From the abstract
The geopolitical rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia is fueling much of the present conflict raging across the Middle East, including bloody proxy wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Identity-based conflict has also gained fresh vitality as the region’s proxy wars have pitted Sunnis against Shi’a. This article analyses the geopolitics of sectarianism in the Persian Gulf since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran with a focus on the role of sectarian issues. The authors argue that the elevated level of sectarian conflict that has swept the Middle East since the fall of Saddam Hussein is rooted in the unstable balance of power in the Persian Gulf sub-region and the conflict between the two Gulf heavyweights, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In that context, sectarian issues are like a vessel containing theological differences, social and political grievances, historical ‘memories’, and deep-seated fears, which can be stirred together and heated up in pursuit of geo-strategic ambitions that would otherwise be hard for the Gulf’s authoritarian regimes to invigorate support for.