Chapter 5: Discussion, Implication of the Study
This chapter seeks to provide conclusions that are deemed relevant. More directly, this study aims to offer a renewed understanding of the hegemonic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the possible effects of a Unified Middle East. This understanding of the conflict stems from analysis of the political exchanges and historical relations between the two nations as well as noting the changes and their effects towards these relations. The research’s focus is to use an appropriate qualitative method to use the data found in the codes to create and connect themes that would provide an easier grasp of the text. The analysis points out similarities as well as cause and effect actions that can be used as a level ground for the Iran-Saudi Arabian bilateral relations. This understanding further suggests a change in these relations on the basis of academic analysis of the historic political demeanor between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This study took into account the period from 1979 until early 2017 since there were significant diplomatic efforts that took place with the purpose of bridging the differences between the two Middle Eastern countries. Relations between Saudi and Iran have witnessed divergence and convergence especially with geo-political issues that have in some cases demanded a severance of diplomatic relations.
Summary of Findings
For this study, findings were obtained from the categorization of the focus areas. The researcher directed the inquiry efforts on Saudi’s and Iran’s political systems, bilateral relations, each nation’s economic status and the crises (domestic and international) that involved both nations. First, it was identified that caution and fear are the basis of the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran with the data showing instances of lack of trust between the two countries. Their perceptions of each other are determined by the actions taken by the other nation and the data reveals that their pattern of behavior is a basic reaction to the nation that makes the first move. All responders seemed to agree that the current status of affairs between the KSA and Iran are marred by tension as responder 6 adds that the status quo is mainly because of the Western alliance and the exportation of the Islamic revolution. Following the 1979 revolution that marked the beginning of Iran, the Saudi Kingdom showed their position after waiting for Iran to make the first move. Responder 6 labels this relationship as flimsy while responder 9 indicates that such a relationship is as is because of the oil harbored by both nations and not the politics of the region. Saudi’s adoption of a wait-and-see policy during the initial stages of their relations continued to be the custom and was used on Iran on several occasions. Despite Saudi Arabia not reacting immediately to establish a diplomatic gesture of position in the case of Iran, their actions did not suffice the formation of a strong relationship with the new Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi’s actions were barely enough as was evident in Iran’s involvement in Saudi’s local security matters such as the Hajj riots and by supporting the Shiites in Eastern Saudi Arabia in their quest for equality and more social freedoms. Such threats posed security risk to the kingdom yet Saudi Arabia did not respond immediately with any form of military action. Instead, the Saudi government treated these incidents are local matters and responded to them in such a manner based on their category. Reform was used to counter the Shiite demonstrations and the demands from the citizens were addressed in different stages. However, Saudi treated the Hajj riots as national threats and to those pilgrims performing Hajj, thus swift and harsh action was taken to ensure speedy restoration of peace. Also, regarding the historical relations and their roles in the region, responder 2 and 3 agree that the tense relations have resulted in Iran taking advantage of the Arab Spring to impose their ideologies on weaker nations.
The status of the Saudi-Iran relations have not remained like so for the past 38years as there were instances where such tensions had eased. Among such times was during the reign of Rafsanjani where Iran ceased accusing Saudi’s Royal Family and government and also stopped its support to the Saudi Shiites. This period did not only lead to the end of attacks on the Saudi government, but it also established closer and stronger ties between the two nations through exchange programs which included business, culture and sports. As responder 11 states, relations between Saudi and Iran have remained pragmatic and the leadership in both nations would best hope for better future relations between the two governments. These actions by the Iranian government also received positive response from the Saudi government as Iranian Hajjis were now allowed to the kingdom for other purposes besides Hajj. Iran and Saudi signed an eleven point plan which exemplified the rigid and steady political relations that both nations expected to enjoy. However, restraints towards the peace building process would always arise if the IRGC would place any limitation on any Iranian president. Ahmadinejad’s presidency was tailored towards the revolutionary guards which was among the causes of caution and tension dominating the relations between the two nations. While still in office, Ahmadinejad’s administration took on a rival position on the uprisings that characterized the Arab Spring when the Iranian authorities claimed that the Arab Spring was a continuation of the 1979 revolution as well as an Islamic awakening. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei alongside the Iranian government labelled the unfolding events as an ‘Islamic resurgence’ which was later rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt and Tunisia’s Ghannoushi, the leader of the Nahda Islamic movement. These leaders distanced themselves from Iranian influence making it clear that neither an Islamic state on the Iranian model, nor a Khomeini style revolution held any appeal to their nations as the primary priorities for their protestors were dignity, justice and democracy (Mir-Hosseini, 2012).
The support Syria and Morsi received from Iran and that received by the Sisi from Saudi Arabia is a clear illustration of the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Such opposite support for both new and existing governments was on the basis of hegemony, strategic interests and security reasons. Responder 7 indicates that the historical relations between the two nations have remained sour because Saudi is uncomfortable with Iran’s spread of Islamic revolutions while Iran remains unsatisfied with Saudi’s alliance with the West which could corrupt Islam and its values. Despite their statements of support not showing any vested interests, both Saudi Arabia and Iran showed their diplomatic support by using politically correct statements. President Hassan Rouhani, however is more open to talks with the rest of the world as demonstrated by his willingness to negotiate with the P5+1 nations and take action in relation to this agreement. Saudi’s relationship with the west was the main issue barring the resolution of the conflict but the new approach adopted by Iran indicates a major change in the foreign policy. At the time the relations between the Saudi Kingdom and the Iranian republic were severed, both nations had been working on developing regional allies in the region. For instance, Saudi Arabia initiated the concept of forming the GCC while Iran took on a different position by aligning itself with Syria as well as the formation of Hezbollah in Lebanon aimed at strengthening its position in the region. By allying with influential states and political parties, both nations were seeking hegemony, security and empowerment within the region. Influence seems to be the major point of agreement among the responders but responder 2 indicates that economic might, leadership and foreign political differences were among the top reasons influencing the current state of relations between both Middle Eastern countries. Iran and Saudi Arabia pursued and gained popularity form their alliance and their involvement in the resolution of conflict such as the Lebanese freedom from Israeli occupation through the support of Hezbollah. On the other hand the Saudi kingdom also gained popularity by mediating regional conflicts such as the Lebanese governmental conflict and the Isolation of Egypt. Responder 6 adds that the media was instrumental in popularizing both nations’ ideals despite political interferences watering down the progress made by the respective governments. However, this was not the situation in the Iraqi-Kuwait war whereby Iran supports Kuwait, in a move that would be interpreted as support for Saudi Arabia since both Iran and the KSA were both engaged in a war with Saddam Hussein.
Iran would have opted to choose a neutral position but instead chose this position as a retaliatory move against Iraq. As stated earlier, strategic interests are the main motivators for Saudi and Iran especially in seeking allies and the formation of bilateral relations. Additionally, national policies by both Iran and Saudi greatly influenced the uncertainty of the masses as was evident during the worst periods of the relations where harsh and excessive actions were taken. Such actions included hatred speeches and the spread of sectarian conflict by the clergies between the people of the KSA and Iran. These actions further motivated the citizens to participate in demonstrations and riots in both nations. Religious figures used ideology as a wedge to widen the gap between the Iranians and the Saudis in a manner aimed at supporting and giving credibility to the forewarned caution. The 2015 Mina stampede also helped put the situation into perspective as responder 2 stated that it was a manifestation of conflict masterminded by Iran. This event was important in the history of both nations as responder 6 so avidly states that henceforth, it did not provide room for information concealment as a joint effort was the best option to quickly resolve the problem. Responder 11 also added that the stamped also contributed to the spread of negative stereotypes that would possibly yield to the stampede following the embassy bombing in Tehran.
Interpretation of Findings
This dissertation aims to determine the geopolitical implications of the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East region by analyzing their previous historical and contemporary relations. The findings presented several angles for consideration. For instance, strategic interests ranks highest among the main causes of the conflict where ideological differences were part of the mechanism of the interests showed by both nations. The fear of spreading the Sunni ideologies that favor relations with the West as well as the fear of spreading the Iranian Islamic revolution were the main factors hindering both nations from acting and performing as a single unified Middle Eastern power player. Such can be evidenced throughout the history of both nations in the period between 1979 and early 2017. Responder 2 states that the current state of affairs between the two nations is one of struggle for influence which in many instances leads to confrontation while responder 7 pounds on the idea that mistrust and tension have led Saudi Arabia and Iran into hostility between each other.
President’s Rouhani’s presidency has also presented a pivotal change to the relations that have to be recognized and considered. Such diplomatic efforts have been afforded more attention whereby Iran has taken the initiative to move past the barriers and met with high ranking Saudi officials. Therefore, extending an invitation to Iran by Saudi Arabia with the aim of discussing such matters and future plans would be perceived as a kind gesture and a positive step towards rebuilding past relations. For instance, Iranians are nuclear experts while Saudi Arabia lacks both knowledge and expertise in the same field. Therefore, both governments can initiate an exchange program in nuclear expertise and knowledge and if such a plan would be executed successfully, then relations between both countries can reach their strongest in history. Responder 9 insists that lasting peace can only be found if a lasting solution is reached in order to curb the differences once and for all. To the Iranians, nuclear is a security concept and the recent negotiations with the west and the agreement of terms related to their nuclear program have been aimed at lifting the sanctions and ameliorating the Iranian economy. However, if Iran and the West can agree on the terms of the nuclear program, then further negotiations can be made to include economic exchange. During instances such as King Fahd’s reign, Iran and Saudi Arabia were able to come to social, economic and security agreements but did not include any nuclear agreement as it posed a conceptual and security threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, pragmatism will prevail, according to responder 11, unless the diplomatic channels remain open between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The findings in this dissertation also indicate a willingness and readiness to restore relation between Iran and Saudi on the condition that Iran would stop interfering in the affairs of the incumbent regimes. Failure of diplomatic action will lead to continued future conflict according to responder 2. Other conditions for such restoration is the cessation of the sectarian ideology and the exportation of the Islamic revolution by Iran. Iran should also make more significant steps towards mending its relationship with Saudi Arabia especially following the attack of the Saudi embassy in Tehran which led to the severing of diplomatic relations. Responder 11 noted that such incidences as the Tehran bombing and the Mina stampede can be used to greatly harm relations as both incidences would be used to promote negative stereotypes among the masses, fueling further conflict. If history is anything to go by, actions by King Khalid during the early years of Iran were not enough to build sustainable trust as the ideologies of Khomeini were still against the Royal Saudi Family and the West. Relations were thus repaired gradually following Khomeini’s period and President Rouhani is evidence of the new face of Iran. However, in as much as Khatami and Rafsanjani were considered liberal presidents, relations between Iran and the West have never been stronger than they are under President Rouhani.
Context of Findings
From the case study, the data collected and analyzed focuses on the nuclear anxiety as the major concern to the security of Saudi Arabia where the Kingdom has been forced to make decision around this fact. History shows that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has relied on a single pattern of depending on the powerful state; the United States for protection and support. According to Wehery (2012), Saudi Arabia has also avoided making decisions on politics while considering petro-diplomacy decisions. This has been the common pattern when dealing with the Iranian nuclear program despite the significant changes made in the Iranian foreign policies.
Saudi’s policies towards Iran have not changed in a long time and aggressiveness through the use of political actions had not been among the policies until the Crown Prince Salman took over leadership in January 2015. The kingdom in turn took a leading position among Islamic nations in the Middle East by spearheading a coalition that was approved by the Security Council aimed at supporting the legitimate government of Yemen against the Iranian supported Houthi militants by creating the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism. Responder 6 clearly states that arming of opposing sides especially those supporting terrorist activities is a key factor influencing the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Now that the Saudi government is a regional power in the region, there is increased pressure to the kingdom to consider diplomatic efforts that are in line with the nation’s strategic interests. Such behavioral patterns and Saudi’s strategic position directs the Iranian government to create more sustainable ties in the future with Saudi Arabia by abandoning its quest of re-establishing the Persian Empire. Responder 7 writes that the newly earned position of Saudi Arabia in the region shall make Iranian domination impossible
Through the examination of bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi since 1979 to 2017 and comprehending the political exchange patterns between them, it is logical to conclude that chances of rescuing the bilateral relations by means of cooperative liaison are high. The success of embracing a proactive and positive approach by implementing measures of cooperation can not only resolve the conflict, but it can also promote reliance that would lead to joint policies that would be beneficial to both nations. Responder 2 agrees with this statement by indicating that future conflict can be avoided but only if diplomatic action is received positively by both parties. The findings also reveal that there is a need for Iran and Saudi to comprehend the essential foundations, indecency, national interests and characteristics of the other state (Sadeghi & Ahmadian, 2011). This research’s findings are that both Saudi and Iran are experiencing geopolitical transformations within the region and the improvements in Iran’s foreign policies. King Fahd and Khatami’s proactive formation of an eleven point agreement is a foundation of the understanding that governments need to understand and respect the identity of other states and progressive policies require to be better thought-out. Saudi Arabia and Iran cannot afford to face internal opposition as a response to their allying decisions. Responder 7 predicts a failure in western relations if both Islamic nations can agree to treat each other as important members of the region who can work together to achieve a common goal for the benefit of the region and individual nations. This matter must therefore be left to the citizens of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The researcher also found out that clergies should be kept under a tight leash in order to prohibit any activities or statements that could be deemed divisive or discriminatory.
Implications of Findings
This dissertation has enhanced the field’s information of the pattern and nature of the Saudi-Iranian relationship by taking into consideration the recent events to this matter; consistent research is required as this theme speaks to a persistent clash and changes always emerge to alter the dynamic of the conflict between the two Middle Eastern countries. The discoveries of this examination are as per the theoretical framework discussed in the methodology chapter with further elaborations to better understand the information. Much like the information provided on the relations of Saudi and Iran inside the international community to stay in power, a key reason for states to seek after power is the structure of the international power as elaborated by the neorealism theory. What’s more, the lack of an authoritative power that stands out as a more prominent power among the rest and the nonexistence of security will result in stresses and uncertainties of possible security assaults from other nations. This quest for power amongst nations and the fear of any future assault prompts rivalry keeping in mind the end goal to ensure security and guarantee survival (Waltz, 1979). According to responder three, the Saudi initiative in the past was non-angry however the present circumstances of authority pushed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to end up distinctly a dynamic foreign strategy the procedure of collision between two huge shafts had a major negative part on the area. The entire association needs improvement in going through a phase of feeling sectarianism and wasting bounty assets also, cash in weapons contest. For instance, the partisan and religious clashes in Europe prompted wars lost in 30 years where millions of lives were changed and assets were lost. The study in question does not have to experience this because the Iranian and the Arab society have an association with regards to religion and culture. Each nation has its advantage and has the privilege to follow up on them in honest to goodness courses with the affirmation of the greater part of the nations. For instance, Iran sees that the Gulf nations are not a majority rule and not true blue. What’s more, the same goes for the Gulf nations towards Iran. Responder three believes that we need to abstain from meddling in interior issues in any nation to have the capacity to figure out how to determine how to approach this question. What’s more, there ought to be sure rivalry as opposed to a negative one such as the advancement of financial matters
As indicated by the information provided, both Iran’s and Saudi’s remote approach parallel the thought of neorealism. In pursuit of security, Saudi Arabia aligned itself with the Unified States and received a long haul remote approach to guarantee this collusion. The Kingdom confronted residential protest from religious figures and radicals because of this key choice. According to responder 2 it is an apprehensive connection between two nations bringing about the loss of trust and miss understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This strain has achieved intermediary clashes with respect to Yemen and Syria. This is a highly hazardous stage between the two neighboring nations who have an impact on the security, dependability and the development of the region. In this present phase of strain and strife, both Iran and Saudi Arabia will not receive any benefit.
Be that as it may, Saudi kept up its position and never showed signs of change it, notwithstanding amid the mid-1990s when U.S. troops entered the nation to safeguard Saudi against Iraq; the legislature was bolstered by the Ulema to spare its face from local dismissal. The partnership with the Americans is comonly interpreted as having a legitimate power that will have the capacity to secure the Kingdom from any security risk. Saudi Arabia attempted gigantic leaps to clear the route for the survival of these bilateral relations, while Saudi additionally keeps on aligning with territorial states that are partners with the U.S. to position itself better. Then again, Iran aligns with Russia, despite the fact that their constitution clashes with theirs. In any case, of vital intrigue is the fundamental reason of this discretionary connection to proceed.
Iran dismissed any regard for its conflicting strategy and kept up it to guarantee their security, aligning with a capable state, for example, Russia. According to responder 2 the Gulf nations see that Iran is meddling with area incorporating the obstruction with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. In addition, the Iranian media assertion tries to pass on the Gulf concerns. For instance, there’s an assertion that Iran is currently ruling four Arabic capitals and the possibility of restoration of Persian civilization and the greatness of managing GCC nations. The greater part of this prompted discontent in the locale. Additionally, the events of the Arabic spring prompted a sort of unstableness and dread in the area and Iran exploited the circumstances for its profit.
As per neorealism, the similarity in culture and government structures does not lead or control this political bond; these distinctions are not what shape this relationship. Responder 9 claims that Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, there is a condition of the undeniable uncertainty between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the grounds that the Iranian unrest conveyed the venture to send out the upset to neighboring nations. Iran pronounced expressly that it would probably change the administrations in the district from the perspective of progressive in light of the fact that these frameworks are professionally Western. The draft venture of sending out the upset is an existential danger to the controls of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They proceeded with relations stages during the good and bad times. Iran’s plan after the conclusion of its war with Iraq, which went on for a long time has been to contain Iraq and the inability to send out the upheaval by the drive.
The US control of Afghanistan and Iraq, a simple assignment for Iran to dispose of the two noteworthy opponents in the district and US arrangements in the possible administration in Iran to amplify its impact in both Iraq and Afghanistan. US Errors prompted the ascent of Iran and expanded its popularity in the locale.
Neorealism clarifies it by the correspondence of states; be that as it may, power is the separating attribute whereby control over states is recognized by material capacities and inactive power (Mearsheimer, 2006). Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest oil producers on the planet, and as per hypothesis, it meets the norms of riches that the U.S. will acknowledge proceeding—on the desire of the Saudi government—to have a long haul political relationship. Notwithstanding, Iran is a nuclear state and also one of the world’s biggest oil producers; nuclear capacities and oil generation shape the thinking behind the Iranian-Russian relations.
The second hypothesis specified in the theoretical framework exchange was a vision in worldwide relations. The idea of this hypothesis spins around setting up a political framework for a nation in light of morals (Cocoa, 1992). War is impossible as per this hypothesis since the costs of war surpass the advantages behind it.
Religion conceptualizes morals and profound quality, and the legitimacy of Iran and Saudi Arabia is increased through this deep quality. The Sunnis’ belief system is Saudi and Shiite one in Iran and depends on the support of local and global approaches. When Lord Abdulaziz set up the Kingdom, the Ulema was counseled on political and social themes, as all Saudi Rulers took after a similar practice. The counsel of Ulema was seen all through the historical backdrop of the nation.
With respect to the second idea of optimism in universal relations, Saudi Arabia does not support the condition of war and antagonistic vibe. This is evident in its intervention and mediations with different states in the district to calmly pick up request. The Middle Easterner Spring furthermore, Ruler Fahd’s period were the best circumstances to record this position received by the Saudis.
Besides, Iran’s constitution since the Iranian president’s energy is constrained and controlled by the Supreme Leader whose position remains for religion. The limitations on the powers of the Iranian president provide him with the ability to administer the utilization of the Constitution by the government’s executive the official branch, while the Supreme Leader retains control of the military, security, protection, and key outside strategy matters. In principle, this political approach taken by Iran is predictable with the comprehension of optimism in worldwide relations in applying morals to building a country. In spite of the fact that Iran sees Saudi Arabia as its fundamental adversary in the Middle East, they never engage in confrontations that require utilizing military power. In addition, the exhibitions amid King Khalid’s rule that were favored by the Iranian government were not a war but rather were social uprisings to grant equal rights for the Shiites in Saudi Arabia.
The third hypothesis clarified the strategy of Iran in Saudi Arabia was delicate control; the meaning of this theory recognizes the endeavors made by states to make other nations fancy similar objectives they put stock in, or that will meet their key advantages (Nye, 2004). This approach does not utilize energy to alter the course of different states; it uses fascination and influence as an approach. This hypothesis does not just mirror the positive attitude of states; it can likewise be utilized as a part of the negative impact. Delicate power depends on the way of life of a state and its places that may pull in different states, for example, the universal or neighborhood strategies that a state receives, and the legitimacy of a state’s outside strategy (Nye, 2011).
For instance, Iran utilizes delicate power in aligning with Hezbollah. The fascination Iran employed with Hezbollah is the Shiite belief system which Iran holds; it likewise draws to them by the Iranian support of the Palestinian case and backings Hezbollah monetarily in this respect. Iran through Hezbollah could get provincial consideration and support after the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the southern piece of Lebanon. It likewise shows up when Iran completely upheld Morsi, the Egyptian president, and offered its direction to give organization in how to construct an Islamic state.
Relating to Iran’s use of delicate power, Saudi Arabia can pull in different countries within the region due to its theological position of facilitating the two Sacred Mosques. Saudi Arabia amid the Arab Spring aided Egypt with finances to rebuild their nation and enable them amid their most trying times. The kingdom was additionally able to reach out to other Gulf nations by pioneering the GCC to be the unifying factor for regional countries whenever faced with significant threats. These two cases are good examples of Saudi Arabia’s utilization of delicate power in achieving their objectives through the attraction of different neighboring states. According to responder 7 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s transition to a decisive stage makes it even harder for Iran to dominate the region and such damnation would likely threaten the existence of the Saudi Kingdom. Evidence of failure of U.S foreign policies under President Barack Obama despite Iran’s quest for regional domination has been evident which prove that more issues require immediate attention besides ISIS.
Responder 9 concludes by stating that the possible futures of both nations are one without tension yet Riyadh is not willing to return the good relations with Iran unless under certain conditions. Responder 2 also points out the academic contributions made by Iranians as compared to no notable academics from Saudi Arabia. Iran has therefore established itself as a nation keen on building its intellectual and philosophical might which are found useful in the West, prompting them to recognize the richness of the Iranian philosophical and cultural diversity despite being rooted in Islam. Saudi Arabia in this matter is absent of intellectual influence both regionally and internationally.