Date of Graduation

Spring 2012


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Lisa Bronson


Iran, Saudi Arabia, relations, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, nuclear

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The 2011 assassination plot against a Saudi ambassador by Iranian agents revealed the volatility of the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The plot and subsequent combative language between Iranian and Saudi officials regarding the early 2012 Strait of Hormuz crisis exposes the tensions which exist between the two regional powers of the Middle East. Examination of the history of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran enabled understanding of where these tensions began. Research into recent events, most importantly the Arab Spring of 2011, offered insight into how this relationship might develop in the future. The conflict between the two nations results from the collision of how these nations seek to fulfill their national strategic interests. Iran pursues regional hegemony as a means to protect its interests, while Saudi Arabia attempts to maintain a balance of power in the Middle East to protect its interests. A variety of factors combined at various points to determine how virulent the conflict between the two approaches to protecting strategic goals has been. The fact that Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim government and Iran is a Shiite Muslim government is an example of one factor; the strength of Iraq throughout recent history has also played a role in determining Saudi-Iranian relations. The Iranian nuclear program has added another factor. The Arab Spring offers unique opportunities for the two nations to pursue their strategic goals in the Middle East. Although it is extremely unlikely these conflicting methods of achieving their goals will lead to armed conflict, they will likely continue the current antagonistic relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.


© Rachel Anne Aunspaugh

Campus Only