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Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East

The Foreign Policy Centre and the Richardson Institute at Lancaster University are holding this Westminster seminar to launch and debate the findings of a new publication entitled Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East, part of the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-Sectarianisation (SEPAD) project.

The event and publication will look at how since the Arab Uprisings in late 2010 and the fragmentation of regime-society relations that followed, relationships between communities have continued to degenerate across the Middle East. The existence of the difference is becoming increasingly violent, spilling out beyond state borders. The power of religion and its international nature provide the means for external actors such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to exert influence over a number of groups and areas across the region. However, this is not the only factor at play. Our project rejects the argument that religious tensions, in particular between Sunnis and Shi’as, are preordained or an unresolvable source of conflict in the region. Instead, it looks at how sectarian identities can be transformed, breaking down barriers and exclusionary forms of identity by exploring the political, legal, cultural, national and theological factors that can create space for a ‘de-sectarianisation’ of these societies.

The event and publication will document and explain the conditions that have given rise to proxy conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia (including in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq), showing how violent political difference has been often unhelpfully framed as sectarianism. Instead, this event will discuss ideas to reshape international policy and facilitate more effective state-building efforts on the ground.

When November 13, 2018 18:00 -19:30

Committee Room 6, House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA


Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament

Dr Simon Mabon, Director of the Richardson Institute and SEPAD Project Leader, Lancaster University

Dr May Darwich, Assistant Professor, Durham University

Dr Edward Wastnidge, Lecturer, The Open University

Chair: Rt Hon Baroness Northover, Liberal Democrats Lead Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs- House of Lords

Listen to an audio recording of the event here.


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