The Two Camps Illusion
In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has become more assertive. It first imposed a total blockade on Yemen, despite claims that this would lead to widespread famine. (It most recently announced that it would allow some humanitarian aid supplies.) It unseated the prime minister of Lebanon, presumably because he did not stand up to Hezbollah. And it charged Iran with an act of war because a missile the Houthi rebels in Yemen fired at Riyadh was supplied by Iran.
In reporting about these developments, the media is repeating a very widely held image—and one that is dead wrong. Namely, that there are two camps in the Middle East vying for control of the region: the Shia camp led by Iran and the Sunni one led by Saudi Arabia.
Although it is rarely explicitly stated, the implication is that there are more or less two equal camps, each able to at least contain the other and maybe even succeed in dominating the region. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Actually, the Sunni camp is much weaker and in slow retreat, despite its recent assertiveness, and the Shia camp is considerably stronger and continues making significant gains, albeit gradual ones.
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