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Sectarian Politics in the GulfFrom the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings$
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Frederic Wehrey

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165129

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165129.001.0001

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The Long Shadow of the Iranian Revolution

The Long Shadow of the Iranian Revolution

(p.21) Two The Long Shadow of the Iranian Revolution
Sectarian Politics in the Gulf

Frederic M. Wehrey

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the seminal impact of the Iranian Revolution on Persian Gulf societies in general and on Shi'a–Sunni relations in particular in the post-2003 era. A seismic event in Gulf political life, the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath continue to weigh heavily on sectarianism, acting as a lens through which domestic actors view regional events such as the Iraq War, the 2006 Lebanon War, and, less explicitly, the Arab uprisings of 2011. Since 2003, Gulf regimes have deployed tactics that bear a striking resemblance to those pursued in the aftermath of the revolution: preemptive reforms to mitigate Shi'a discontent, “sectarian balancing” (co-opting Sunnis to balance the Shi'a), and tacitly encouraging vitriolic anti-Shi'a discourse by Sunni clerics, repression, and censorship. Most significant, however, the revolutionary decade highlighted the importance of domestic institutions as buffers against external ideological influences and as determinants of regime threat perception.

Keywords:   sectarianism, Iranian Revolution, Persian Gulf, Shi'a, Sunni, political life, reforms, sectarian balancing, clerics, domestic institutions

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