First Advisor

Harry Anastasiou

Term of Graduation

Fall 2019

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Conflict Resolution


Conflict Resolution




Islam and politics -- Middle East, Islamic sects -- Middle East, Shīʻah -- Relations -- Sunnites, Sunnites -- Relations -- Shīʻah, Geopolitics -- Middle East, Saudi Arabia -- Foreign relations – Iran, Iran -- Foreign relations -- Saudi Arabia



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 117 pages)


The Middle East has been rife with conflicts, extremism, and sectarianism in recent decades. Many explanations attribute the rise of sectarianism in the Middle East to the historical divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims, while others attribute it to power or identity concerns. This thesis explores the factors that contributed to the rise of contemporary sectarianism in the Middle East through the case study of Saudi-Iranian rivalry. Drawing on the literature on the history of the Middle East, Islam, theories of international relations, and conflict studies, it underlines how Saudi Arabia and Iran use sectarianism to further their interests. This thesis examines how key elements, including the rule of government, ideology, and economic interests, contribute to the escalation of the sectarianism. Using qualitative methods and a Conflict Analysis Framework, which analyzes the conflict from five different dimensions; strategic, political, socioeconomic, psychological, and cultural, it argues that the milestone events, such as the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Arab Spring uprisings, and Iran Nuclear Deal, affect the geopolitics of the region. This study offers a multi-dimensional analysis, so policymakers can gain a better understanding of the geopolitics of the Middle East to work towards its stability.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier