A scholarly exploration of the long-running rivalry between the two Arab oil juggernauts and their proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Eminent historian and prolific author Hiro (The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan, 2015, etc.), who has written many books on Middle Eastern issues, focuses on a pertinent crucible of roiling tension in the region that is causing an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries. The historic rivalry between Iran, the Shia stronghold backing rebels loyal to Yemen’s Houthis rebels, and Saudi Arabia, bolstering Yemen’s weakened Sunni government, resulted in Saudi-led bombing of civilian targets and widespread famine. The newly open animus between Tehran and Riyadh, encompassing raw issues such as the Syrian Civil War, Iran’s nuclear program, and the penalizing of Qatar (and Turkey) for its close ties with Iran, came largely at the behest of the newly ascended Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The young, impulsive, and evidently ruthless crown prince is now vilified globally (except by Donald Trump) for his alleged role in organizing and sanctioning the egregious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. (Unfortunately, this game-changing event does not appear in this version of the book, though the author has written about it in other publications; hopefully, the paperback will include further information regarding Khashoggi.) Still, Hiro clearly explains the historic rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, much of which stems from each country’s respective “claims to exceptionalism”: Iran and its ancient Persian culture and language, and Saudi Arabia’s apotheosis in the 18th century with the Al Saud dynasty, stewardship of “the two most sacred sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina,” and possessor of the world’s second largest “underground sea of petroleum” (after Venezuela).
An important study for understanding the roots of current tensions.