Taming a Chaotic Conflict
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS 2020
May 5, 2020 James M. Dorsey
Ibrahim Fraihat’s latest book, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Taming a Chaotic Conflict (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) is much more than an exploration of the history of animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its debilitating impact on an already volatile Middle East. It is a detailed roadmap for management and resolution of what increasingly looks like an intractable conflict. Based on years of field research, Fraihat builds a framework that initially could help Saudi Arabia and Iran prevent their conflict from spinning out of control, create mechanisms for communication and travel down a road of confidence building that could create building blocks for a resolution. Fraihat’s book could not have been published at a more critical moment. A devastating coronavirus pandemic has hit both Saudi Arabia and Iran hard. So has the associated global economic breakdown and the collapse of oil markets. The double whammies constitute the most existential crisis the kingdom has faced in at least half a century. They hit Iran particularly hard as it labours under harsh US sanctions. Fraihat offers a roadmap that would allow Saudi Arabia and Iran to ultimately extricate themselves from costly proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya. By providing a detailed roadmap, Fraihat’s book makes a major contribution not only to a vast literature of conflict in the Middle East but also to policymakers in Saudi Arabia and as well as would-be mediators.
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James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.