GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Saudi-Iranian Relations after the Arab Spring: Prioritizing Identity over Security
Paper Proposal Text :
Saudi-Iranian relations could not withstand the impact of the Arab Spring. Before the uprooting turmoil in the Arab Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran both were monitoring each other’s policies and activities in the Persian Gulf and the entire region through the lens of security and balance of regional power. That was the case under Hashemi, Khatami and Ahmadinejad governments in Iran. For Saudis, Iran was a security phenomenon and should be dealt with as such and thus, the Saudi Minister of the Interior was the one given custody over Iran's file in Riyadh. Maintaining the status quo both within the Kingdom and without it in GCC countries and the Persian Gulf were the main objectives. For Iran, Saudi Arabia aligning itself with the United States and welcoming Western troops to the Persian Gulf was the main security problem.The regionalization of Persian Gulf security and Western troops' withdrawal from the region were the main objectives.In other words, Saudi and Iranian mutual viewpoints and policies were centered upon and driven by security-seeking motives. The advent of the Arab Spring however changed the scene. Security continued to be on top of the agenda, but the problem stemmed from the fact that previous means of addressing security needs changed drastically and daily mutual dealings became loosely based on the accustomed means. Feeling the burden of the Arab Spring, trying to avoid its spill-over effect and catching up with the ongoing events, Saudi Arabia enhanced its policy towards Iran and its allies from a security-centered one, about which both parties came to a minimal understanding after the 1980s, to an identity-based one, about which both countries lack the much-needed experience to deal with. Iran's pragmatist new president made it blatantly obvious that Iran is seeking a security-based compromise, so the question is how about Saudi Arabia. This paper is intended to answer the following three related questions:How did identity pop into the middle of Saudi-Iranian relations, what are the effects of identity politics on a regional scale, and how is it possible–if at all –for the two countries to change the course and to lower the level of tension into a security-centered one once again?

Keywords: Saudi – Iranian Relations, Persian Gulf, Middle East, Arab Spring, Identity Politics.