Date of Graduation

Summer 2017


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Ilan Berman


The history of Saudi-Iranian relations has been fraught. This relationship has impacted the United States’ role in the Persian Gulf. Prior to the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran could be characterized in terms of mutual understanding which allowed them to become integral parts of the American foreign policy in the1970s. This policy was intended to safeguard Western interests in the Persian Gulf after the British left. Saudi-Iranian cooperation during this time was in stark contrast to the hostile relationship that developed between them following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The United States also was enveloped in its own hostile relationship with Iran after the revolution. The United States, thus, turned toward Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iranian aggression in the Gulf. After the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia underwent a rapprochement. Saudi Arabia sought rapprochement despite the United States’ attempt to continue to isolate Iran. At present, the relationship between Tehran and Riyadh is fraught as the two wrestle once again for influence, ideologically, logistically, and territorially. During the Obama administration, Iran was slowly welcomed back as a participant on the world stage as a result of the Iran Nuclear Deal. This development has the Saudis worried about their relationship with the United States. The Saudis fear that the deal will thaw the turbulent relationship between Washington and Tehran and in turn, Washington will abandon Riyadh for a new partner in the Gulf, Tehran.


Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States, rivalry, foreign policy

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies


© Derika Weddington

Open Access