Power is impermanent in the Middle East. Strength tends to ebb and flow among the four major players in the region – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel – and outside actors like the United States and Russia are always in the mix, playing the countries, and the various ethnic groups that constitute their populations, off of one another in pursuit of their own interests.
In the current state of play, Iran, with its Persian, Shiite sensibilities, is a power on the rise. For years, it has expanded its influence at the expense of its Arab rivals, which have been preoccupied by military conflict, civil unrest and low oil prices. Its rise has naturally aggravated tensions in the region that show no signs of abating. On May 21, U.S. President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia, during which he seemed to align Sunni Muslim nations against Iran. On May 19, Iran re-elected President Hassan Rouhani – a moderate by Tehran’s standards who helped broker the nuclear deal w