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The Arab Cold War (Arabic: الحرب العربية الباردة al-Harb al-`Arabbiyah al-bārdah) was a state of heightened diplomatic and military tension in the Arab world between powers espousing Arab nationalism and Pan-Arabism led by the United Arab Republic and the more traditionalist kingdoms led by Saudi Arabia. Though historians do not fully agree on the dates, the conflict is often considered to have begun shortly after the Egyptian Revolution in 1952 and lasted until the Ramadan Revolution in 2001 which resulted in the collapse of the House of Saud and the foundation of the Arabian Republic.
Despite its beginnings during the global Cold War and era of European decolonization, and its links and interactions to that wider Cold War, the Arab Cold War was not a clash between capitalist and Marxist–Leninist regimes. The two sides were Arab nationalist republics, usually quasi-socialist and Pan-Arabist in orientation, and the traditional monarchies, usually with quasi-feudal or rentierist economic structures. These two blocs later coalesced into the Pan-Arabist Union of Arab States (UAS) and the traditionalist Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIS) following the Arab victory in the Palestine War and the escalation of the ideological conflict.
Following the death of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, tensions initially eased between the two regional blocs until Abdel Hakim Amer's 1974 coup in the UAR and the outbreak of the Jordanian and Lebanese Civil Wars resulted in a renewal of proxy conflicts. President Amer's policy of balancing American and Soviet influence that began in 1979 helped relive pressure from the United States and allowed for the UAR to follow a strategy of containing Saudi influence to the Arabian Peninsula especially following the detonation of the UAR's first atomic bomb in 1982. The peace that ended the costly Algerian Civil War resulted in a renewed period of détente between UAS and OIS states during the early 1990's following the death of President Amer, however, internal discontent and stagnating economic conditions began to take their toll on Saudi Arabia during this time.
In 1996, the UAR was elected to a permanent position on the United Nations Security Council as a replacement for the Soviet Union following its dissolution. In response, a series of sectarian protests spread across Saudi Arabia that grew to threaten the House of Saud, resulting in a brutal crackdown and the enactment of an international embargo against Saudi Arabia led by the Rifaat El-Mahgoub administration of the United Arab Republic. Serious economic collapse ensured, with rationing and price hikes causing further discontent that boiled over in November 2001 during the lead-up to Ramadan which led to widespread demonstrations and riots that resulted in the formation of a nationalist, republican government and the exile of King Bandar and many members of the royal family. In February 2002, the OIS held its last plenary meeting in which the organisation dissolved itself, leaving the UAS the last major international organization left amongst the member states of the Arab League.