Sectarianism

A conflict between two groups based primarily on a different religious denomination or ethnic identity. Within the Middle East, there is a sectarian division between Sunni and Shia Muslims. This in part explains the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Amongst Arab states, such divisions may at times hold greater significance than their common stance against Israel. For instance, Iranian foreign policy is influenced by a perception that they are surrounded by a Sunni circle (namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria).