In this interview for the FRONTLINE documentary “Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Middle East scholar Vali Nasr talks about the history driving today’s wars in the Middle East, whether these conflicts can be solved, and the parallels between ISIS and the nightwalkers from “Game of Thrones.”
The February 2018 PBS documentary ‘Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia’, for which this interview was conducted, can be accessed here.
The second, larger problem with discursively equating the Zaydi faith with Twelver Shi’ism is that it paints a picture of “natural” or “primordial” ties between the Houthis and Iran. President Hadi has emulated his predecessor Salih in asserting these ties, as have his Saudi and Emirati allies, who have regarded Iran as an implacable foe since the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah and installed the Islamic Republic.
Human rights groups have roundly condemned a ruling by a Bahraini court to affirm a two-year jail sentence of activist Nabeel Rajab, saying the verdict “illustrates the corruption” of the kingdom’s justice system. Rajab had been found guilty in July of “spreading rumours and untruthful information” against the government in TV interviews.
There are fears among the inhabitants of East Arabia that the execution of six Shia Muslims from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia may be imminent. Yesterday they were transferred from a prison in the Eastern city of Dammam to the capital, Riyadh, where executions often takes place.
Ripples of reform from Riyadh have been attracting positive press for the Saudis in Washington. The government recently pledged to permit women to drive, allow movie theaters into the country and to teach physical education to girls in schools. These are important steps, especially for gender equality.
Saudi Arabia’s increasingly erratic behavior has raised question marks around the world. After decades in which Riyadh kept a low profile and mainly intervened in world affairs by using its oil wealth, the Saudi military and intelligence machine is now pursuing a brutal war in Yemen, has put little Qatar under boycott, has attempted to destabilize Lebanon, is licking its wounds from defeat in Syria, and is cultivating potential clients in Iraq.
I stood in front of a mosque in the city of Qatif, Saudi Arabia, interviewing people for a story. Suddenly, two city police cars pulled up. Several minutes later plain clothes officers from the secret police began questioning me. I had entered the country with a journalist visa, but committed the grave crime of practicing journalism without official permission.
Sectarian conflict and polarisation has become a key feature of Middle East politics in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings of 2011. This workshop looked at some of the key drivers of this, such as the troubled legacy of foreign intervention, state failure, regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, ruling strategies of authoritarian regimes as well as the spread of identity and sect-based political movements.