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The Struggle for Supremacy in the Middle East
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Book description

Since 1979, few rivalries have affected Middle Eastern politics as much as the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, too often the rivalry has been framed purely in terms of 'proxy wars', sectarian difference or the associated conflicts that have broken out in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. In this book, Simon Mabon presents a more nuanced assessment of the rivalry, outlining its history and demonstrating its impact across the Middle East. Highlighting the significance of local groups, Mabon shows how regional politics have shaped and been shaped by the rivalry. The book draws from social theory and the work of Pierre Bourdieu to challenge problematic assumptions about 'proxy wars', the role of religion, and sectarianism. Exploring the changing political landscape of the Middle East as a whole and the implications for regional and international security, Mabon paints a complex picture of this frequently discussed but oft-misunderstood rivalry.


‘Challenging simplistic accounts of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Mabon highlights the multi-layered nature of the competition and offers a systematic account of its impact across the region. With flowing prose, personal accounts and conceptual engagement with theory, Mabon presents a thoughtful, nuanced must-read for anyone trying to make sense of the Middle East.’

Shahram Akbarzadeh - Deakin University

‘This is a valuable addition to the analysis of the Saudi-Iranian rift, reminding us of how complex it really is. Policymakers would do well to absorb the detailed look at the impact of the rivalry on neighbouring states to appreciate fully the nuances necessary to shape the parameters of any future resolution. Thought-provoking and well-informed.’

Rt Hon Alistair Burt - Former U.K. Minister for the Middle East

‘This book brings a fresh perspective to the competition which has structured so much of Middle Eastern regional politics over the last few decades. Applying novel theoretical insights and a wealth of empirical evidence, Mabon moves beyond a simplistic analysis of sectarianism to show how the rivalry interacts across levels of analysis in ways which give deeper social meanings to geopolitical competition.’

Marc Lynch - The George Washington University

‘Rejecting reductive ‘proxy war’ analyses, this book deftly illustrates how Iran and Saudi Arabia pursue rival visions of political order by building material and normative relationships with local actors, organizations, and groups. Mabon’s account recognizes the mutuality of these relationships and offers readers essential insight into conflict dynamics in the MENA region.’

Stacey Philbrick Yadav - Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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