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The struggle to shape the Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Iran: The struggle to shape the Middle East provides a detailed exploration of the rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran across the Middle East. As one of the most compelling rivalries in international politics, the Saudi–Iranian competition for regional influence has impacted on a number of different locales. After the onset of the Arab Uprisings and the fragmentation of regime–society relations, communal relations have continued to degenerate, as societal actors retreat into sub-state identities, whilst difference becomes increasingly violent, spilling out beyond state borders. The power of religion – and the trans-state nature of religious linkages – thus provides the means for actors, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, to exert influence over a number of groups across the region. Given these issues, the contributions to this volume, and the collection as a whole, have two main aims: firstly, to explore the nature of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran within the contemporary Middle East; and secondly, to consider the impact of this rivalry upon regional and domestic politics across the Middle East. This volume examines how the rivalry is perceived in both Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as in the contestation over religious legitimacy. It also offers in-depth explorations of the impact of this rivalry upon five regional states: Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen, all sites of contestation between Riyadh and Tehran, albeit in different guises. In doing so, it highlights how the rivalry is shaped by the contingencies of time and space.

Rekindling of Shia loyalty and Sunni fears in Bahrain
Rashed al-Rasheed

After the intervention of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces in Bahrain, led by Saudi Arabia, the Bahraini government used force against the demonstrators in 2011. Regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have sought to strengthen their influence in Bahrain during the 2011 uprising, due to the island’s geostrategic location, 200 kilometres off the coast of Iran and 25 kilometres from the Saudi coast. 1 In order to contain the 2011 crisis, the Bahraini authorities accused Iran of fomenting chaos and

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
State formation, political consolidation and reform
Robert Mason

Saudi domestic politics and foreign policy-making processes are similar to those of other monarchies in the Middle East in that they generally comprise tribal, religious, economic and familial components. Where they differ, and differ with each other, are the specificities of these components, particularly what was, and still to some extent remains, the religious component, as well as aspects of political consolidation in Saudi Arabia. The Qur’an is the constitution, and the Prophet's Traditions (Sunnah) remain vital, as does Sharia, or

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
Roel Meijer

Introduction This chapter will analyse the Saudi counterterrorism discourse in the period between 2003 and 2010. Much was written on these programmes at the time, but the religious side of the programme has seldom been investigated in depth. 1 This period is an interesting one, because for the first time Saudi Arabia was itself confronted with terrorism. It developed a two-pronged strategy: a ‘soft’ ideological one and a ‘hard’, repressive one. It is especially the soft measures and the counterterrorist religious discourse of the state that has

in Non-Western responses to terrorism
Foreign policy and strategic alliances in an uncertain world

In the context of political transitions taking place at the domestic, regional and international levels, this book maps a series of key Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) bilateral relations incorporating the Middle East, the US, Europe, China, Russia, the Horn of Africa, India, Pakistan, Japan, Republic of Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. It argues that established modes of analysis such as riyal politik and the Islamisation of Saudi foreign policy are somewhat redundant in a changing economic climate and amid evidence of uncertain returns, whilst political consolidation amounting to Sultanism tells only part of the story. The book underscores the role of youth, background, and western affinity in leadership, as well as liberalisation, hyper-nationalism, secularisation, ‘Push East’ pressure and broader economic statecraft as being the new touchstones of Saudi and UAE foreign policy. This volume also sheds light on aspects of offensive realism, dependency theory, alliance patterns, ‘challenger states’ and political legitimacy in a region dominated by competition, securitisation and proxy warfare.

Robert Mason

Introduction While rentierism is still a relevant theory in explaining state–society relations of energy exporters, this chapter argues that the breakneck changes taking place in the Saudi economy cannot be disconnected from equally profound changes taking place in Saudi Arabia's domestic and international politics. Rentier state theory (RST) is much poorer at modelling the impact of these wider variables, and yet they are already affecting the Kingdom's oil revenues and its immediate ability to retain capital and attract

in Oil and the political economy in the Middle East
Yemen as a theatre for the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia
Maria-Louise Clausen

arrest and travelled to Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, which he announced as his interim capital. However, within a month Aden was under attack from the Houthis and Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia. At this point, Hadi requested the UN and the Arab League for support by all available means including military intervention with reference to the UN Charter Article 51 and the right to self-defence, as well as the Charter of the Arab League and the Treaty on Joint Defence, in March 2015 just before the commencement of the Saudi

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
Iranian and Saudi rivalry in the Syrian conflict
Christopher Phillips

The Syrian conflict is a useful case study to explore Iranian and Saudi Arabian rivalry. 1 Both states took an active interest in the civil war from the beginning, each seeking an outcome that would benefit its wider regional ambitions. Iran, allied with the Ba’ath regime in Damascus since 1979, resolved early on to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the face of first demonstrations and then an armed insurgency. This initially consisted of an ‘advisory mission’ in early 2011 but, within a few years, had ballooned

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
The view from Tehran
Banafsheh Keynoush
Edward Wastnidge

There are two important sides to understanding relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia: the view from Tehran, and the view from Riyadh. The present chapter explores narratives that shape Tehran’s understanding of the role that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plays in shaping ties with Iran. The chapter is divided into four thematic topics, to review narratives of key issues and concerns that partly shape Iran’s policies towards Saudi Arabia. The thematic topics that are selected here are not inclusive of the entire

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
Open Access (free)
Lebanon’s strategic value in the Saudi–Iranian foreign policy chessboard
Hussein Kalout

In the history of the Middle East, Lebanon may appear as a neutral landscape where regional and international rivalries have played out – between the US and USSR during the Cold War, or between Iran and Saudi Arabia today. As a small state with a multifaceted social fabric, Lebanon has been treated as a passive player that becomes entangled in larger international machinations and geopolitical struggles. Lebanon itself does not matter in these narratives. However, it is important to understand the development and

in Saudi Arabia and Iran