Religion and Geopolitics in Iranian Foreign Policy

Wastnidge, Edward (2018). Religion and Geopolitics in Iranian Foreign Policy. In: Mabon, Simon ed. Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East. The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC Think Tank Ltd), pp. 9–10.



Saudi Arabia and Iran, as key power brokers in the Middle East, continue to couch their bilateral relations in antagonistic terms as they chafe against each other in a battle for influence in the region. Characterising this rivalry in the purely sectarian terms of a deep-rooted Sunni-Shi’a enmity is simplistic and fails to understand the complex geopolitical dynamics at play. However, for the Islamic Republic, Iran’s religious identity as the pre-eminent ‘Shi’a power’ gives it a means of influence and co-optation over its co-religionists. A key element of building such relationships is its transnational religious networks which form the basis of much of its cultural and religious diplomacy work.

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