Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

David Siegel


Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Realism, Constructivism, Liberalism, Middle East, Shia Sunni Conflict


Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently engaged in a regional war of influence that threatens to undermine the stability and progress of the Middle East. Iran's incendiary rhetoric and support for terror organizations, and Saudi Arabia's firm grip on neighboring states and minority populaces are the most visible aspects of this conflict. Organized along sectarian lines, the conflict has inflamed centuries old tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims, resulting in violence and suspicion towards the other sect. This is a result of posturing by both states, whereby each regime has sought to establish itself as the preeminent Islamic State. Iran, based on Shia revolutionary ideology, and Saudi Arabia on strict Wahhabi Sunnism. My thesis presents two comprehensive case studies that form the basis of the presentation. The realist, liberal, and constructivist theories of international relations are applied to these case studies. I seek to present the argument that realism and liberalism are wholly inadequate in explaining the actions of Saudi Arabia and Iran in the case studies, and within the broader scope of the conflict. I argue that the constructivist model is best suited to understand the conflict, as it looks at the historical, social, and religious factors that form state identity.