What If Saudi Arabia And Iran Went To War?

On January 2nd, 2016 Saudi Arabia executed a top Shia cleric, allegedly for his role in anti-government protests Iran, which is predominantly Shia, immediately condemned the killing, as did a number of human rights groups

Soon after, Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, leading to Saudi Arabia cutting diplomatic ties with Iran With extreme rhetoric flying back and forth, many worry that the two countries may end up in an all out war So, what would happen if Saudi Arabia and Iran went to war? Well, for decades, both countries have exemplified the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East Since 2015, they have fought a proxy war in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia and the United States supporting the former Yemeni government, and Iran supporting the rebel faction In the event of an actual direct conflict, however, the landscape would be very different

Both counties are massive, and are only separated by a few miles of Persian Gulf Iran covers roughly 600,000 square miles, while Saudi Arabia occupies about 800,000 square miles They also have very high GDPs, with Iran ranking around 28th worldwide, and Saudi Arabia at number 19 However, Iran’s population of roughly 80 million people is more than two and a half times the size of Saudi Arabia’s population, which is less than 30 million So how does this translate to an actual conflict? Well, considering their geographic locations, the two countries are close enough for a massive land battle

In this regard, Iran could potentially demolish Saudi Arabia, with more than 23 million available military members compared to roughly 250,000 On the other hand, it isn’t necessarily manpower that wins wars, and in the modern age, technology may be a more likely ally While Iran spends about 6 billion dollars a year on defense, Saudi Arabia spends about 50 billion dollars more That’s quite a lot of tanks, planes, boats, and bombs

But realistically, this would not be a conflict in a vacuum, and any deficiencies that each country may have can be easily bolstered by the support of surrounding and geopolitically involved countries Unfortunately for Iran, the Sunni-Shia divide would likely be a deciding factor for most Middle Eastern countries Pew estimates that as many as 90% of all Muslims subscribe to the Sunni faith In fact, the only countries with a Shia majority are Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and, possibly Yemen But in the days since the execution, Bahrain has cut ties with Iran, along with a majority of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes some of the most powerful countries in the Middle East

Iran has also long seen hostility with Israel and the United States, the latter of which is a direct ally of Saudi Arabia In the end, despite a surplus of manpower, Iran’s geopolitical position is much weaker than Saudi Arabia’s, and without significant support, there is almost no chance of an Iranian victory There’s a lot more to Saudi Arabia and Iran’s rocky relationship than just one execution Find out more about the two countries’ fight to control the Middle East in the video at the top Learn about why how their conflict began in the video at the bottom

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