Saudi-Iran Rivalry Deepens in Battle for Middle EastSaudi Arabia’s government insists it is not at war with Iran despite its three-week air campaign against Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, but the kingdom’s powerful clerics, and its regional rival’s theocratic government, are increasingly presenting the conflict as part of a region-wide battle for the soul of Islam. The toxic rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is playing out on the battlefields of Yemen and Syria, and in the dysfunctional politics of Iraq and Lebanon, with each side resorting to sectarian rhetoric. Iran and its allies refer to all of their opponents as terrorists and extremists, while Saudi Arabian clerics speak of a regional Persian menace. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not date back to Islam’s 7th century schism, but to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which toppled a U.S.-backed and Saudi-allied monarchy and recast alliances across the region. The standoff worsened after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled a Sunni-led dictatorship that had long been seen as a bulwark against Iran’s efforts to export its revolution. But even if today’s power struggle has more to do with politics than religion, the unleashing of increasingly sectarian rhetoric on both sides has empowered extremists and made the region’s multiplying conflicts even more intractable. MORE