The Middle East’s cold war, explained
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The Middle East’s cold war, explained

The Middle East is one of the most complex
regions in the world: Currently there are 4 failing states and 3
wars, with major powers increasingly taking opposite sides. Countless armed militias and terrorist groups
are spreading violence across borders. The region has seen conflict after conflict
going back well into the 20th century. But among all the uprisings, civil wars, and
insurgencies, two countries always seem to be involved: Saudi Arabia and Iran. They’re bitter rivals, and their feud is
the key to understanding conflicts in the Middle East. The Saudis and Iranians have never actually
declared war on each other. Instead, they fight indirectly by supporting
opposing sides in other countries and inciting conflicts. This is known as proxy warfare. And it’s had a devastating effect on the
region. Countries, especially poor ones, can’t function if there are larger countries pulling strings within their borders. Both the Saudis and the Iranians, see these civil wars as both tremendous threats, and also potentially enormous opportunities. The Saudi-Iranian rivalry has become a fight over influence, and the whole region is a battlefield. It’s why the rivalry is being called: a
Cold War. The most famous cold war was fought for 40 years between the United States and Soviet
Union. Looking forward to the day when their flag would fly over the entire world. They never declared war on each other, but clashed in proxy wars around the world. Each side supported dictators, rebel groups, and intervened in civil wars to contain the other. Like the US and Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia
and Iran are two powerful rivals – but instead of fighting for world dominance, they’re
fighting over control of the Middle East. In order to understand the Saudi-Iranian rivalry,
let’s go back to the origins of each country. In the early 1900s, the Arabian peninsula
was a patchwork of tribes under the control of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, the empire collapsed, leaving these tribes to fight each other for power. One tribe from the interior, the al-Saud,
eventually conquered most of the peninsula. In 1932, they were recognized as the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia. 6 years later, massive oil reserves were discovered in Saudi Arabia, and, in an instant, the Saudi monarchy was rich. That oil money built roads and cities
all around the desert country – and it helped forge an alliance with the US. On the eastern side of the Persian Gulf, another country was emerging, but having a much harder time. Iran also had massive oil reserves and an
even bigger Muslim population. But constant foreign intervention was creating chaos. Since the 18th century, Iran had been invaded
by the Russians and British twice. In 1953, the US secretly staged a coup, removing the popular prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh. In his place, they propped up a monarch, Reza Shah, who was aggressively reforming Iran into a secular, westernized country. But he harbored corruption and terrorized
the population with his secret police, the Savak. By the 1970s, both Saudi Arabia and Iran had oil-based economies and had governments heavily backed by the US, but the feelings among each population were very different: Ultimately at the end of the day, the
Shah of Iran, powerful as he was, simply did not have the same control over his people
or ultimately the same legitimacy and affection that the Saudi people felt towards their monarchy
at that point in time. That’s because Iran’s Muslims felt stifled
by the Shah’s reformations and by the end of the decade, they finally fought back. Iran’s Islamic revolution overthrew a powerful regime, that boasted military might. It’s really in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic revolution overthrow the Shah, that the real tension
between Saudi Arabia and Iran begins. Ayatollah Khomeini was a Muslim clergyman,
who preached against Western-backed secular monarchies. He advocated for a government that popular, Islamic, and led by the clergy. And In 1979, he led a revolution to establish just that. It was a massive international event that
prompted reactions around the world especially in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian Revolution terrified the government
of Saudi Arabia. They were fearful that Ayatollah Khomeini would inspire their populations to rise up against them, exactly the way he had caused the Iranian population to rise up against the Shah. There was a religious threat too. Up until now, the Saudis had claimed to be
the leaders of the Muslim world. Largely because Islam’s two holiest sites,
Mecca and Medina are in Saudi Arabia. But Khomeini claimed his popular revolution
made Iran the legitimate Muslim state. There was another divide; Saudi Arabia’s
population is mostly Sunni, the majority sect of Islam, while Khomeini and Iran are mostly
Shia. Westerners always make a
mistake by drawing an analogy between the Sunni-Shia split and the Protestant-Catholic
split within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia split was never as violent. And in much of the Islamic world, when Sunnis and Shia were living in close proximity, they got along famously well. So, while the Sunni-Shia split was not a reason
for the rivalry, it was an important division. After the revolution, the Saudi’s fears
came to life when Iran began “exporting its revolution”. This CIA report from 1980 details how the
Iranian started helping groups, mostly Shia, trying to overthrow governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. And they prompted the Saudis to redouble their efforts, to fight against Iran. They bolstered their alliance with the US
and formed the GCC, an alliance with other gulf monarchies. The stage was set for conflict. War in the gulf. Iraq invaded Iran in seven areas. With a 5:1 superiority, Iraqi forces moved quickly The rise of Iran as a regional power threatened other neighboring countries as well. In September 1980, Iraq, under the rule of
dictator Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran. He was hoping to stop the Iranian revolution,
gain power, and annex some of Iran’s oil reserves. But they didn’t get far. The war bogged down into stalemate complete
with trench warfare, chemical weapons and heavy civilian casualties. When Iran started winning, the Saudis panicked,
and came to Iraq’s rescue. They provided money, weapons, and logistical
help. So it becomes critical to the Saudis that
they build up Iraq, and build it up into a wall that can hold back the Iranian torrent that
they have unleashed. The Saudi help allowed Iraq to fight until
1988. By then, nearly a million people had died. Iranians largely blamed the Saudis for the
war and the feud escalated. Fast forward 15 years and Iraq again became
the scene of a proxy war. In 2003 the US invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein. Neither Saudi Arabia or Iran wanted this to
happen, since Iraq had been acting as a buffer between them. But problems arose when the US struggled to
replace Saddam. The United States has no idea what it is doing in Iraq after 2003. And it makes one mistake after another, that creates a security vacuum, and a failed state, and drives Iraq into all-out civil war. Without a government, armed militias took
control of Iraq, splintering the population. Sunni and Shia militias suddenly sprang up
all over the country. Many were radical Islamist groups who saw
an opportunity to gain power amidst the chaos. These militias were readymade proxies for
Saudi Arabia and Iran, and they both seized the opportunity to try and gain power. The Saudis started sending money and weapons
to the Sunni militias, and Iran; the Shia. Iraq was suddenly a proxy war with Saudi Arabia
and Iran supporting opposing sides. That trend continued into the Arab Spring,
a series of anti-monarchy, pro-democracy protests that swept through the Middle East in 2011. This had very different consequences for Saudi
Arabia and Iran: That is terrifying to the Saudis who are the ultimate status quo power. They want the region stable, and they don’t want anbody rising up and overthrowing a sclerotic, autocratic government, for fear that it might inspire their own people to do the same. The Iranians are the ultimate anti-status quo power, they have been trying for decades to overturn the regional order. Each country threw their weight behind different
groups, all over the Middle East. Just like in Iraq, the Saudis began supporting
Sunni groups and governments while Iran helps Shia groups rise up against them. In Tunisia, the Saudi’s backed a dictator
while the Iranians stoked protests. In Bahrain, Iran supported Shia leaders seeking
to overthrow the government. Saudi Arabia, in turn, sent troops to help
quash the unrest. Both got involved in Libya, Lebanon and Morocco As Saudi Arabia and Iran put more and more
pressure on these countries… they began to collapse. Now the feud has gone a step further, with
both countries deploying their own militaries. In Yemen, the Saudi military is on the ground
helping the central government. They are fighting the rebels, called the Houthis,
who are an Iranian proxy group. The reverse is happening in Syria. The Iranian
military is fighting side by side with militias, some of them extremists groups like Hezbollah,
in support of dictator Bashar al-Assad. They are fighting rebel Sunni groups, who
are Saudi proxies. The more civil wars that broke out in the
Middle East, the more Saudi Arabia and Iran became involved. Neither the government of Saudi Arabia nor the government of Iran are looking for a fight. But the problem is these civil wars create
circumstances that no one could have predicted. Both the Iranians and the Saudis feel that their vital national interests, are threatened, are in jeopardy, because of different things happening in these civil
wars, things they blame each other for. Now the cold war is drawing in other countries. The Saudi government is threatening Qatar, a tiny Gulf state that was developing ties with Iran. Meanwhile in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist
group, ISIS is nearing defeat and both the Saudis and Iranians are angling to take control
of that territory. It’s a Cold war that’s becoming incredibly
unpredictable. As the Middle East continues to destabilize,
its hard to say how far these countries will go.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “The Middle East’s cold war, explained

  1. You missed three vital point in this story.

    First of all, Iran has always blamed US for supporting Saddam Hussein. And there are many reasons for that.

    Second, US and UK actually supported Khomeini and the revolution. For two main reasons, 1. decreasing the Shah's influence over OPEC and his purse of independent sovereignty in the region, and 2. supporting the conservative religious movement that would never agree to Soviet Union's communism ideology (As they didn't). However, things got out of their control almost instantly after the revolution.

    Finally, you totally excluded the whole story of conflicts between Israel and the other major powers in the region. This is actually the major issue right now. The proxy war in Syria is going on, almost because of that.

  2. Killed more than 1,000,000 people in iraq (2003) and made isis there and israel watch 🍿🍿…cuz iran and KSA zionism channel?

  3. So IRAQ is in Control of IRAN now after the failure of US and SAUDI in that region… IRAN is no doubt is a Strong country with strong leadership.

  4. hmmm!! Did we forget that the "Sunni Rebels" in Syria are actually ISIS? Did Vox just admit that the Saudi Government is directly supporting ISIS in Syria and Iraq? And if the US supports Saudi Arabia, aren't they indirectly supporting ISIS? Silly Vox, the Internet completely opened up the world to the public. We can now see between your lies. Keep trying though!

  5. I think it's Israel's war against IRAN
    that it has been started since 1977 revolution against GREAT SHAH.

  6. What he not mantion is the saudi family is the west made king ..Even the saudi citizen hate them..Makkah and madina is the west hostage against muslim..Now the real muslim want to the the land back..

  7. Iraq isnt failing any more I'm iraqi dont say anything VIDEO MUST BE UPDATED ! If its failing it was cause of USA soooooo!! Never because of iraqi people Shame

  8. i hate the men of middle east…
    they are looking down on women…
    i think islamic mind makes themselves foolish…
    islam is living fossil from 7th century…

  9. 4:05 That Is so not true. My parents were alive during that time, and trust me, no one was scared. The government wasn’t scared. The people weren’t scared. The people here actually like the leaders.

  10. This partly true, but it ignores the support of European through turkey on the Arab spring, and ignore the Iranian and European oil investments agreement. Middle East its shows the cold War between Europe and USA

  11. yoooo the usa unleashed world war 3 that's gonna burst into war which the usa and russia will get involved in and maybe china as well

  12. This is why vox is so bad at reporting actual information. They did not mention most of the US's doings in the middle East and they never touched up on the conflict that Israel was kicking up in the middle East.

  13. America and Israel,,those countries are the main trouble maker in the middle East😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😤😬😬😬😬

  14. Don’t forget America help iraq support saddam hussein my dad and my 2 brother dead in Iraq vs Iran war I eat loads Depression Pill 10 years I stop eat now
    Im Iranian Turkish

  15. Love Russian Russian people real mafia
    Bad boy but lovly I been jail in jail I have Russian friend I some time see him in street

  16. The problem of the west is they try to westernise other countries. Diffrent countries have diffrend cultures if try to make every cultures western culture it will end in failure. Secularism, democracy etc: are good things but if you try to westernise them eg: like dress code this is gonna end up bad.

  17. Israel, the United States and Iran are against the Arabs, but the Arabs are 22 countries

    إسرائيل وولايات متحده الأمريكية واِيران ضد العرب لكن العرب هم 22 دولة ليس بشيء سهل

  18. The West is behind ALL wars since WW2. They are obligated to be at perpetual war in human terms but you reap what you sow. Amen.

  19. God bless USA to overthrow Saddam Hussein regime, that helped Iran to extend its borders. In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good

  20. إيران تدعم بشار الأسد لكي تطوق الخليج وتقضي على السنة يا إخواننا المسلمين في الخليج ساعدو الثوار فهم الآن يقاتلون في سوريا نيابة عنكم ساعدو الثورة السورية قبل فوات الأوان

  21. who created Al-Qaida, ISIS, Taliban and other terrorist group to demonize the face of islam ,,, it was saudi arabia… and who defend the ppl and killed those terrorist (only iranian backed groups) who clear the threat of ISIS and ISIL … being the victim of terror is not the solution… fight against these evil forces is the answer… in the world there r always the fight between good and evil… and now u can differentiate between them .,… who r cutting the throat and using the name of islam to spread threat in the world and who r defending not only islam but the help of ppl who r oppressed in the world specially middle east with the hands of kings and dictators…

  22. I'm a Syrian that still lives in Syria for the moment, I just came here to see what the world actually think of the Syrian war, and this video is the worst and it showed nothing of the truth about the Syrian war except for the part that KSA is supporting terrorists in Syria while Iran is supporting the army to protect the people and the country.

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