Arab Unrest Propels Iran as Saudi Influence Declines
MANAMA, Bahrain — The popular revolts shaking the Arab world have begun to shift the balance of power in the region, bolstering Iran’s position while weakening and unnerving its rival, Saudi Arabia, regional experts said.
While it is far too soon to write the final chapter on the uprisings’ impact, Iran has already benefited from the ouster or undermining of Arab leaders who were its strong adversaries and has begun to project its growing influence, the analysts said. This week Iran sent two warships through the Suez Canal for the first time since its revolution in 1979, and Egypt’s new military leaders allowed them to pass.
Saudi Arabia, an American ally and a Sunni nation that jousts with Shiite Iran for regional influence, has been shaken. King Abdullah on Wednesday signaled his concern by announcing a $10 billion increase in welfare spending to help young people marry, buy homes and open businesses, a gesture seen as trying to head off the kind of unrest that fueled protests around the region.