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This Map Explains the Saudi-Iran Proxy War

Here's what the region's geopolitical and sectarian divides look like.

Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units deploy in the city of Baiji, north of Tikrit, as they fight alongside Iraqi forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group to try to retake the strategic town for a second time, on June 9, 2015. Baghdad regained control of Baiji -- located on the road to IS hub Mosul and near the country's largest oil refinery -- last year, but subsequently lost it again.  AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE        (Photo credit should read )
Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units deploy in the city of Baiji, north of Tikrit, as they fight alongside Iraqi forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group to try to retake the strategic town for a second time, on June 9, 2015. Baghdad regained control of Baiji -- located on the road to IS hub Mosul and near the country's largest oil refinery -- last year, but subsequently lost it again. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read )

Following Riyadh’s controversial execution last weekend of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a diplomatic showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran has threatened to further destabilize the Middle East and jeopardize Syrian peace talks between the regional archrivals.

Riyadh and its Sunni allies in Bahrain and Sudan have cut diplomatic ties with Tehran; the United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations with the Iranian government; and Kuwait brought home its ambassador. And Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq and Lebanon have vowed to retaliate against Saudi Arabia over the cleric’s death.

The map below, created by French cartographer Emmanuel Pène for the Maghreb and Orient Courier, illustrates Iranian and Saudi regional alliances and how the two countries could use the Middle East’s sectarian divisions to their advantage. Click on the map for an enlarged view.

Following Riyadh’s controversial execution last weekend of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a diplomatic showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran has threatened to further destabilize the Middle East and jeopardize Syrian peace talks between the regional archrivals.

Riyadh and its Sunni allies in Bahrain and Sudan have cut diplomatic ties with Tehran; the United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations with the Iranian government; and Kuwait brought home its ambassador. And Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq and Lebanon have vowed to retaliate against Saudi Arabia over the cleric’s death.

The map below, created by French cartographer Emmanuel Pène for the Maghreb and Orient Courier, illustrates Iranian and Saudi regional alliances and how the two countries could use the Middle East’s sectarian divisions to their advantage. Click on the map for an enlarged view.
carte-1-octobre-D

Top photo credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

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