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Project Syndicate: The politics of the Middle East aren’t just about religion any more

TEL AVIV, Israel (Project Syndicate) — When one thinks of conflict in the Middle East, religious factors are probably among the first that come to mind. But, nowadays, competing strategic interests and imperial ambitions play a much larger role than religious or sectarian cleavages in defining regional politics. This is potentially a positive development.

Consider the struggle for regional influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite having long been viewed as a result of the Sunni-Shia divide, the competition is really between two opposing political systems: Iran’s revolutionary regime, bent on changing the regional balance of power, versus Saudi Arabia’s conservative monarchy, which seeks to uphold the old regional order.

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