aim the spotlight more firmly on Iran.”

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