Mabon, Simon and Wastnidge, Edward (2022). Introduction. In: Wastnidge, Edward and Mabon, Simon eds. Saudi Arabia and Iran: The struggle to shape the Middle East. Identities and Geopolitics in the Middle East. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 1–13.



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.

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