Robert Mason
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Iran
A supreme ontological threat
in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) relations with Iran are central to their respective threat perceptions and their wider regional and international calculations. This chapter outlines key shaping factors that drive these ’states’ contemporary interactions and provides some additional context for their (dis)engagement, notably due to Hajj incidents and to US policy ranging from rising sectarian tensions after the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which failed to address Iranian missile developments and Iranian relations with militia groups. However, shifting calculations concerning US Middle East policy under successive administrations, especially on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, has created a new landscape for diplomatic engagement. The UAE, with its own historical contentions with Iran, doubled down on efforts to engage Iran with health diplomacy during COVID-19, and both Saudi Arabia and the UAE used the election of President Ebrahim Raisi as an opportunity to elevate contact and diplomacy further. The chapter, coupled with the following one on regional relations, underscores the main dynamics of Saudi–Iranian contestation and expression.

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Foreign policy and strategic alliances in an uncertain world

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