A few minutes ago I summarized an NY Times article that implied the Western powers and specifically U.S. has been studying the Middle East looking for countries on the verge of popular uprisings. I asked whether the Obama Administration is looking to manipulate these countries into revolution, and may have instigated these revolts. (see: Are the Middle East uprisings truly grassroots, or the result of outside manipulation?) A NY Times article today suggests that the manipulation may due to Iran and that it's Iran which is winning this shift in power.
Arab Unrest Propels Iran as Saudi Influence Declines - "The popular revolts shaking the Arab world have begun to shift the balance of power in the region, bolstering Iran’s position while weakening and unnerving its rival, Saudi Arabia, regional experts said."
For proof the article says Iran is now more able to project its own power beyond its borders, such as sending a fleet of warships through the Suez Canal for joint military exercises with Syria.
Then.. "King Abdullah on Wednesday signaled his concern by announcing a $10 billion increase in welfare spending to help young people marry, buy homes and open businesses, a gesture seen as trying to head off the kind of unrest that fueled protests around the region." That was before he met with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, to discuss ways to suppress the revolt in Bahrain.
To be clear, we're talking about two factions of Islam. Iran is largely Shiite, Saudi Arabia is largely Sunni. Bahrain's rules are Shiite but the population is largely Shiite.
The uprisings have "shredded a regional paradigm in which a trio of states aligned with the West supported engaging Israel and containing Israel’s enemies".
The result is that Saudi Arabia is now encircled by countries who are revolting against existing rulers. "Iran and Syria are emboldened. Qatar and Oman are tilting toward Iran, and Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen are in play."
The article quotes Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, former National Security Council staff members saying: "If these 'pro-American' Arab political orders currently being challenged by significant protest movements become at all more representative of their populations, they will for sure become less enthusiastic about strategic cooperation with the United States." In other words, the U.S. Administration is seeking to ensure continued dominance. The current rulers are pro-American and if those leaders lose control then American dominance is threatened.