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The Cold War Between Iran and Saudi Arabia is Getting Pretty Warm

Written By Jeff Edwards

Posted January 8, 2016

Within the span of a week, the Saudi Embassy in Iran has been looted and burned, while the Iranian Embassy in Yemen was reportedly hit by a Saudi airstrike.

Now, as an American raised in the ’80s, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what a Cold War is supposed to look like.

Typically, two nations will spar with varied proxy interests while avoiding a direct attack on one another under their own flag.

For the longest time, that has been the case between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But recent tensions have started to heat up this Cold War, and I can’t help but think that when missiles start landing at the embassies, things have gotten pretty hot.

Sunni and Shia

To be clear, I couldn’t care less who wins amongst the great Sunni and Shia divide.

I’m not a Muslim, and I have very little interest in who was supposed to be Muhammad’s successor.

But I do have an interest as to whether or not this divide drags the entire world into a state of war.

As it currently sits, Shia is predominant in Iran and a good part of Iraq.

Meanwhile, it would seem that the rest of the Middle East and Muslim world are Sunni, with Saudi Arabia being the strongest power.

So the fact that Saudi Arabia and Iran don’t get along seems entirely reasonable.

They have been on opposite sides in the wars in both Syria and Yemen.

And while they have yet to directly fire on one another, they both have had their proxy interest doing their best to kill the other.

I suppose it was no different for America and the Soviet Union in Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan. 

But mutually assured nuclear destruction served as a pretty strong deterrent to a U.S.-Soviet shooting war.

Unfortunately, we have no such deterrent in place to stop Iran and Saudi Arabia from going head-to-head.

Making matters worse, after the Saudi Embassy was burned in Iran, Saudi Arabia cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran.

As a result, the only thing left to make this a full-fledged war is for one side to start letting the bullets fly while under its own flag.

A Nuclear Middle East

And while such a war would be devastating to the region today, my biggest fears are the effects 50 years from now.

We already know that Iran has no intention of following the nuclear deal negotiated with the United States.

It is a certainty that within 50 years, if not 20, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.

Which means Saudi Arabia has to have one, too… and it will get it.

So if you’re keeping score, that means we will have a nuclear Israel, Iran, and Saudi Arabia within our lifetime.

And given that it doesn’t appear the Sunni and Shia are going to quit hating each other anytime this century, and they certainly don’t seem to be in a hurry to be friendly with the state of Israel, a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East seems more likely than ever.

At least with the United States and the Soviet Union, mutually assured destruction meant they would take the entire world with them.

It doesn’t appear that any of the nations in the Middle East have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons on that scale.

Which might seem like a good thing, except that it also makes their eventual use more and more likely.

I don’t know what’s next during this current conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but it doesn’t look good.

It certainly doesn’t look good over the next 50 years. And perhaps over the next 50 days, we will in fact see some good old-fashioned nation-on-nation action as Iran and Saudi Arabia officially go at it.

What that means for the world and the global economy is beyond me.

But I know the ripples from the Persian Gulf will find their way to our shore, and it won’t be pretty.