Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon
and
Edward Wastnidge

Efforts to understand the rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran have produced a body of literature that can be separated into three camps. The first suggests that the rivalry is best understood through a balance of power in the Gulf. The second suggests that religion plays a prominent role in shaping the nature of the rivalry and that so-called proxy conflicts have been drawn along sectarian lines. The third suggests that a more nuanced approach is needed, drawing upon concerns about regime power and legitimacy – externally and internally – with instrumentalised use of religious difference. This chapter introduces the broader parameters of the debate around the Iran–Saudi rivalry, incorporating key works in the field to date. It also provides a historical contextualisation of this key geopolitical relationship. This introductory chapter concludes by outlining the individual chapter contributions to the volume.

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

This chapter draws on the unique insight provided by fieldwork undertaken in Bahrain. In doing so, it offers a deep investigation into how relations between Sunnis and Shia in Bahrain are influenced by the Saudi Arabia–Iran rivalry. This chapter shows how sectarian tensions have been exacerbated by competing regional agendas and a quest for hegemony. Through interviews with a range of opposition and pro-government figures, as well as academics and analysts from across the different communities, this contribution shines much needed light on how the wider regional dynamic impacts on inter-communal relations in Bahrain.

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
Stephen Royle
and
Simon Mabon

This chapter makes use of data from fieldwork carried out in Iraq to explore how competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia is experienced on the ground in that country. The chapter starts by contextualising the importance of Iraq to regional security, along with the efforts of Iran to capitalise on the favourable conditions created for it by the fall of Saddam Hussein, and subsequent Saudi fears of Iran’s growing role there. The chapter homes in on the largely Sunni province of Anbar, and highlights the role of the Iran-aligned factions of the Popular Mobilisation Units in economic and political life there, as well as Saudi efforts to enhance its relations with sympathetic actors in the country.

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

This chapter examines the ever-complex roles of Iran and Saudi Arabia in Lebanon. In this contribution, Lebanon is presented as the ‘irreplaceable piece’ in the foreign policy chessboard of competing Saudi–Iranian geostrategic ambitions in the Middle East. In a regional country where sectarian politics is arguably at its most overt, the chapter details how the Sunni and Shia political landscapes have been cultivated by Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively. This is shown as contributing to the continued political paralysis with the tutelary model of competition exercised by Iran and Saudi Arabia leading to a pronounced diminution of sovereignty.

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

This chapter presents the ‘view from Tehran’ regarding Iran–Saudi relations. The focus in this chapter is very much on the official, academic and policy discourses emanating from Iran about the relationship between the two regional powers. In doing so, it presents a range of under-explored Iranian narratives and debates around Saudi Arabia’s regional polices and its stance towards the Islamic Republic, showing how the battle for regional influence is articulated through competing narratives as much as it is through material means. This covers Iranian elite views and discourses from Iran on Saudi–Iran relations, the role of religion in the relationship, Iranian perspectives on Saudi Arabia’s regional security policies and Tehran’s own security outlook for the region.

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
Open Access (free)
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.

Open Access (free)
A neoclassical realist perspective of Saudi foreign policy towards Iran in the post-2011 Middle East
May Darwich

This chapter employs a neoclassical realist approach to unravel the dynamics of Saudi-heightened tensions with Iran. It argues that Saudi foreign policy is at the intersection of international, regional and domestic conditions. Rising Saudi tensions with Iran are the result of structural conditions, exemplified in the multipolarity of the regional structure and the decline of US hegemonic control of the region. These structural conditions were compounded with the rise of a nascent top-down Saudi nationalism presenting the Kingdom as destined to play a leading role in rolling back Iranian expansion in the Arab world. Firstly, it presents the tenets of neoclassical realism. It then sets out the structural conditions that Saudi elites were facing during the decade following the 2011 uprisings. Thirdly, the chapter examines the rise of Saudi nationalism at the domestic level, which shaped Saudi elites’ responses to the structural conditions leading to tensions and escalation in its rivalry with Iran.

in Saudi Arabia and Iran
Resilience and the Language of Compassion
Diego I. Meza

Internal forced displacement is a current social problem in Colombia. Although this phenomenon has been studied extensively, the purpose of this article is to analyse the administration of this crisis under the grille interprétative of humanitarian government during the presidential term of Juan Manuel Santos (2010–18). My argument is that humanitarian government functions as a biopolitical assembly that amalgamates two elements: resilience – a fundamental element of psychosocial attention to the displaced – and the language of compassion used publicly by President Santos. Finally, I will try to underline that this logic operates as a condition of possibility to normalise this phenomenon and hide the functioning of the violence that unequally distributes the compassion between lives considered valuable and those whose lives and problems simply appear to be not valuable at all.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Expanding Gender Norms to Marriage Drivers Facing Boys and Men in South Sudan
Michelle Lokot
,
Lisa DiPangrazio
,
Dorcas Acen
,
Veronica Gatpan
, and
Ronald Apunyo

In South Sudan, child marriage is often positioned as a cultural practice tied to conflict and displacement as well as gender norms affirming that girls should marry. Based on findings of a multi-sectoral gender assessment conducted by Save the Children in Rumbek, Torit, Malualkon, Bor and Kapoeta, our paper draws attention to multiple, connected drivers of child marriage. Drawing specifically on findings related to child marriage, we suggest the need to understand child marriage in the context of cycles of poverty and inter-clan fighting. In many communities, cattle form the basis for the ‘bride price’, driving cattle raiding, due to pressure on males to marry. The ability to pay the bride price may be an indicator of manhood in some pastoralist communities of South Sudan. We suggest that while humanitarian interventions tend to fixate on empowering girls or addressing gender norms girls face, less attention is placed on the ‘demand side’ of child marriage – on the gender norms pushing boys and men to marry girls. Our paper emphasises the importance of tackling norms from both the perspective of girls as well as boys and men within a broader context of improving livelihoods in South Sudan.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Phoebe Shambaugh
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs