• Dans quelles arènes vont désormais se battre Riyad et Téhéran ?

    L’ennemi intérieur chiite se substitue aux subventions

    « Nimr Baqer el-Nimr est un grand agitateur, un tribun. On peut l’accuser de violences verbales, mais, a priori, pas de violences réelles », estime le diplomate. [...] « Ils pouvaient très bien le garder en prison. En l’exécutant, les Saoudiens ont ravivé le feu dans la région-est du royaume, majoritairement chiite, alors que la situation s’était apaisée il y a quelques mois ».

    • BREMMER: ’Saudi Arabia is in serious trouble, and they know it’

      But as The Soufan Group, a strategic security intelligence firm, noted in its daily briefing, “If the execution of Sheikh Nimr is intended to take the minds of Saudi’s Sunni population off the recent 40% price hike in gasoline and point the finger at an external enemy as the cause of current economic woes, it may not be enough.”

      The group added: “To pursue that line of exculpation, the Saudi royal family will have to continue to escalate its rhetoric and action against Iran.”

      Any action Saudi Arabia takes against Iran, and vice versa, will most likely be indirect. Neither country wants to become embroiled in a direct conflict, said Abbas Kadhim, a senior foreign-policy fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, in The New York Times on Monday.

      “These countries don’t trust one another, and they see every event as an opportunity to raise tensions,” Kadhim said. “Both countries will try their best to try to fortify their proxies and their activities, which is going to create more trouble.”

      Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a proxy war in Syria, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting Saudi-backed Sunni rebels battling to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

      Iran and Saudi Arabia also support opposing sides in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since March.

      “While a shooting war with Iran is unlikely, the kingdom will push back wherever it views Tehran as gaining advantage,” Eurasia Group wrote in its analysis of the new year’s top geopolitical risks. “More generally, expect an isolated and domestically weaker kingdom to lash out in new ways.”

    • Saudi Arabia’s Dangerous Sectarian Game - The New York Times

      Why did Saudi Arabia want this now? Because the kingdom is under pressure: Oil prices, on which the economy depends almost entirely, are plummeting; a thaw in Iranian-American relations threatens to diminish Riyadh’s special place in regional politics; the Saudi military is failing in its war in Yemen.

      In this context, a row with Iran is not a problem so much as an opportunity. The royals in Riyadh most likely believe that it will allow them to stop dissent at home, shore up support among the Sunni majority and bring regional allies to their side. In the short term, they may be right. But eventually, stoking sectarianism will only empower extremists and further destabilize an already explosive region.