How Iran and Saudi Arabia's rivalry has plunged the Middle East into sectarian war. FRONTLINE traces how a 40-year rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has fueled sectarian extremism across the Middle East for political gain.
For this documentary, Correspondent Martin Smith travels to seven countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen to examine how the power struggle has rippled across the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have had no diplomatic relations following an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia cleric. Bilateral relations between the countries have been strained over several geo-political issues such as the interpretations of Islam, aspirations for leadership of the Islamic world, oil export policy and relations with the United States and other Western countries.
Both countries are major oil and gas exporters and have clashed over energy policy. Saudi Arabia, with its large oil reserves and smaller population, has a greater interest in taking a long-term view of the global oil market and incentive to moderate prices. In contrast, Iran is compelled to focus on high prices in the short term due to its low standard of living given recent sanctions after its decade old war with Saddam's Iraq and its larger population.
In the Syrian Civil War, Iran has supported the Syrian government militarily and with billions of dollars of aid, while Saudi Arabia was a major supplier of aid to rebel groups. Both countries have accused each other of support for terrorism.