Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Joseph Szyliowicz, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jonathan Adelman

Third Advisor

Andrew R. Goetz


Saudi Arabia, Iran, Middle East politics


The competing powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to redress and reverse the strategic imbalance and direction of the Middle East’s regional politics. The 1979 Iranian Revolution catapulted these two states into an embittered rivalry. The fall of Saddam Hussein following the 2003 U.S. led invasion, the establishment of a Shi’ite Iraq and the 2011 Arab Uprisings have further inflamed tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia have not confronted each other militarily, but rather have divided the region into two armed camps on the basis of political and religious ideology in seeking regional allies and promulgating sectarianism as they continue to exploit the region’s weak states in a series of proxy wars ranging from conflicts in Iraq to Lebanon. The Saudi-Iranian strategic and geopolitical rivalry is further complicated by a religious and ideological rivalry, as tensions represent two opposing aspirations for Islamic leadership with two vastly differing political systems. The conflict is between Saudi Arabia, representing Sunni Islam via Wahhabism, and Iran, representing Shi’ite Islam through Khomeinism. The nature of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry has led many Middle East experts to identify their rivalry as a “New Middle East Cold War.” The Saudi-Iranian rivalry has important implications for regional stability and U.S. national security interests. Therefore, this thesis seeks to address the question: Is a cold war framework applicable when analyzing the Saudi Arabian and Iranian relationship?

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Tali Rachel Grumet


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

166 p.


International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies