Monday, January 4, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran and Saudi Arabia: The Showdown
By Robin Wright

The rule of thumb in the Middle East is that diplomacy often—too often—makes progress only to be overtaken by unforeseen violence on the ground. It’s happening again. Tensions between the Islamic world’s rival powers—the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite theocracy in Iran—that erupted over the New Year’s weekend now jeopardize a string of fragile peace initiatives: Peace talks on Syria (the political complement to the military campaign against the Islamic State) are set to begin January 25th. The Iran nuclear deal was expected to be implemented this month. Iraq is trying to consolidate its first military and political gains against ISIS, which were achieved last month. And a three-week ceasefire in Yemen’s ruthless civil war collapsed on January 2nd, endangering a second round of peace talks scheduled for this month. These initiatives are essential to the international effort to reconstruct the disintegrating map of the Middle East.
       Saudi Arabia and Iran—and their allies—are pivotal players in each flashpoint. Both countries have to make concessions for diplomacy to succeed anywhere. But, on January 3rd, Riyadh abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.
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