Iran–Saudi Arabia relations

Bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been strained over several geopolitical issues, such as aspirations for regional leadership, oil export policy and relations with the United States and other Western countries. Diplomatic relations were suspended from 1987 to 1990 and for seven years after the execution of Nimr al-Nimr and the 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. However, in March 2023, after discussions brokered by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish relations.[1][2][3]

Iran–Saudi Arabia relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy established in 1932, with a post-World War II tradition of close ties to the United States and the United Kingdom. Iran's government alternated between monarchy and increasing parliamentarianism, until the 1953 Iranian coup d'état increased Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's powers as monarch within a parliamentary system. Iran's Prime Minister had stolen the previous election by halting the counting of the votes midway, and leaving some of the legislature empty. The coup was supported by the army, the bazaar, the clerics, the United States and the United Kingdom. Both states were aligned with the Western Bloc in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, until the end of formal Iran-United States relations in 1980 following the Iranian Revolution. Throughout both the Cold War and the war on terror, the United States has continued to pursue a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Both countries are major oil and gas exporters and have clashed over energy policy. Saudi Arabia, with its large oil reserves and smaller population, has a greater interest in taking a long-term view of the global oil market and incentive to moderate prices. In contrast, Iran is compelled to focus on high prices in the short term due to its low standard of living given recent sanctions after its decade-old war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its larger population.[4]

In the Syrian civil war, Iran has supported the Syrian government militarily and with billions of dollars of aid, while Saudi Arabia was a major supplier of aid to rebel groups. Both countries have accused each other of support for terrorism.[5][6] Iran and Saudi Arabia both have competing interests in the battle for dominance of their region.[7]

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