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The devastating impact of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war🪖💥

The ongoing Saudi-Iranian proxy war and its devastating impact on the Middle East region

By Rakindu PereraPublished 8 months ago 3 min read

For nearly four decades, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a bitter geopolitical rivalry that has inflicted immense damage across the Middle East. While avoiding direct military conflict, these historic Gulf adversaries have waged a bloody cold war through proxies, bankrolling opposing factions in countries fractured by instability and civil war. The consequences have borne out in destabilization, sectarian conflict, and human suffering on an immense scale. The roots of the rivalry date back to 1979, when the Iranian revolution overthrew the Western-backed Shah and established an Islamic republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini. His revolutionary doctrine threatened Saudi Arabia's monarchical order and religious claim over the Gulf's Muslim holy sites. In response, Riyadh redoubled ties with the West and formed alliances aimed at containing Iran's rising influence. When Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, hoping to undermine the new regime, Saudi Arabia proved a critical ally, bankrolling Iraq's war effort to the tune of billions. As the conflict dragged on for eight years, over a million lives were lost in the brutal trench warfare. The immense cost accelerated Iranians' deep-seated resentment towards the kingdom.With Iraq drained by defeat in 1988, another opportunity arose for proxy influence a decade later. After the 1991 Gulf War, Washington maintained sanctions but left Saddam in power, providing space for Riyadh and Tehran to support opposing factions. As Iraq fractured along sectarian lines, Saudi bankrolled Sunni militants against Iran's Shiite allies, sowing early divisions that would later fuel unimaginable bloodshed. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq removed the buffer between the rivals, opening floodgates for their competition. As an insurgency took hold and militias proliferated amid security failures, both countries seized the moment. Billions flowed again to militant groups, intensifying religious divisions and civilian suffering under the cover of chaos. By the late 2000s, over 100,000 civilians had perished, with millions displaced in the growing proxy war. 2011's Arab Spring uprisings presented new terrain. While Saudi feared any challenge to autocrats that could inspire domestic unrest, Iran saw opportunity in popular demands for change. In Bahrain, Iran supported Shiite protests against the Sunni monarchy, prompting Riyadh to deploy troops in defense of the regime. As uprisings spread across the region, both deepened funding for militant factions on opposing sides of internal power struggles. Nowhere has this fueled more devastation than in Syria and Yemen. Over half a decade, Saudi and Iran have poured billions into the Syrian civil war, backing extremist Sunni and Shiite factions battling for control. Over 500,000 lives have been lost as the conflict drags on without end in sight. In Yemen's ongoing war, a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 to roll back Houthi rebels aligned with Tehran, plunging the nation into a massive humanitarian crisis. Beyond bankrolling militias, both sides have also directly engaged forces. In Syria, Iran commands Shiite militias and deploys strategic advisors, helping President Assad retake large swaths of territory. Meanwhile, a reported 2,000 Saudi troops fight alongside Sunni factions in Yemen despite disastrous civilian toll. As the wars intensify, so too does their impact - some 17 million people across both countries now face severe hunger. Perhaps the starkest consequence has been the deep sectarian rifts inflamed through this regional cold war. Propaganda campaigns have relentlessly fueled hostility between Sunni and Shiite communities, marginalizing moderate voices and empowering extremists on both sides. This has manifested violently through sectarian killings in Iraq, civilian bombings in Pakistan, and strife across several Gulf states with minority Shiite populations. Looking ahead, there appears little hope for de-escalation. Both nations maintain the conflict serves vital strategic interests despite humanitarian costs. Political transitions also diminish prospects - more hardline leaders in Saudi Arabia and potentially Iran reduce incentives for compromise. Meanwhile, the wars show no signs of abating as foreign actors remain invested in perpetuating instability for geopolitical gain. Unless concrete steps are taken towards conflict resolution and confidence building, the destructive impacts of this cold war will only continue spreading instability across the region for generations to come. After over four decades, it is clear that neither military dominance nor continued foreign meddling will resolve underlying tensions. Only political solutions that address mutual security concerns while respecting minority rights hold any hope of stemming the immense human toll. The region urgently needs outside mediation and domestic reform to break free from this devastating geopolitical quagmire.

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About the Creator

Rakindu Perera

I’m a highly successful content writer with articles recognised by huge varieties of organisations. Also being in completion of a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering, I have the upmost know when it comes to exteme applications.

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