Iran and Saudi Arabia: Analysis of Divergence

Document Type : Original Article


Assistant Professor of International Relations, Allameh Tabataba'i University


Subsequent to Mena incident in 2015 and the victimization of several thousand citizens of Muslim countries with nearly half of Iranian nationals, diplomatic and political relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia deteriorated. Although the relations between the two countries at both previous eras and prior to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979 is not a new phenomenon, a historical review is indicative of the fact that this divergence was exacerbated in the aftermath of the September 11, and reached its climax with the emergence of some issues such as the US invasion of Iraq and the Arab revolutions in South West Asia and North Africa in 2010. The current article seeks to explain the real nature and underlying causes of the divergence of the relations between the two countries of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the postSeptember 11. The paper hypothetically considers the substantial ideological difference as the main explanation for all of the soft and hard conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia


Article Title [Persian]

ایران و عربستان سعودی، تحلیل روابط واگرایانه

Author [Persian]

  • علیرضا کوهکن

Keywords [Persian]

  • ایران
  • عربستان سعودی
  • 11 سپتامبر
  • ایدئولوژی
  • دموکراسی
Alvandi, R. (2012). 'Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: the Origins of Iranian primacy in the Persian Gulf'. Diplomatic history, 36 (2), 337–372.
Asharq Al-Awsat, (2016). 'Saudi Arabia was against war on Iraq, Chiclot's Report,' Asharq Al-Awsat, Retrieved 2018, March, 3, From https://eng-archive. aawsat. com/ theaawsat/ news- middle- east/ saudi-arabia/ saudi-arabia-war-iraq-chiclots-report 
Asr-e-Iran. (2014). 'First contract signed between Iran and Yemen’s Houthi government; establishment of 28 weekly flights between Sana’a and Tehran; Yemen’s president protests'.  Retrieved 2018, Feb. 23, From:
Baylis, J. (2011). 'The Globalization of World Politics', Oxford University Press Inc. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-19-956909-0.
Bazzi, M. (2018). 'The war in Yemen is disastrous. America is only making things worse', The Guardian. Retrieved 2018, Feb. 8, from: https://www.theguardian. com/ commentisfree/ 2018/jun/11/trump-yemen-saudi-arabi-war-us-involvement-worsening-crisis
Blasina, N. (2017). 'Saudi Arabia and Iran: Four Proxy Conflicts Explained', the Wall Street journal. Retrieved 2018, Feb. 10, from:
Bronson, R. (2011). 'Saudi Arabia’s Intervention in Bahrain: A Necessary Evil Or A Strategic Blunder': Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 2017, April. 5, From: 
Byman, D. L. (2018). 'The U.S. yellow light in Yemen', Brookings. Retrieved 2018, Feb. 10, from:
Byman, D.L. (2013). 'The Resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq'. Brookings. Retrieved 2018, March. 18, From:
Choi, A. (2003). 'The Power of Democratic Cooperation'. International security, 28, 145-153.
Chomsky, N. (2005). 'Imperial Presidency', Canadian Dimension, 39 (1), 8.
Ekhtiari, A.R- Hasnita B- Samsu K- and Gholipour Fereidouni, H. (2011). 'The Hajj and Iran's Foreign Policy towards Saudi Arabia'. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 46 (678).  
El-Hokayem,E. (2007). 'Hizballah and Syria: Outgrowing the Proxy Relationship', the Washington Quarterly, 30(2). 52–35.
Enayat, H (1982). Modern Islamic Political Thought, Austin, University of Texas Press.
Fearon, J and Wendth, A. (2005). 'Rationalism V. Constructivism: A skeptical View', in Handbook of International Relations, London: Sage Publication.
Goodarzi, J. (2006). 'Syria and Iran: diplomatic alliance and power politics in the Middle East.' New York: Tauris Academic Studies.
Hameed, U. (2017). 'The Saudi-Iranian Rivalry: A Foreign Policy Analysis Approach'. Towson University Journal of International Affairs, 27.
Hampton, K. (2014). 'Doctrinally and Politically Opposed on the Battlefield in Syria: Iran and Saudi Arabia’s Cold War in the Middle East. ' Merton Press.18-1.
Hauslohner, A. (2013).' Iraqi Shiites fight for Syrian government'.  The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018, March. 10, From:
Hegghammer, T. (2007). 'Saudi Militants in Iraq: Backgrounds and Recruitment Patterns', derived from a PhD project, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, 10-15.
Hegghammer, T. (2008). 'Saudis in Iraq: Patterns of Radicalization and Recruitment', Cultures & Conflicts, 10.
Hopf, T. (1998). 'The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory', International security, 23(1), 171-200. middle_east/iraqi-shiites-fight-for-syrian-government/2013/05/26/6c3c39b4-c245-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_story.html.
Ian Black and Dan Roberts, (2013). 'Hezbollah is helping Assad fight Syria uprising, says Hassan Nasrallah'. The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2017, Nov. 1, From
Katzman, K. (2012). 'Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U. S. Policy.' Congressional Research Service.
Katzman, K. (2014). 'Iraq: Politic, Governance, and Human Rights.' Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress.
Leverett, F. (2005). 'Inheriting Syria Bashar’s Trial by Fire', Brookings Institution Press Washington, D.C.
Madawi, A. R. (2011). 'The Saudi Complex: Power VS Rights'. Retrieved 2017, Oct. 1, from:
McDowall, A. (2018). 'Timeline: Yemen's slide into political crisis and war', Reuters. Retrieved 2018, Feb. 8, from
Niblock, T. (2006). 'Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy and Survival', London, New York, Rutledge.
Obaid, N and Anthony C. (2005). 'Saudi Militants in Iraq: Assessment and Kingdoms Response', Center for Strategic & International studies.
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. (2018), 'Saudi Arabia facts and figures', OPEC. Retrieved 2018, Sept. 15, from: opec_web/en/about_us/169.htm
Ostovar, A. (2018) 'The First Saudi-Iranian War Will Be an Even Fight'. Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2018, Nov. 2, From:
Peterson, J. E. (1991). 'The Arabian Peninsula in Modern Times', A Historiographical Survey.
Risse, T. (2000). 'Let's Argue: Communicative Action in World Politics'. International Organization 54(1): 1-39.
Ruggie, J.G. (1998). 'Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization', London and New York: Routledge.
Rydell, M. (2017). 'Syria: Iran's and Saudi Arabia's new playground?: A case study of Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War', LUP Student Papers, Lund University, 17.
Sadeghi, H. Ahadian, H. (2010). 'Transformation of Yemen’s regional status: opportunities & challenges', Rahbord Quarterly; 19 (56): 253-280.
Samii, A.W. (2008). 'A Stable Structure on Shifting Sands: Assessing the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria Relationship', The Middle East Journal, 62(1), 32-53.
Shaheen, K. (2018). 'Saudi Arabia and Iran's rivalry is key to the Middle East in 2018', The Guardian. Retrieved 2018, Nov. 2, from: 2018/ jan/04/2018-saudi-arabia-iran-rivalry-key-middle-east-year-ahead
Spetalnick, M, Mason, J, and Julia E. (2014). 'Saudi Arabia agrees to host training of moderate Syria rebels'. Reuters. Retrieved 2017, Nov.2, from: https://www.reuters. com/ article/ us-iraq-crisis-obama-saudi/ saudi-arabia- agrees-to-host-training-of-moderate-syria-rebels-idUSKBN0H51QC20140911
Sun, D. (2009). 'Brothers Indeed: Syria-Iran Quasi-alliance Revisited', Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (in Asia), 3(2): 67-80.
Teitelbaum, J. (2011). 'Saudi Arabia, Iran and America in the Wake of the Arab Spring', The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved 2017, Nov. 12, from:
Vakil, S. (2018). 'Iran and the GCC Hedging, Pragmatism and Opportunism', Chatham House. Retrieved 2018, Nov. 10, from: default/ files/ publications/ research/2018-09-13-iran-gcc-vakil.pdf
Wendth, A. (1999). 'Social theory of International Politics', Cambridge: Cambridge University press.
Wind, M. (1997). 'Nicholas G. Onuf: The Rules of Anarchy', in The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Marketing?, ed. Iver B. Neumann and Ole Waever (London and NewYork: Routledge), 254-267.
World Atlas, (2018), 'Geography Of The Middle East', from: https://www. worldatlas. com/ webimage/countrys/me.htm
World Population Review. (2019). 'Yemen Population 2019'. Retrieve 2019, Jan. 8, from:
Wright, R. (2000). 'The last great revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran'. Knopf, New York.
Zakaria, F. (2018). 'There is a lot to be optimistic about these days. And then there is the Middle East', The Washinton Post. Retrieved 2018, Sept. 12, from: https:// www. 2018/02/15/49c7048c-128f-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_ story.html
Zehfuss, M. (2001). 'Constructivism and Identity, a Dangerous Liaison', European Journal of International Relations, 7(3). 315-348.
Zeraatpisheh, N. (2005). 'Saudi Arabia’s strategic estimation', Tehran Abrar Mo’aser Cultural International Institution.