Northwestern Events Calendar


The Saudi-Iranian Struggle for Supremacy — A Talk by Simon Mabon

When: Monday, February 18, 2019
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Central

Where: Community Meeting Room, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free and open to the public

Contact: Danny Postel  

Group: Middle East and North African Studies

Co-Sponsor: Department of Political Science
International Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


For two consecutive years now, the International Crisis Group has put the Saudi-Iranian rivalry on its annual list of the top 10 conflicts to watch in the world. A year ago, what they called the “U.S.-Saudi-Iran Rivalry” was second on the list, underscoring the critical role Washington plays in this regional contest. This year, they expanded the category to “Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Israel, and Iran.”

Since 1979, the rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran — the two major powers in the Muslim world — has played a prominent role in shaping Middle Eastern politics. The rivalry, political in nature yet couched in Islamic rhetoric, reflects a desire to both ensure regime security and legitimacy, and increase influence across the Middle East. Since the 2003 Iraq War, the rivalry has become increasingly vitriolic, resulting in the onset of proxy conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen — which the International Crisis Group listed as the #1 global conflict to watch in 2019.

In this talk, Simon Mabon will do two things. First, he will examine the rivalry between the two regional hegemons and how it has shaped conflicts and tensions across the region (and beyond). Second, he will look at Western responses to this crisis and suggest policies that would defuse rather than exacerbate the crisis, contributing to peace and security in the Middle East.

Simon Mabon is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Director of the Richardson Institute at Lancaster University in the UK. He is the author of Saudi Arabia and Iran: Power and Rivalry in the Middle East (2015), co-author of The Origins of ISIS: The Collapse of Nations and Revolution in the Middle East (2016) and British Foreign Policy since 1945 (2017), and co-editor of Sectarianism in the Contemporary Middle East (2017).

He has served as an Advisor to the House of Lords International Relations Committee and recently presented the report Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East to the British Parliament. He currently heads up the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-Sectarianisation project, a two-year initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York that explores the impact of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry on sectarian conflict across the Middle East.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the International Studies Program at Northwestern University.

The program is free and open to the public, but please register on the EPL website:

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